Navigating the Online Ad Space in a Crowded Year End

As if the year-end online advertising/fundraising season isn’t busy enough with holiday shopping, Giving Tuesday, and nonprofits’ year-end pushes, this year is extra busy with the midterm elections and candidates Hoovering up much of the available ad buys. On top of that, the online advertising ecosystem is changing fast, so let’s review the potential impacts on fundraising efforts through year end.

Less Bang for Your buck:

Due to a number of changes in the advertising landscape, advertisers across the board are experiencing a rise in costs across all major platforms. And changes to data policies and regulations have impacted advertisers’ ability to use certain data points.

This means we get:

  • Less precise targeting on social and display advertising.
  • Higher impression costs across platforms.
  • Reduced efficacy of advertising, particularly on social platforms.

Yes, we’re paying more and getting less—we know returns won’t be the same, so we must be more strategic.

Social Ads:

While general impression costs (CPM, cost per 1000 impressions) on social ads have decreased from late-2021 highs, when costs were up about 300% year over year—impression costs remain significantly elevated. As of mid-2022, Meta’s CPMs for all sectors averaged $17.60, an increase of more than 60% year over year. And we anticipate that CPMs will increase again heading into calendar Q4—as we saw in 2021 with the back-to-school and year-end shopping seasons.

CPM is inversely proportional to audience size, so when targeting custom lists of constituents (active donors, lapsed donors, on-file nondonors, etc.), advertisers continue to see even more elevated costs. Within the nonprofit sector, Meta’s CPMs are ranging from the high teens to $30, and in some cases even higher.

Prospecting costs have also increased, due to less-precise algorithmic targeting, which requires a greater number of signals to optimize. Following the release of Apple’s iOS 14.5, Meta projects that it lost approximately 60%, if not more, of available signals and data points. Meta’s algorithm, which historically could optimize based off signals of audiences of 5,000 or more, now requires audiences in the hundreds of thousands to achieve similar results. Additionally, Meta’s decision to remove social issue targeting from the platform has adversely and disproportionately impacted the nonprofit sector.

CCAH is working closely with our clients and can help your team in the lead-up to, and during, year-end fundraising to ensure an appropriate media mix and targeting strategy, to balance revenue with new donor acquisition.

Search Ads:

As advertisers see diminishing returns on social media ads, they’re allocating higher percentages of their budgets to Search Engine Marketing (SEM), leading to increased competition in the search space. 

While search still remains one of the stronger paid sources for revenue generation, return on ad spend (ROAS) has dropped year over year due to rising impression costs and, subsequently, costs per click. Within the nonprofit sector, CCAH has seen ROAS drop over the last 12 months from 200-300% on average (varying by a number of factors, including nonprofit vertical, name recognition, and competition from peer organizations) to 100-150%. While paid search remains breakeven to revenue positive, we do anticipate a softer calendar year-end 2022 compared to 2021, so be prepared!

Programmatic & Display:

CPMs in the programmatic space have also increased approximately 75% year over year, which means fewer impressions delivered with available budgets. So we’re focused on efficiently using available dollars to maximize display ad performance—actively testing a number of new data solutions in the programmatic space to refine ad targeting and optimize for the likeliest prospective donors, while also testing new creative and ad types including native, streaming audio and video, and interactive ad units.

The Bottom Line:

To really know the full impact on year-end fundraising, we need more data on performance trends closer to year-end. And so we’re continuing to gather data and closely monitor these signals and more, but we can now project that advertising budgets will not stretch as far as they did last year.

With increased impression and click costs, fewer constituents will see your ads, which will likely result in a reduction of direct gifts from ad channels. Additional competition from political fundraising in the lead-up to the midterm elections, as well as evolving economic issues, will further impact results.

Average gift value during the last major recession (2008) dropped about 7%. Although gas prices are moving down and consumer confidence is rising, we’re monitoring across channels and tactics to see whether the perception of a recession remains, which could affect average gifts.

And if you find some extra money in your budget leading up to year-end, we recommend reallocating some of it to ad budgets to help mitigate the general reduction of ad efficiencies as we move through EOY, past the busy holiday shopping season and Election Day and into the new year!

