Is your nonprofit ready to adapt to privacy law changes?

So you’re running a nonprofit and trying to find new donors? We feel you! It’s not easy, and it turns out you’re not alone. Articles, webinars and podcasts increasingly discuss “How to Attract Younger Donors”, donation form optimization, and social media strategy for engagement. A recent survey report put out by CCS Fundraising found that 53% of respondents had donor acquisition as one of their top 3 nonprofit challenges.

For many nonprofits, the investment into social media feels like a clear place to win – you are able to organically build up a following, spread the word about your nonprofit and build community. It has also traditionally been an excellent place for donor acquisition and in 2015, Facebook even introduced fundraising tools to support online giving. By 2020, the company had raised over 3 billion dollars for charities.

Maybe your nonprofit is including paid advertising with your social media strategy. Likely you have noticed that it’s getting harder and harder to make yourself stand out on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Google Ads. Recent changes to privacy laws are also going to impact how nonprofits can use social media platforms to find new donors.

The Yeeboo Digital team was fortunate to connect recently with Elyse Wallnutt, founder of Agility Lab Consulting, on how privacy laws are going to affect your donor acquisition plans in the coming months. Elyse has years of experience in the nonprofit sector as a marketer and has really taken the time to understand how privacy is entering state legislation but also how big tech is changing their technology to meet these changes.


Changes to Social Ads

From top of funnel advertising to 1-1 display advertising, Elyse has worked with nonprofits such as World Food Program USA and The Nature Conservancy to engage potential donors. In her work in the last year, Elyse started to receive questions surrounding why Facebook was “dead” as an acquisition channel – why was it suddenly so hard to reach chosen audiences?

But Facebook is just the first channel to see the influence of changing privacy laws – it was hit hard by changes Apple made to its iOS system that forced web developers to ask for permission to track mobile users. This significantly impacted Facebook’s ability to reach its main base. Apple, Firefox and more similarly eliminated support for third-party cookies from their browsers, which impacted our ability as marketers to understand our audience’s behaviors. All those ads that once seemed to follow you around once you clicked on a single shoe ad (on FB, for example) will soon no longer be allowed. Platforms that were dependent on mobile traffic and the ability to create “lookalike” audiences took a huge hit. 

All of these changes are the result of Big Tech protecting their own brands by honoring audience privacy (and, maybe getting ahead of the revenue curve themselves). On top of that, the U.S. and Canada are seeing the rise of privacy legislation that will further impact the ways we’re able to use audience data.

Learn more from Elyse about how audience demand for privacy is impacting your acquisition program.

How will these privacy laws affect donor acquisition?

In Elyse’s mind, there are four pieces you need to be thinking about when it comes to donor acquisition moving forward – she calls this the 4-Step Data Autonomy Framework. It’s meant to help nonprofits collect more consented data straight from their audiences so they’re not so dependent on outside parties for reach.

Get ready to comply

While some states/countries already require privacy compliance, your organization should be preparing for it to come into play in your area – even if it isn’t yet required. Operationally, begin to plan updates to your privacy policy, get your cookie opt-in banner in place, etc. so you’re equipped when change comes.

Future-proof your tech stack

Look to API’s and integrations. When third-party cookies are no longer available to you, what tools are out there that can possibly fill in the gaps so you can track the success of your efforts? Attribution solutions are ever-evolving as Google decides on its compliance strategy. Stay on top of tech changes and what they’ll mean for you.

Invest in your data acquisition strategy

It’s time to build out a strategic plan for acquisition. Many nonprofits think of lead generation as “we are going to build petitions/surveys and see how that goes” but there’s so much more we can do creatively. Put thought into what intricate data you need to serve your audience base. And then, how do you plan to scale that? Come to the table with creative means for encouraging your audiences to raise their hands and say “yes, I want you to know this about me, and I trust that you’ll use that information wisely.” Plan to operate like you would a year from now!

Analyze what’s already working on your file

Before you can do any of this, you need to understand your audience base and what they care about. Dive into your CRM and analytics tools to quantitatively and qualitatively get a handle on where and what you should scale.

We finished out our chat by asking Elyse what are the adaptations nonprofits should be looking to in 2023 to succeed in the face of privacy changes.

Break down silos

Nonprofits must prioritize collaboration between all teams, including marketing, fundraising, IT, and legal. Privacy policy should not be left to the legal team alone; marketers should actively participate in discussions surrounding privacy to ensure that donor acquisition efforts remain effective.
Your nonprofit team should be asking themselves the hard questions of which data fields you actually need on file? What are the business reasons to keep gathering that data?

Additionally, when nonprofit data is siloed, and access is only given to certain teams, it is going to create real challenges for compliance with incoming privacy laws.

Evangelize ownership

Evangelize ownership among your nonprofit team, emphasizing that everyone has a role to play in the success of the organization. This includes taking ownership of data acquisition. First-party data acquisition has become increasingly important, and nonprofits should consider re-evaluating their methods for gathering information.

Move away from rogue platforms that no one really uses – or that only a portion of your team touches. All of your leads, from events to online, should be coming into the same location so that your lead pipeline is very clean. Fringe benefit? It will help with data analysis and enable your nonprofit to make informed decisions on accurate information.

Lead generation forms, live events and email acquisition should all take priority in 2023.

Cultivate trust

As a nonprofit, it’s important to build trust with your audience, especially as privacy laws become more stringent. Instead of solely focusing on acquiring donors, it’s crucial to put effort into cultivating trust with them. This means working with your team to come up with a plan on how to build this trust. Take this as an opportunity to lead and create positive change in your operational processes. Make sure your team is transparent and responsible with the handling of donor data.

Build thought leadership

To succeed in the face of privacy law changes and donor acquisition challenges, nonprofits should focus on building thought leaders. This means identifying community-based supporters and trusted influencers who can spread the word and help with lead generation. Smaller nonprofits are often better at this and can provide inspiration for larger organizations. To build thought leaders, consider hosting events, creating content, and fostering relationships. By doing so, you can tap into a network of passionate advocates who can help your organization achieve its goals.

Prepare for change

As privacy laws change, it’s time to start thinking about gathering data without relying on algorithms. To make informed decisions, seek to understand your audience and their behaviors. Think about what you would do a year from now without access to the data you currently have. Despite the challenges, continue to gather data and track what works best. Seek out and document the most relevant data points to maintain a good understanding of your audience. By doing so, you can make informed decisions even as privacy laws evolve.


In today’s digital world, privacy laws are becoming increasingly important, and nonprofit organizations need to be aware of their impact on donor acquisition. Laws like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which require organizations to obtain explicit consent from individuals before collecting and using their personal data, will only become more commonplace.

As a nonprofit, it’s essential to navigate these laws with care and consideration. The thoughtful recommendations coming out of Agility Lab Consulting are sure to give your nonprofit adapting to these changes. By adopting transparent data collection practices and implementing strong data protection measures, you can not only ensure compliance but also build trust with your donors. This will help you to cultivate long-term relationships and ensure that your organization continues to make a positive impact.

Tasha Van Vlack (article author) is a nonprofit connector, marketer and advocate. She works closely with the Yeeboo Digital team to curate excellent resources that will support nonprofit professionals in advancing their missions.

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