Over the last 6 months, Tech Giants like Apple and Google have made a number of big privacy changes – and we mean big! The changes have earned enthusiastic cheers from consumers and privacy watchdogs. But they have also created headaches and worries for the many nonprofit organizations working to better our communities. For the sake of our 300+ nonprofit partners, here’s a 101 on the key privacy changes, their impacts, and how nonprofits can (and should) respond.
The Key Changes
Apple and Google’s privacy changes can be grouped into 3 main categories. The first category gives users more information. For example, Apple now requires the product pages for its 1.96 million apps to include a privacy section explaining “the data types the app may collect, and whether that data is linked to…or used to track” the user. Additionally, Apple’s Safari browser now features a Privacy Report button that provides an in-depth report on which “apps and websites are tracking you, which information they’re tracking, and how many have been blocked."
The second category of privacy changes gives users more power. Now, Apple users must give apps permission to “track [them] across apps or websites owned by other companies, or to access the device’s advertising identifier." That’s right, users now opt in to tracking, rather than opting out. In a similar vein, Apple’s new Precise Location toggle for Location Services allows users to choose “approximate location” versus “specific location” tracking.
Finally, the third category of privacy changes gives users more anonymity. Most notably, Google is phasing out support for third-party cookies (and we don’t mean your favorite midnight snack). Cookies are small text files made for storing information in your browser. They create a unique ID for each user visiting a website, and collect information such as online habits, previous visits, search history, etc. Third-party cookies work in a similar way, but the main difference is that they are set by a website different from the one you are currently on. For example, many companies install Facebook or Google tracking cookies on their websites in order to retarget the same audience on other sites they are visiting. Phasing this out will allow users to have more privacy when it comes to their browsing activity and other online habits.
These changes could have several impacts. Armed with more information, users may choose to avoid sites or apps that track. Or they may download apps but opt out of tracking (or at least the “specific location” type). Finally, users will be subject to less “hidden tracking” by third-party cookies. Bottom line: the days of rampant, uncurbed tracking appear to be over.
So how will this affect nonprofits? Most nonprofits rely heavily on the support of donors and volunteers. To secure this support, organizations need to 1) understand these individuals and 2) reach them. Tracking can help achieve both ends. First, tracking data can be used to deduce key information about individuals, such as their demographic characteristics, interests, values, spending habits, etc. For example, a person who regularly visits NationalGeographic.com and LLBean.com is likely an outdoorsman and environmentalist. Secondly, the data can help nonprofits identify key prospects (i.e. supporters). Nonprofits can then target these individuals with highly tailored advertisements to build brand awareness, encourage donations, and more. In sum, the recent privacy changes will hurt nonprofits’ ability to collect intel and target ads, resulting in greatly "impaired advertising efficiency."
Despite the expected impacts, there is still hope for nonprofits! By taking a few proactive measures, they can fill the gaps created by the recent privacy changes.
For starters, nonprofits can develop their own data sets to better understand supporters. One way is through market research, like surveys, interviews, or focus groups with existing and/or prospective supporters. Check out this blog to learn more about leveraging market research on a nonprofit budget. In addition to this, organizations can utilize information collected through their own CRM database, app, social media channels, or website.
When it comes to reaching supporters, nonprofits should continue to develop creative, engaging content (especially videos) that people can freely share via email and social media. They can also seek out influencers to share/retweet posts. The key point here is continuing to tailor content to specific audiences your organization is trying to reach. For tips on elevating social media posts, check out this blog.
Additionally, nonprofits can revisit traditional, targeted outreach methods. An animal charity, for example, could advertise in veterinarian offices, PetSmart, Modern Dog Magazine, Animal Planet, etc. The key is “identifying where targets consume information, both online and off."
In lieu of clickable Facebook ads, nonprofits can also guide more people to their site by investing in Search Engine Optimization (SEO). SEO can help nonprofits appear higher on search engine results pages and if optimized correctly, can help a nonprofit "dominate the local search results for [their] niche." This is also useful because it opens up the opportunity for nonprofits to collect first-party data through their website, which will soon be one of the only data sources available. Read more on first-party data and why it's important here.
For more ideas on adapting to the recent changes, check out this Forbes article.