Online advertising remains a key component of any multichannel fundraising program, despite the crowded space, changing regulations, and rising costs.

We are dedicated to monitoring, testing, and advising our clients on how to navigate these situations as they arise, and helping to determine the best strategies for ads success.

We’d be happy to help you, too! Please reach out if you’re interested in talking to our incredible Ads Team to help you maximize your ads buy!

September is Hunger Action Month

A month where people all across America came together to stand against hunger, share concern and awareness, volunteer, donate goods or pledge financial support to food banks. All of us at CCAH are proud to stand with the San Francisco – Marin Food Bank. The Food Bank is one of our newest clients, and we can’t think of a better organization to recognize and share the amazing work they are doing to end hunger and address food insecurity in San Francisco and Marin. For over 30 years the Food Bank has been distributing food, transforming lives and advocating for policies that address the root cause of hunger and strengthen the social safety net.

In honor of Hunger Action Month, members of our team recently volunteered at a pop-up food pantry in North Beach. To meet increased demand during the pandemic, the Food Bank opened 20 temporary pop-up pantries across San Francisco and Marin to serve ten times more people than their 240+ regular food pantries. Like the regular food pantries, with their partners, the Food Bank brings fresh groceries directly into the neighborhoods where they are needed the most and caters to populations ranging from families to seniors.

In addition to the 20 pop up pantries and 240+ regular food pantries, the Food Bank provides weekly groceries to over 55,000 households, distributes 1,300,000 meals every week and delivers groceries to over 10,000 households. The Food Bank also advocates for policies and programs that make transformative change.

You can visit sfmfoodbank.org to learn more today.

Connecting people. Social network concept. Bright background

Look for us Here: Nonprofit Fundraising and Marketing Conferences to Mark on your Calendar

CCAH is excited to be able to attend, sponsor (and present at!) several conferences during the remainder of the year.

We hope these are on your list as well!

Tech Forward Conference

CCAH is proud to sponsor TechImpact’s conference in Denver, Colorado taking place next week, September 18 – 20. VP Digital Services Dave Onate and Principal & SVP Brenna Holmes will be there, so if you are in or near Denver, join us & register! And while it’s last minute, CCAH has one last free pass available for a nonprofit attendee, so if you’re interested, email Brenna today!

Nonprofit Innovation & Optimization Summit (NIO)

Principal and SVP Brenna Holmes is excited to attend this for the second year! This multi-day summit is a premier online fundraising conference for those looking to grow their programs and embrace innovation.

She hopes to see you in Kansas City, MO, next week, September 20 – 23. but if you can’t make it, they offer a FREE virtual livestream option too!

Webinar: State of the Nonprofit Industry: Digital Solutions for Your Multichannel Fundraising Challenges

This Webinar hosted by Wiland will be held on September 27 and will feature a presentation by CCAH’s Principal and SVP Brenna Holmes on the power of multimedia digital to drive revenue across channels. Register and mark your calendar today!

Webinar: ANA Nonprofit Federation Fundamentals of Fundraising

Catch CCAH Principal and SVP Chrissy Hyre presenting on SMS fundraising at ANA’s multi-day virtual workshop held from September 27 – 28. ANA members get a discounted rate, so login and register today to learn to master the basics!

DMAW Sustainer Day

Back in person for the first time since 2019, we hope you’ll join us in Washington, D.C. on September 29 to learn everything you need to know about building (or leveling up!) a robust recurring giving program! Including a special panel discussion on Mastercard’s new regulations. Register today and save the date.

Engaging Networks Community Conference

As an accredited partner, CCAH is proud to be a Gold Sponsor for this year’s community conference on October 6 – 7 in Washington, D.C. So, if you are an Engaging Networks client, or thinking about exploring a new eCRM platform, please join us! In addition to sponsoring the conference, two CCAHers will be presenting! Check out the full agenda and register to attend.

DMAW Data Strategy Forum

On October 18 DMAW is hosting the DSF in downtown DC. This one-day workshop is one of DMAW’s fastest growing event and given how critical data strategy is and how it affects all channels of fundraising and marketing it’s no wonder! CCAH is proud to sponsor, and we hope you’ll join us and Brenna Holmes for her presentation on payment strategies and their role in the overall digital fundraising landscape. Register Now and mark your calendars to attend!

