campaigns on Facebook

The keys to successful campaigns on Facebook

Nathan Mackenzie Brown, founder of Really American, shows how running petitions with donation upsells can have a huge impact on Facebook, for organizations large and small. Learn how to see success in your own campaigns on Facebook.

Meet Really American

Really American helps concerned citizens defend truth, democracy, social justice and the environment against the corruption, fraud and lies that Bernie Sanders exposed to the American public during the 2016 presidential election.

Campaign goals:

The goals of this campaign were three part:

  1. Grow Really American’s email list of supporters
  2. Use a donation upsell immediately after the petition to raise money to cover the ad costs required to push out the campaigns.
  3. Try to make more in donations than was needed to put back into ads.


From April 1st to July 25th, Brown worked hard to meet the goals above. The results blew us away. In the end he:

  • Built an email list of over 49,000 supporters
  • Acquired over 500 donors
  • Made $2,722.57 in donations after what he spent on ads

According to Brown:

“Typically non-profit organizations and political campaigns will pay $1-$2 to acquire email leads. I actually made about $.06 on average per email address I acquired during this time period. Someone who works in the digital consulting world on political campaigns heard about my results and thought they were impossible until he saw the analytics screenshots from my Facebook ad account. I’d say accomplishing results that are so good as to be considered impossible is reason to be happy!”

Results like that are something to be happy about!


During the project, Brown launched over 80 different petitions, coupled with donation up sells. What do we mean by “donation up sells”? Any supporter who clicked on his petition would first be asked to sign and support the cause. Then, on the following thank you page, they had the opportunity to pitch in a few dollars as well.

“I ran upsells right after people signed the petition where I asked people to donate money to help get more people to sign the petitions. I chose this method because I saw doing this on their petitions and I have seen doing it as well. I figured it probably would work well given that these large organizations use a similar approach. It tooks some testing on wording, but once I got it right it worked effectively to cover more than the ad spend on petitions that were really hot.”

Brown found up sells engaged his supporters better than a straight donation action. Up sells follow the same principles of Micro-Commitments, laid out here. In other words, if someone takes a small action for you, like signing a petition or pledging their support, they are much more likely to take action again. Brown agreed:

“One of the most interesting things I saw pretty consistently was the lower the acquisition cost on email signatures, the higher the percentage of people who gave donations, and the more money I made per donation. I think this indicates that when a petition resonated for people at a high level, it was because people thought it might really help the situation, and so it was worth donating to as well as signing.”

Through this process Brown used his page to prove what worked and what didn’t, giving him the ability to fine tune his work and focus his energy where it mattered most. But how does one come up with that many petitions and ideas to test? According to Brown:

“What I found worked best for me was to find articles on topics that I thought could make good petitions. I posted those to my page to see how my audience responded. When something got a lot more engagement, I focused on making a petition about it. Obviously this required having enough followers that I could get some reasonable engagement on my posts. If one doesn’t have a big enough following, then you might want to test the articles with a small ad spend to your desired target audience to see if they respond before making the petitions.”

Through this method, he was able to find the formula for successful petitions:

“Find something people are really upset about, which is trending and ties into your cause. Identify a bad actor that is involved in the situation. Identify a third party that people believe would actually do something about the situation if enough people sign a petition about the issue.”

Campaign creative:

During this time, Brown launched over 80 different petitions and upsells! We’ll just dig into his top three:

Action number one: Sign If You Want Every Vote Counted In California!

What the post did well:

  • Makes use of hashtags, exposing the cause to a wider audience
  • Made use of clear, concise language that demonstrated why supporters should click, and what’s at stake.

What the petition did well:

  • The petition made use of urgent language and a clear, concise call to action for maximum completions
  • It takes advantage of a “strength in numbers” mentality. Brown asked folks to add their names to the growing list of supporters just like them, not solve the problem by themselves.

The results:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.15.28 PM

Action number two: Sign Petition: Investigate CA & NY Voter Suppression!

What the post did well:

  • Clear call to action that sets the stage
  • Large, engaging image of Bernie Sanders that grabs attention and makes you want to stop scrolling and check it out

What the petition did well:

  • The petition itself made use of clear, urgent language
  • Uses a concise call to action for maximum completions

The results:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.17.10 PM

Action number three: Add Your Name To Punish Voter Suppression!

What the post did well:

  • Uses a clear call to action that sets the stage up front
  • Includes a large, engaging image of Bernie Sanders that grabs attention and makes you want to stop scrolling and check it out.

What the petition did well:

  • Made use of clear, urgent language
  • Uses a clear, concise call to action for maximum completions

The results:

Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 3.18.24 PM

Overall, these top three petitions enjoyed an average conversion rate of 53% and 84,142 Facebook shares!

Campaign lessons and takeaways

So how can your nonprofit enjoy this same level of success?

  • Post and test as much as you can! Brown created and promoted over 80 different petitions to learn what resonated the best with his supporters.
  • Use the trending stories and topics folks are currently talking about as inspiration for new petition ideas. This will help create enough petitions to run a test of this size.
  • If you can, spend a little money on Facebook ads to get the ball rolling.
  • Double down on what works and leave the rest behind. Your supporters are the experts on what engages them, not you 🙂
  • Be as clear and concise as possible when framing your issue and call to action.

About Nathan Mackenzie Brown and Really American: Brown is currently running similar campaigns now for a Mayor’s race in California and for a bike advocacy organization in California in partnership with AHG. They are interested in finding 1-2 more clients to work with on this sort of basis. In addition, they are in the early stages of seeking seed money from large donors to scale the activities of Really American’s email list building and fundraising activities. You can reach Brown by direct messaging the Really American Facebook page.