05.22.23 2 min

Nonprofit marketing: the fine balance between personalization and privacy

Shana Masterson

Account Director, Omnichannel, Data Axle Nonprofit

I was recently in the market for a new bed frame for my youngest son, and the whole process from interest to purchase literally took me four (or five?!) months to complete. As a busy mom to two young children with a full-time job, there was zero chance I was going to drive to brick-and-mortar stores, so my search was conducted entirely online. And even though I do this for a living, along the way, I was given a workshop in marketing personalization and how it helped (or hindered) my purchase experience.

Furniture shopping is ripe with opportunities to utilize data to inform advertising strategies. Big companies with commensurately sized marketing budgets are experts in this, but these advanced strategies aren’t limited to the largest corporations any longer. Smaller businesses are getting into the game – as are nonprofits.

According to a new whitepaper from Data Axle, 71% of consumers are concerned about how companies are using their personal data. At the same time, 71% of consumers expect personalization and 76% of consumers actively feel frustrated when their experience isn’t personalized.

Therein lies the personalization paradox – people simultaneously want both privacy and customized experiences.

How do we as marketers toe that very thin line? We do this by using all the data sources available to us in a smart, yet respectful way.

In my furniture shopping, I spent a lot of time on Wayfair’s website as I’ve made some successful purchases there in the past. Within days, Wayfair sent me a postcard about bedroom furniture, I started to receive emails about their kid’s furniture selection, and Facebook began showing me carousel ads featuring items I had looked at. Their personalized messaging brought me back to their site again and again.

The best place to start with respectfully personalizing your communications is using the data you already have – and looking for patterns.

Success as nonprofit marketers is in helping your audience establish, repeat, and upgrade their patterns related to your organization.

One obvious place to look is to your established end-of-year, but no other time, donors. You can easily develop a communications track that aligns with their pattern of giving: reducing the number of emails they receive throughout the year and focusing instead on ensuring they are receiving engaging and informative messaging that keeps them up to date on the good you’re doing.

Check out the Personalization Paradox whitepaper for more examples of utilizing existing data to inform messaging strategies!

What about “zero-party” data?

This is data that individuals intentionally and proactively share about themselves with a brand. Using this information to customize communications is welcome by those who shared the information.

As I shopped, I found my interest coming back to one particular captain’s bed on Wayfair. I loved it! It was the right color to match his room, it was solid wood, and it had tons of storage. I set that bed as a favorite and almost immediately began receiving very targeted messaging featuring that bed.

In nonprofit communications, you can collect information about connection to your cause or specific program interest that can help you relate to them in specific ways and provide more relevant information that will improve their constituent journey. Our latest whitepaper provides two great examples (with email creative!) of organizations using this exact strategy.

The last type of data to consider in your personalization strategy can be incredibly powerful, and our team at Data Axle happens to be experts in it – data you can append (or add) to your existing database.

Variables like age, giving history, income, and political leanings can help you understand what drives your supporters and cater your messages in a way the benefits both your organization and your supporters.

So, did I end up buying that bed from Wayfair? I did not! After all of that marketing, they fell short on user experience. The bed I wanted “wasn’t available in my zip code” (or literally any other zip code I tried across the country). I ended up buying a bed I wasn’t as in love with from Amazon (who didn’t market furniture to me at all) because I wanted speedy delivery and an easy return process.

Making sure your user experience matches your great communication strategy is a blog for another day, but I urge you to check out “Leveraging Data to Overcome the Personalization Paradox” and to begin leveraging the strategies contained within to transform your acquisition and retention programs!

Shana Masterson

Thanks for reading

Written by Shana Masterson, Account Director, Omnichannel, Data Axle Nonprofit

Shana is a 20-year expert of the nonprofit, social good and SaaS space. She helps clients acquire, grow, and reactivate donors through strategic omnichannel marketing campaigns.