Whether we see you in Denver, Kansas City, here in DC, or virtually from the comfort of your own desk, we hope you’ll take advantage of all the fantastic educational opportunities available to our industry!

Any conferences we missed? Let us know in the comments!

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Implementing Mastercard’s New Sustainer Rules

You’ve probably heard that Mastercard is changing its standards for Subscription/Recurring Payments—monthly sustainers in our world, and the lifeblood of so many organizations.  

These new standards have caused much confusion among nonprofits and their processing platforms—especially Mastercard’s definition of a “subscription,” so Mastercard recently informed The Nonprofit Alliance (TNPA) that the standards won’t take effect until March 21, 2023. This extension gives nonprofits the chance to make the necessary changes in our programs to reach compliance, without having to focus on this at our busiest time of the year. 

Mastercard also backed off on its most costly and time-consuming new rule for nonprofits—that each monthly gift must be acknowledged, even for donors who haven’t shared their email addresses. Now the acknowledgments are only required for sustainers with an email address on file. 

While implementing these new standards will take some time and diligence, we see this as a terrific opportunity to ramp up sustainer stewardship, and more fully engage with our monthly donors through the increased mandatory contacts and transparency.  

a terrific opportunity to ramp up sustainer stewardship, and more fully engage with our monthly donors

Some of the key requirements are probably already part of our stewardship, and the rest represent best practices that will enhance the sustainer’s experience, which can only be a good thing. Let’s review some of Mastercard’s “must do” directives. Going forward, we must: 

  • Send a confirmation email at the time of enrollment that outlines how the sustaining giving will work—e.g., when the donor’s credit card will be charged every month, how much will be charged, as well as instructions on how the donor can cancel at any time.  
  • Email a receipt after every sustainer gift is charged, that also includes instructions for how to cancel the sustaining membership. 
  • Provide an easy cancellation method (similar to unsubscribing from emails), but this can also be a donor services number if your systems don’t have DYI giving management capabilities (or they aren’t setup yet). 
  • Collect email addresses from anyone making a recurring gift. This should already be a required field online, but if you are actively recruiting sustainers offline, think about creative ways to drive email address collection—and make sure these emails get recorded with this gift! 
    • You can even encourage prospective sustainers to scan a QR code and make their gift online instead! 
  • For sustainers who are charged less frequently than every six months, send a notification at least seven days before the credit card is charged, reiterating the terms of the sustaining membership and how to cancel.  

Mastercard’s goal with these requirements is to reduce the number of chargebacks and disputed charges that the company has been seeing. While chargebacks and disputes aren’t rampant throughout the nonprofit industry, some bad actor organizations have taken advantage of sustaining donors and misled them about the terms of their recurring gifts. 

The most egregious and unethical example was the Trump campaign’s fine-print, pre-checked opt-in for WEEKLY sustaining gifts. Of course, outraged donors cried fraud and credit card companies had a real mess on their hands issuing $122 million in refunds, while the campaign used the money for its last-ditch media blitz pre-Election Day in 2020. Made us all look bad.  

Writing in Non-Profit Pro, Erica Waasdorp sees these new requirements as undue burdens on nonprofits, and encourages us to support a letter to Mastercard asking for nonprofits to be exempted from these new rules.  

She believes that the requirements might make sustaining gifts less about a philanthropic relationship with a nonprofit, and more about the transaction. While recognizing that some of Waasdorp’s points have merit, we can definitely see the benefits of these kinds of donor contact becoming industry standards.  

