06.04.24 3 min

Cookies crumbling: the impact of third-party cookie elimination on nonprofits

Niely Shams

Niely Shams

President, Data Axle Nonprofit

Just like a kid sneaking a cookie from the cookie jar, leaving behind crumbs that give clues of their mischiefs, third-party cookies leave digital morsels with traces of donor and prospect activity and preferences. But what happens when those crumbs are cleaned up?

Google has been warning marketers to prepare for the deprecation of third-party cookies for years, and even though the 2024 deadline has been pushed back yet again, nonprofits need to ensure they are prepared for the end of this tool. There is no doubt that the elimination of third-party cookies will have an impact on nonprofits, as these cookies are commonly used for tracking and targeting individuals across different websites allowing nonprofits to create targeted messaging that is more meaningful to their audience segments. There was a time before digital cookies when marketers had to rely on different ways to gather donor data in order to customize their messaging and audiences. As third-party cookies become a thing of the past, we must explore other tools and methods to create a personalized experience.

In this blog, we identify a few ways that the elimination of third-party cookies affects nonprofits and potential strategies you can adopt in response to this bittersweet transition.

First-party data: the essential ingredient in a post-cookie world

First-party data is information that marketers gather directly from their donors and audiences through interactions. This data can include demographics, purchase history, website activity, interactions, interests, mobile app data, and behaviors. Companies can collect first-party data through sales, support processes, website forms, subscriptions, surveys, and social media connections. Now that you know the essential ingredient, how can your nonprofit use it to whip up success?

Stirring in first-party data to become cookie-proof

Nonprofits can shift their focus towards leveraging first-party data collected directly from their own website visitors or supporters. They can encourage users to provide their information voluntarily through advocate sign-ups, subscriptions, or donation forms in order to capture that information in their CRMs.

Using this first-party data, nonprofits can create custom audience segments defined by specific attributes, such as demographics, interests, or past engagement with the organization. The most traditional places to put those segments to work on is through email marketing campaigns or direct mail. Additionally, certain digital platforms, like social media networks, often provide options to upload custom audience lists for targeted advertising campaigns.

Nonprofits can invest their time in first recording the first-party data in a way that is able to be easily filtered from their CRM; and second, using that information to create high-quality, informative, and engaging content that resonates with their target audience. By providing valuable information, stories, and resources, nonprofits can attract and retain the attention of their audience, building trust and loyalty over time. And as the trust grows, the donors will continue to add information – those all-important essential cookie crumbs – for nonprofits to use to create new ways to personalize outreach.

The recipe for resilience in a cookie-less era

Without third-party cookies, nonprofits may face challenges in tracking users’ online behavior and delivering targeted advertisements. This can impact their ability to reach new audiences and personalize messaging that may help them become engaged with your mission. But there are still great digital tools available. Nonprofits can explore alternative methods for audience targeting, such as contextual advertising, where ads are displayed based on the content of the webpage rather than individual user data. By aligning their ads with relevant content, nonprofits can target users who are actively consuming information related to their cause or mission, opening the door to new prospects.

In addition, website analytics tools can be used to gain insights into user behavior and preferences as it related to content a nonprofit has created. The best part? Those tools are readily available through web content managers and email marketing platforms. By analyzing metrics such as page views, click-through rates, time spent on site, and conversion rates, nonprofits can identify patterns and understand the types of content or campaigns that resonate with their audience. This information can help in refining targeting strategies, further audience segmentation and creating personalized experiences that are meaningful to donors and prospects alike.

Baking up a better direct marketing strategy

Finally, nonprofits can leverage the concept of lookalike audiences, groups of users who share similar characteristics to their existing audience segments. By analyzing the attributes and behaviors of their current donors, nonprofits can segment their prospect pool by looking at similar traits. This allows for targeted outreach – via email or direct mail – to prospective new donors to help a nonprofit expand their reach and nurture new relationships, encouraging future involvement.

And that’s how the cookies crumble.

Want to explore more ways to use first-party data to optimize your marketing strategies? Reach out to us.

Niely Shams

Written by Niely Shams, President, Data Axle Nonprofit

Niely oversees the overarching strategy of Data Axle Nonprofit, spanning account support, product offerings, donor acquisition solutions, and program execution.