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How to Thrive in a Cookieless World

By Ben Keating, Digital Project Manager

It was decades ago when digital cookies first appeared — those bits of data that track your website visitors.

Then came a wave of privacy alarms, so we’ve become accustomed to websites leading with a “We’re concerned about your privacy” notice, confessing the use of cookies, and inviting us to “Accept all.”

But third-party cookies are going away. These are the tracking codes that your ministry places on other websites to track visitors’ online activity. These cookies enable you to target specific prospective donors with ads and other highly personalized marketing strategies.

(First-party cookies, meanwhile, are the codes that you use on your own website to store track and store basic information like passwords, giving history, user preferences, etc. First-party cookies are not disappearing.)

Without third-party cookies, you’ll have a harder time reliably tracking your income channels — in other words, where your donations come from, and how, and why.

But they’re vanishing — and in fact, the exodus is already under way. Why? Because consumers have increasingly demanded transparency in online interactions — Who’s collecting my data, and how are they using it? They want control over their own data and the way organizations use it.

This user-privacy and data-protection movement is driving a shift away from third-party cookies and other tracking mechanisms. The European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), the CCPA (California Consumer Privacy Act), and other privacy regulations are reshaping the digital landscape.

(Google is leading the way. As Hubspot’s Pamela Bump has written, Google’s Chrome, with more than half of the world’s Web traffic, is the biggest browser to announce a cookie phaseout. Others are likewise phasing out cookies — or already have done so.)

What does this mean to your ministry?

  • In the new cookieless world, you’ll be less able to track the way individuals interact online.
  • You’ll have less access to data about the behavior of donors and prospective donors.
  • You’ll know less about the preferences of people who visit your ministry’s website or express an interest in your ministry.
  • This will limit your ability to personalize your online communications.

People will come to expect what are increasingly known as “privacy-focused browsing experiences.”

But there is hope for your ministry’s marketing strategy! BBS & Associates can help you adapt to the new realities and advertise your ministry effectively in this new cookieless environment.

Yes, there are data-collection systems that respect the user’s privacy. We’ll help you identify which will be a good fit for your ministry — and we’ll help you implement them.

Alyssa Quander Riley writes on “Those who succeed in a post-cookie world will prioritize first-party data collection and stewardship while promoting consent-based marketing transparency.”

(1) Collect information yourself, on your own website — more information, better information. (One key solution: “conversion tracking,” via Google, Facebook, and other platforms. BBS can help you set it up.)

(2) Get back to the basics: creative, passionate messaging. Communicate your ministry’s cause in ways that appeal broadly. (In a way, it’s a return to the “olden days” of broadcasting: Touch hearts, make a compelling case, the kind of message that will engage and inspire the greatest number of people.)

Bottom line: Cookielessness doesn’t have to be the end. It can be the beginning of something even better. We’d like to help you get there!


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