Some guidelines for implementing Mastercard’s changes:  

  • No matter how our sustainers make their recurring gifts (e.g., offline, ACH, Visa, Discover, Mastercard, etc.), put these changes into practice across the board, since they truly are best practices in terms of sustainer stewardship. And increased contact is a win-win.  
  • Review all recurring gift confirmation language to ensure that we are aligned with the information necessary to be in compliance with these rules. 
  • Make sure that there is a clear and easy way for sustainers to cancel their commitment. Provide a direct line to donor services and a simple form linked in all sustainer related emails—that active sustainers can fill out to cancel. Of course, both require staff time to speak to donors, and to reconcile form submissions with active/canceled sustaining gifts in a timely manner, but both are a good interim step while a more robust donor portal is being deployed.  
  • Create a recurring monthly gift receipt—ideally an automatic one—for all sustainers by setting up an autoresponder that will contact the sustainer every time their recurring gift is processed. Staff or your agency-partner (like us) will have to audit active donation forms and enable this setting on each form, as well as setup standards for all new forms.  
  • For sustainers without an email address, try to collect email addresses whenever possible. Review your assets. Are you asking for email on your reply? How about on the acknowledgment for the initial gift? You are also do special outreach to active sustainers to collect emails, and/or conduct an eAppend, which is a data append specifically designed to add emails to postal records.  
    • SMS is another great way to send receipts! And collect emails, so if you have cell phones on file, this is another great touchpoint to add into your sustainer stewardship program! 

Remember, Mastercard’s deadline to get this all implemented is March 21, 2023, and as much as we all love a good deadline in fundraising, don’t let it sneak up on you, spring will be here before we know it, LOL. 

At CCAH, we’re looking on this as a great opportunity to really button up our sustainer programs with improved systems to keep these loyal donors informed, and allow them to opt out—but still think positively of our clients’ organizations—by making it easy—and we’d be happy to help you too! So, reach out, if you are interested in talking to our digital and systems specialists about how you can come into compliance before the deadline.

Mastercard’s deadline to get this all implemented is March 21, 2023

MAXI-Blog-Team

CCAH Brings Home Three MAXI Awards!

CCAH is thrilled to announce that our work for two of our prestigious clients was honored with two silver awards, in the acquisition and special appeal categories, and one gold award, in the major donor category, at the 2022 MAXI Awards on July 27, 2022 by the Direct Marketing Association of Washington (DMAW). 

HSUS Animal Lover's Calendar + Planner Test

We scored two wins for our collaboration with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) — the nation’s most effective animal protection organization, advancing the fight for ALL animals. In the category Direct Mail Campaign: Acquisition/Prospecting, our Animal Lover’s Calendar + Day Planner Test for the Humane Society of the United States won a Silver MAXI and shattered industry acquisition benchmarks with a response rate of 1.85%. 

HSUS YTD Package

Also for HSUS, in the Nonprofit Major Donors category, our Agenda YTD Package won a Gold MAXI, nearly tripled the response rate, and the 2021 package brought in more gross and net revenue than the previous two years’ packages combined.  

JGI "One Person Can" Matching Gift Campaign

Our third winning package was created for The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), which advances the vision of Dr. Jane Goodall to create a brighter future for chimpanzees and all beings who share the planet. Our multi-channel appeal called “One Person Can” Jane’s Birthday Matching Gift Campaign won a Silver MAXI, and this campaign’s cumulative 2021 results for direct mail and email saw an incredible increase of 96% in overall response rate and a 12% increase in income compared to 2020.  

I hope you will visit the DMAW’s 2022 MAXI Awards Program Book and take a look at our creative designs and copy that helped to generate these remarkable results.  We’re so proud of our work and our team, and grateful for these industry honors. But of course, the real winners are our clients, who inspire everything we do through their dedicated, tireless, and compassionate work every day to fulfill their critical missions. 

What do Marilu Henner, Ryan Zimmerman and the CCAH team have in common?

If you guessed that we will all be at the 2022 Changemakers Unite Bridge Conference at the Gaylord National Hotel & Conference Center happening between July 27 and 29… You’re right!

To celebrate returning to in person conferences and our new partnership with MissionWired, CCAH will have a booth in the Changemakers Unite Exhibit Hall. Please come by booth 113 and see us!

