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Elyse Wallnutt 8 min read

Do These Things Instead of Worrying about Attribution: Data Collection And You

Consumers are becoming more and more aware of how their personal data is being used. We see this trend play out in news media reporting and in our everyday lives. Right now, 72% of people say they feel that almost all of what they do online is being tracked, while 81% of that group say that the potential risks they face because of data collection outweigh the benefits. 

Based on that, many consumers are getting more vocal, causing legislators and Big Tech companies like Google and Apple to take note and make changes that aim to address concerns while also protecting their own interests. 

Twenty-two U.S. states currently have privacy laws pending that will address how marketers are able to ingest and retain their audiences’ data. In addition, key browsers like Safari, Firefox, and – in 2024 – Google Chrome will eliminate third-party cookies, which are a piece of code that allow marketers to target their audiences with advertising on websites they frequent across the web. This not only limits who you can reach and how efficient your efforts are, but it also will result in less visibility into the touchpoints that impact a person’s decision to convert – which has analytics implications.

This comes after the European Union implemented GDPR legislation in 2016 and Apple put into place an iOS update in 2021 that limited the reach of mobile app developers. This is a key change that’s likely impacted your costs to acquire and reach new donors and leads via your digital efforts.

So What’s Next?

When it comes to thinking about how you measure the success of your digital efforts, it’s important to prioritize implementing the infrastructure that will help you future-proof your investments. Right now, the focus can and should be on evaluation of process and operational groundwork so you’re ready for the point at which change will no longer be a choice.

I consult with nonprofit organizations to customize their approach to following my four-step framework to address what’s next. Here’s a quick look at what you need to consider:

Step 1: Analyze. Establish an understanding of what’s working on your file right now and why. In addition, think future-state: Start operating like you would if you didn't have the support of algorithms. What would you need to know about your audience and their behaviors to make decisions? Find and document those data points so you can diversify your investments and baseline your assumptions to inform your future attribution model. 

Step 2: Develop. Build your approach to your acquisition strategy moving forward. From your lead gen forms to your live events, email acquisition has never been more important, because it gives you more autonomy. If you’ve previously moved away from lead gen tactics, take another look – you’ll want to right-size how you think about the value of an email address given the new benefits it will yield. In addition, take time to think about how you’re building your content strategy to generate organic interest and engaging thought leaders and influencers to amplify your reach. Last, you bear robust new responsibility for communicating to your audiences how their data is being used and with which third parties it’s shared. Choose carefully. Know your partners and their practices.

Step 3: Integrate. As third-party cookies are eliminated, key advertising platforms like Meta will lose the ability to track when a person converts as a result of your investments. As a result, you’ll want to research and implement integrations like Facebook Conversion API to ensure that you are feeding inputs to Facebook in a privacy-compliant way (just make sure you’ve received audience consent to share the fields you’re exposing). As tech’s response to privacy demand matures more in the next year, we’ll likely also see other APIs develop.

Step 4: Comply. Compliance with new U.S. privacy laws will be critical for your organization – and you’ll want to make sure that marketing, fundraising, IT, and legal teams have equal seats at the table to make key decisions about how you’ll comply and how you’ll represent your policies to your audience. Additionally, as you implement cookie opt-in banners on your website and update your forms for explicit consent, you’ll want to do so with an eye toward optimization so you retain as much data as possible. Last, evaluate your tech stack for future efficacy. Many don’t realize that Google Analytics 4 is NOT GDPR-compliant. Beyond that, Google owns your data with GA use, and you bear the responsibility for ensuring your audience knows that their data is being used in a non-consented way if you employ GA. This is a good reason to make informed decisions about what analytics platforms and third-parties you’ll engage in the future.

All told, the game is changing. Privacy is good for humans, and it doesn’t have to be bad for marketers and fundraisers if we take the proper steps to get ready. Don’t wait until regulation forces you to understand all that’s in-play – prepare yourself now so you build audience trust in a forward-thinking way instead of potentially losing it by hedging your bets to see what happens.

For more about privacy, data collection and your audience's expectations, check out the Care2 Webinar "What's Privacy Have To Do With Donor Acquisition?"


Elyse Wallnutt

Elyse Wallnutt is the founder of Agility Lab Consulting. After nearly two decades working in leadership roles for some of the largest nonprofit brands in the world — including Amnesty International, Heifer International, Feeding America, UNICEF USA, The Nature Conservancy, and World Food Program USA – she launched her firm to help nonprofits diversify and future-proof their acquisition strategies.