Dems Defy Midterms Conventional Wisdom

With the polls all over the place these last weeks, it was hard to know which end was up. But when everything shook out, one thing was clear: Democrats defied expectations and there was no “red wave” or Trump-dominated victories. As Stephen Colbert said, it was more of a “pink trickle.”

House Republicans are still trying to figure out how they can govern, given their caucus of conspiracy-theorists, election deniers, and the Trump gold standard – Marjorie Taylor Greene. Meanwhile, Democrats have big plans for the Lame Duck session and our Senate majority in the new year. Not to mention the key Georgia Senate run-off coming up on December 6.

So, while the dust is settling, I want to highlight some big wins that we are celebrating. First, two Democratic women were elected governor for the first time in New York and Massachusetts, and Democrat Wes Moore is the first Black person to be elected governor of Maryland. 

CCAH congratulates our partners for their hard work in these races:

EMILY’s List, Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Governors Association, NAACP LDF, and LCV Give Green.

We congratulate Senator Michael Bennet on his reelection. And a huge thank you to Rep. Val Demings for her hard-fought race in Florida and also to Cheri Beasley and Marcus Flowers for their dogged pursuit of democracy against Trump-endorsed candidates.

A big shout-out to my CCAH colleagues across all departments who, through it all, dealt with impossible deadlines and last-minute edits due to political winds changing, as our political clients fought for the soul of our nation. No pressure! 

These midterm elections will echo for generations to come, as we literally rewrote the political status quo. I’m so proud to work with our clients and colleagues to keep fighting for progress, equality, and a strengthened democracy for this country that we love.

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.

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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

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Rookie of the Quarter: Matthew B

At CCAH, we know that progress is what keeps us relevant and keeps us moving toward our mission — advancing change and committing to activism that makes a difference. That’s why each quarter we like to recognize one our newest employees who is helping move us toward our goals and continuing our push for progress. Our Rookie of the Quarter award is given to an employee who has started their CCAH journey in the past year and has shown their willingness to go above and beyond. They are nominated by the CCAH management committee (our partners, VPs, and president, Kim Cubine), and they exemplify CCAH’s commitment to progress.

This quarter, we are recognizing Matthew B.

Matthew has an extensive history working in the service industry. Last year he made his transition into marketing by interning at a small technology company in Virginia. After building up experience there he wanted to move into a role where he was able to grow and learn about something new. His goal was to learn more about non-profits and what goes on behind the scenes of these organizations, while being in a role that would allow him to learn from the ground up, and CCAH looked like the perfect place for him to do that! So far, Matthew has found his work as an Account Representative in the digital department very rewarding, and finds it satisfying to know that his efforts everyday ultimately go towards helping others.

After work Matthew enjoys going to the gym most days of the week, meeting up with friends to go eat at their favorite restaurants (they are huge kbbq lovers), or practicing retail therapy online (and of course always hunting for discount codes). He also occasionally enjoys reading a good book! One he read this past year that he would recommend is 1Q84.

We are proud to have Matthew as part of our CCAH family and cannot wait to see what comes next. Congratulations on being our Rookie of the Quarter!

“I can honestly say I’ve learned so much in my time here so far and I am only excited to learn more as I progress in my career. My teammates were super helpful at getting me up to speed with our day-to-day activities and always continue to provide a helping hand when needed, truly making me feel welcome and appreciated.”

“I can honestly say I’ve learned so much in my time here so far and I am only excited to learn more as I progress in my career. My teammates were super helpful at getting me up to speed with our day-to-day activities and always continue to provide a helping hand when needed, truly making me feel welcome and appreciated.”

Rookie of the Quarter - Alexandria Sewell

Rookie of the Quarter: Alexandria S.

Rookie of the Quarter - Alexandria Sewell

At CCAH, we know that progress is what keeps us relevant and keeps us moving toward our mission — advancing change and committing to activism that makes a difference. That’s why each quarter we like to recognize one of our newest employees who is helping move us toward our goals and continuing our push for progress. Our Rookie of the Quarter award is given to an employee who has started their CCAH journey in the past year and has shown their willingness to go above and beyond. They are nominated by the CCAH management committee (our partners, VPs, and president, Kim Cubine), and they exemplify CCAH’s commitment to progress.

This quarter, we are recognizing Alexandria S.

Alexandria started her career at FRIDA – The Young Feminist Fund, where she led website communications for one of the world’s largest grant-funding feminist organizations. The experience inspired her to launch her own website and initiative, YoungBlackFeminist, dedicated to discussing the latest pressing issues in racial justice and women’s rights activism. Alexandria then broadened her writing career into brand communications work for a wide range of start-ups, which honed her writing skills as she pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Music Performance. After graduating university, Alexandria returned to activism-themed writing and dived into the world of fundraising copywriting at CCAH!

After work, you can find her singing any song she can get her hands on (from opera to Beyonce), reading a good book, enjoying nature, and hanging out with friends and family.

We are proud to have Alexandria as part of our CCAH family and cannot wait to see what comes next. Congratulations on being our Rookie of the Quarter!

“We’re Changing Everything”: Navigating Social Ads in the 20s

Last year the social advertising industry was turned upside down.

With the release of iOS 14.5 for iPhone, Apple gave users the ability to opt-out of tracking for targeted advertising. The New York Times has reported that more than 80 percent of users have done so—a huge shift that has meant more than a few sleepless nights for CCAH’s Digital Advertising Team.

“The ad landscape has changed dramatically over the past year,” says Senior Digital Advertising Manager Mike Crump. “It’s been a time of rapid learning for everyone in the industry.”

Earlier this week, Mike and Senior Advertising Specialist Linsey Park led a session at the Nonprofit Technology Conference exploring both the challenges and unexpected opportunities presented by last year’s dramatic shift.

The numbers tell the story: impression costs on Facebook are double or even triple what they were last year. Donation rates are dropping, there’s less individual engagement on Facebook, and changes to interest-based targeting—particularly important for nonprofits—have thrown many marketers for a loop.

Not CCAH’s Digital Advertising team, however.

“It’s been a challenge, but an exciting one,” says Mike. “It has given us the opportunity to reassess some longstanding assumptions within the fundraising and advertising space—and try new things.”

One example is the team’s push for more creative advertising approaches, incorporating video and animation—as well as static ads—to grab and hold users’ attention. Mike, Linsey and the rest of the Digital Advertising department have also been exploring a variety of lead generation strategies like quizzes, surveys, petitions and more. Investing in these strategies will drive traffic and create a “well” of users for later retargeting.

But no matter how creative you get, there’s no getting around it: Facebook and other social media platforms simply can’t provide the audience or the data that they used to. That’s why CCAH’s Digital Advertising team remains committed to following the data.

In this new era of digital advertising, it’s more important than ever to monitor costs, track conversions, and adjust accordingly.

In addition, bringing digital advertising out of its traditional silo has become absolutely essential. Ads should compliment what is happening across other channels, contributing to overall brand awareness and increasing the number of touchpoints.

Linsey sees CCAH’s Digital Advertising team as uniquely ready to meet this challenge. “In our department, we have seasoned nonprofit fundraising professionals as well as for-profit experts.” She believes that industry-wide changes will lead to more of an overlap between for-profit and non-profit advertising—and knows that CCAH is more prepared than most for this shift.

If you’d like to know more about how CCAH and our Digital Advertising team can help your organization during this period of transition, feel free to reach out to Mike at mcrump@ccah.com or Linsey at lpark@ccah.com. We’d love to work with you!

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!