In addition, you can see Mia Mack of CCAH and Sarah Raffurty of the International African American Museum for their session at 8:15am on Thursday. They’ll share the rare experience of building a diverse museum membership program from the ground up (literally and figuratively). Sarah and Mia will share strategies, tips, tricks and challenges they overcame to create a national, omnichannel direct response program with tens of thousands of newly acquired members generating millions of dollars in less than a year. From budgeting with minimal data, to new audience acquisition and messaging, to omnichannel fundraising, marketing and branding integration, attendees will come away with best practices and new insights to test out.

Then don’t miss Brenna Holmes (CCAH), Jennifer Ingram (Wiland) and Jen Walsh (WJC) presenting at 4pm on Thursday about successful Omni-Channel campaigns with co-op data. If how to meet your fundraising goals in light of privacy changes with iOS and the depreciation of third-party cookies has you losing sleep at night, don’t panic! First party data from cooperative databases can expand your fundraising beyond the mailbox into display, social, email, P2P and connected TV. It can also help diversify your donor file by finding new audiences you haven’t found before. They will share how WJC and other clients went from fundraising in different channels to a truly omnichannel, donor-centric program that increased revenue for ALL channels.

CCAH will have many staff attending the conference, and we are all excited to reconnect with our industry partners and share the new techniques and innovations we’ve been working on. Find us in various sessions and at Booth 113 in the Changemakers Unite Exhibit Hall throughout the conference.
US Capitol Building in spring of 2021 with metal security fence

Trump’s Fundraising Rip-off Is Bad for All of Us

In the recent House hearings about the January 6 coup attempt, the media seemed shocked by the revelation that the GOP raised $250 million after the 2020 election for an “Official Election Defense Fund” that did not exist. Their solicitations were filled with questionable tactics and a large chunk of the resulting contributions was apparently misdirected to Trump’s hotels, and to the side projects of his friends and staff.

While this was treated as a shock by the media, it is no surprise to those of us who have monitored Republican fundraising efforts over the years. My office is filled with GOP solicitations dating back decades, and many utilize highly unethical and manipulative tactics that the Democratic Party would never, ever consider.

One of my favorites (and by favorite, I mean most outrageous) is a Republican National Committee (RNC) solicitation sent many years ago that involved two mail pieces. The first solicitation is standard and not unlike those sent by the Democratic Party … it is signed by the RNC chairman and includes a membership card and request for funds. However, the second follow-up solicitation is the most underhanded and unethical direct mail piece I’ve seen in my 37-year career.

This letter is signed by a female RNC staff member. It begins by saying, “This is one of the hardest letters I’ve ever had to write.” The signer then explains that she had been directly instructed by the party chairman to add the words “Charter Member” to the recipient’s previously mailed membership card, but she screwed up and failed to do so, and implies her job may be in trouble. “I cannot tell you how sorry I am. And I wanted you to know right away that it was my mistake …” She goes on to say that one way or the other, she must reach her fundraising goal. “I know you must be very disappointed in me for making this mistake. But I hope you see I’m doing everything I can to correct it. And I pray you’ll help me out …” And, as if this were not bad enough, she goes on to tell the recipient that she’s a single mother who’s afraid she may not be able to provide for her daughter.

I cannot imagine a more manipulative piece of fundraising copy. A struggling, god-fearing, single mother may lose her job if you do not respond today. This letter is even more outrageous when you consider the Republican Party’s horrific war upon women’s rights … they are actually using their own suppression of women as a selling point and sympathy generator. This letter was written many years ago, but the unscrupulous tactics continue today. Trump’s solicitations for his supposed “Election Defense Fund” were also based on lies and devious tactics calculated to generate an emotional response and contributions from easily misled conservative supporters.

While Democrats like me may laugh about the wasted expenditure of funds by these Republican donors … after all, that’s a quarter-of-a-billion dollars of GOP money down the drain that will not be spent to defeat Democrats … this episode is still very bad for every other entity that struggles to raise money for their cause. Scandals like this make potential donors of every stripe more cynical about fundraising. Over the years, I’ve watched donors become more cynical about the legitimacy of fundraising efforts, probably due to the multitude of scandals over the decades. In the late 1980’s, it was misspending of assets by the United Way. More recently, it was the misuse of funds raised in the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. And today, it’s Trump’s fake “Election Defense Fund.” All these incidents make it more difficult for all of us to raise money for our causes. Today, we must expend much more effort to prove the legitimacy of our clients’ efforts than we did when I first started my fundraising career almost four decades ago.

