How Can Charity Harness the Power of Digital Ads in the Time of COVID-19

Advertising during a global pandemic can be challenging, especially when online advertising companies take all the precautionary measures to limit fake news (more than usual), misinformation and the reach of those trying to profit from this global situation. In this article, I will guide you through the process to run ads about political or social issues.

If your charity is trying to get Personal Protection Equipment(PPE) or donations to healthcare workers and populations deeply impacted by the Coronavirus and its consequences (economic and social), you might have come to the conclusion that social network services (SNS) and other digital advertisers have made it impossible to use their services in order to get the word out and reach those who will help your cause. I have experienced this myself as I have worked on a project to get PPE and funds to healthcare worker and medical staff to New York hospitals, I will try here to explain as much as I can the steps we took so we could advertise our efforts to help those who were saving lives.

First, let’s talk about where to advertise. We found out the hard way how strict advertising rules had been put in place when we first tried to place our ads on most popular networks. Most of these networks restricted advertising to institutions, charities or companies with a strong relationship with them. Out of the key players, we will focus on Facebook as the social media offers the most positive outcome to run Facebook Ads. Indeed, Google only authorises institutions and businesses that have a long standing with them; same goes for Twitter which also only allows institutions and organisations that have a partnership with their policy team, which adds to their policy only allowing ads for account active for 15 days.

See here below their stance on the matter:

Twitter’s statement regarding ads mentioning COVID-19

“Twitter prohibits all promoted content that refers to COVID-19. The only exceptions to this prohibition are approved Public Service Announcements (PSA’s) from government and supranational entities, news outlets that currently hold a political content exemption certification, and some organizations who have a current partnership with the Twitter Policy team.”

Google referring to ads about COVID-19

“Advertisers must follow Google Ads policies when serving coronavirus disease (COVID-19) related content, in particular our Sensitive events policy, which prohibits any content that seeks to capitalize on the pandemic, or lacks reasonable sensitivity towards this global health crisis.”

Running ads for an organisation or an individual requires to follow precise steps to have Facebook Ads review team green-light campaigns about issues related to Coronavirus. These steps should also be applied to broader social and political issues as Facebook made sure for the past few years that any promoted content about impactful issues needed to be clearly linked to paying people or organisations. To put it bluntly, Facebook asks to confirm the identity of the person or company that will publish the advertising and therefore sharing their information within the promoted content.

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An example of Facebook Advertising about Political/Social Issues

A quick side note before we begin, because the ad content will bear mention of paid for by some advertising placements are not available: Messenger, WhatsApp, right-hand column, Marketplace, Search, Facebook Stories, Instant Articles, suggested videos, Watch feed, Audience Network and in-stream video on desktop.

First things first, select your ad account ad manager.

Here we are going to certify that the ad account will only not be used for business purposes. Go to Ads Manager and click on Settings. On this new page set the currency to the currency of the local currency where the ads will run.

There is a small trick to allow the account to run non-business ads as when you first select “No, I am not buying ads for business purposes” and click on Save Changes an error will appear to ask to fill a state field.

The idea is to first select “Yes, I am buying ads for business purposes”, fill in the form still for the country where the ads will run, and then “No, I am not buying ads for business purposes”.

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Fill in these fields first

Then select “No, I am not an agency buying ads on behalf of an advertiser”.

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Then select the right options

And finally “No, my business is not based in your country or will not advertise to audiences in your country.”

And Save Changes.

Now, let’s move onto the final steps, select the page you are going to use for the advertising to begin with: account pages.

Then go to Authorisations.

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Here you will have to confirm your personal identity in order to advertise and show Facebook users who is paying for the ad.

Confirm your identity

You will need to turn on the two-factor authentication (either using an app or a text message) and prove your identity using either an ID (ID papers) or fill in a form to take it to a notary public for notarisation.

Here is a full list of accepted identity documents:


Driving licence

National ID card

Marriage certificate

Official name change paperwork

Personal, life, health or vehicle insurance card or documentation

Green card, residence card or permit, or immigration documentation

Tribal identification or status card

Voter ID card

Family certificate


National age card

Immigration registration card

Tax identification card

When you are done submitting your identity, you will receive a letter within 7 days to verify your address, but fortunately enough you will not have to wait that period to start your ad.

You will have to put a disclaimer up by linking your Ad account to your Page.

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Select the Ad account which will run the ads linked to the Page

Make sure you are the owner of the page from which the ads will run; this can be done within the Page roles page setting.

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Set yourself as the Facebook Page owner

Finally, anyone will be able to set up the advertising, however only the person(s) who verified their identity will be able to click on Publish to let Facebook review and run the ad. Another point to understand is that Facebook’s automated process might reject the ad and you will then have to ask for a manual review of the ad to get it approved.

A final word of advice, if charities want to get the word out as quickly as possible and not wait for Facebook’s red tape, the best way would be to use Facebook Groups. Facebook Groups are now the new playground for marketers and even Facebook is pushing these public or private as viable marketing tactics to advertise products or to put it more mildly to build communities around brands; joining and talking about a charity in related groups can have powerful effects.

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