So … not only should someone throw the book at Trump concerning his efforts to sabotage our constitution and overthrow our form of government, but I also hope that the appropriate authorities act to fully investigate these allegedly fraudulent fundraising efforts.

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Building a Membership Program From the Ground Up

CCAH is thrilled to partner with the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina, as they prepare to open their doors to the world later this year.  

Our work with IAAM began in earnest in August 2020. At the time, the nation was engaged in a deep moment of reckoning over the continuing damage of systemic racism. This was a critical time for the museum to use their voice, to bring people across the nation into their mission of honoring the untold stories from the African American journey, and to build a community of members and supporters. 

It was the right time for the museum to speak to the nation, but we faced some technical challenges.

At CCAH, we know that it’s rare for an organization to have the right systems in place from day one. Smart nonprofits are always reassessing and shifting their goals and needs, as well as the systems they use to manage their daily work.  

As a relatively new nonprofit, IAAM is building their organization and systems while simultaneously building the transformational museum space at their heart of their mission. When we began to work together, we found that IAAM was using one system for their CRM and another for email communications – and the systems didn’t talk to each other.  

This meant that we were faced with the prospect of duplicate records, two of every campaign, and unclear data that would keep us from the success that we knew was possible. 

Enter EveryAction and Raise HECK.

Working closely with Raise HECK, we migrated the museum’s existing systems onto EveryAction’s omnichannel platform, which put us in a position to run and report campaigns the way IAAM needs to in order to maximize their revenue.  

EveryAction provides the kind of robust, real-time data that our team depends on to shape strategy and deliver the best possible performance for clients like IAAM.  

And we’re deeply proud of the success we’ve achieved together, building a growing national membership base for a museum that still has yet to open! 

The results from our initial campaign period are truly astounding:  

  • We grew the Museum’s email list by 160%+ in high value prospects 
  • We grew the Museum’s membership list by 300%+ 
  • We achieved 216% Return on Ad Spend 
  • We brought down the ad cost of converting a new member from $35 to just $10 

Thanks to EveryAction’s comprehensive reporting and integration, we have the data we need to drive our strategy through to the IAAM’s Opening Day and beyond. And the museum has a committed community of members and supporters who will propel their work for years to come.  

USPS Proposed Changes to First-Class Mail Delivery Service Standards

You may have seen, back in March, that the USPS published a 10-year strategic plan to achieve financial stability and service excellence. This plan includes adjusting the current 1–3-day continental U.S. First-Class delivery standard to 1-5 days. These changes are expected to be rolled out on October 1. In theory, the USPS expects this change to not only allow them to better meet delivery standards, which they’ve failed to meet over the past 8 years but also reduce their cost of delivering First-Class mail.

The summary of the proposed service change is as follows: mail that is currently delivered within 1 day (3-hour drive time from entry to delivery point) will not change. However, they are proposing stretching the 2–3-day delivery period out to 2-5 days. 

The chart below compares the current 2–3-day service standard against the proposed service standard. Ultimately, 81% of the current 2-day volume should keep a 2-day standard, with the remaining 19% flowing into 3-days. The current 3-day volume would be changed to 3-5 days, with 47% remaining the same, 36% going to 4-days, and the remaining 17% changing to 5-days.

Basically, 70% of current 1–3-day delivery would remain the same and 30% would be adjusted to 4 or 5-day delivery based on distance and destination-cost-impact.

*Note: Figures in the chart above are rounded and therefore may not add up to 100%

Between March and July, the USPS requested the US Postal Regulatory Commission consider the proposed service standard change which was completed and released on July 20, 2021. In summary, the Commission did find that extending the service standards would help the USPS meet delivery requirements but is concerned that the USPS has not tested their theory and thus they are lacking supporting evidence that they can operationally make these changes and have the overall expected service and financial impact.

Additionally, the Commission did not find that changing the service standards would have any financial impact, especially without supporting evidence. The USPS doesn’t need the Commission’s approval to change service standards. Kim Frum, USPS spokeswoman, said they are reviewing the recommendations of the Postal Regulatory Commission, and will consider them as we move forward with our plan. This statement further insinuates that the USPS will move ahead with their plans, despite the Commission’s findings, on September 1, 2021.

The Future of Digital Advertising

Preparing for a Cookieless Future

The only constant is change.

This mantra could never ring truer than for those of us who spend our days focused on digital advertising. With technology advances, shifts in policy priorities, and an ever-evolving user base adjusting its online activity, we know change is always around the corner.

But when you’re tasked with bringing in mission-critical revenue for some of the nation’s biggest nonprofits, you can’t be afraid of that.

The latest wave of change in the online ecosystem? The looming sunset of the third-party cookie. Or rather, the decision to retire support for it in Google Chrome (several other browsers have already retired third-party cookie support in recent years, citing privacy and other concerns). But with Chrome’s 65% market share (and 70% on mobile!) this decision effectively puts the nail in the coffin.

Last year, Google announced its decision to sunset support in Chrome in 2022, and since then a flood of bad puns have filled the advertising space and industry papers about cookies crumbling, half-baked tech responses, and other groaners. Google has since adjusted its timeline to delay this change to 2023, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start preparing now.

Why does this matter? First- and third-party cookies are a big part of what makes the internet function. They help websites deliver a customized web experience to you (think leaving an item in your online shopping cart), and they can ensure that the ads you receive (and that keep your favorite websites online) make sense for you as the individual.

We (Van Do, Senior Strategist, and Mike Crump, Digital Advertising Manager, along with Pete Ellard of Nexis Direct) were fortunate enough to present on what’s next in the digital advertising space without a third-party cookie as a part of DMAW’s Digital Week. (For a deeper dive than we’re able to fit in a blog post, take a look at our presentation here).

Here’s the thing though: despite a lot of chatter on the end of the third-party cookie, for 90% of your nonprofit advertising and fundraising efforts, you’re not going to see a real change.

You want to raise the most revenue for your programs, and the strongest direct results in the nonprofit world right now are generally coming from the “walled gardens” of Google, Facebook, etc, with robust first-party user data. Could this change? Sure. Soon? We’re not betting on that.

But there will be an impact on programmatic advertising like banner ads on websites, which use web signals (anonymous) and credentials to build out and fine tune user profiles for optimal ad delivery and to remarket. Historically, programmatic delivery has relied on third-party cookies that help connect a user’s web activity across different websites.

As we already noted, the third-party cookie has been on the decline for several years.

And the industry has been preparing for that. New tech like Google Turtledove and Privacy Sandbox have been under development to specifically address the sunset of the third-party cookie. And while those tools will take some time for full development and rollout, rest assured that they are on the horizon.

So let’s look back at first-party data, which is where we’ll need to focus in the short term.

What can you do right now?

  • Take a look at your access to first-party data. Are your Google Tag Manager and Analytics accounts fully set up to maximize data collection?
  • Look at your users. What additional information can you gain about your customers to tease out new targeting models? What are some overlying interests and demographics? What content sources do they follow? How can you use this information strategically?
  • Start testing. Start your testing now — if you’re quick you may even find some learnings that can be applied at year end.

What can you test? Some areas of opportunity to consider (and for more information on these, take a look at our presentation):

  • Native and Contextual Targeting to supplement programmatic display budgets
  • Direct buys with content creators utilizing their internal user data
  • Other data sources like IP targeting
  • Robust targeting lists from data vendors
  • Inventory from niche sites relevant to your mission

The TL;DR: If your organization is small or new, or otherwise has a small ad investment program, focus on high-impact, high-result channels first (Google Ads, Microsoft Ads, Facebook & Instagram). Prioritizing these platforms while results are strong will limit the impact of the cookieless future on your program.

And for your programmatic and display budgets? Dig into the data and start testing! But don’t scale until you see results coming in to warrant a spend.

We’re always up for a discussion with other nonprofit professionals and marketers about digital advertising. You can reach me at mcrump@ccah.com or Van at vdo@ccah.com. For more information on how this may impact your organization, reach out to work with us!