Nonprofit Nation with Julia Campbell

Reaching Your Audience Online Is About To Get Even Harder with Elyse Wallnutt

August 02, 2023 Julia Campbell Episode 100
Nonprofit Nation with Julia Campbell
Reaching Your Audience Online Is About To Get Even Harder with Elyse Wallnutt
Show Notes Transcript

Marketing has never been more challenging than it is now: As technology has matured, so have the layers between you and your audience become murkier. Your outreach is likely dependent on third parties in ways you may not realize.

Economic forecasts and audience demand for privacy seem daunting. And though innovation is desperately needed, it never feels like the right time to ask for more investment dollars.

Data privacy has become such a concern for consumers that they’re demanding more control. Because of this, tech giants and regulatory bodies are making huge shifts in audience targeting capabilities – you’re likely already seeing the impact.

In this episode, data privacy expert Elyse Wallnutt will share how your consumer demand for privacy is impacting nonprofit acquisition and how to pivot your digital strategy to focus on data autonomy and audience trust.

About Elysse

Elyse Wallnutt is a senior marketing and tech leader with 16+ years of experience driving results at the intersection of revenue, advocacy, brand, and policy objectives.

She delivered $39M+ in net new revenue for organizations over the past five years. She built the digital activation campaign for the clean future plan that powered the majority of President Biden's Inflation Reduction Act. And she has grown acquisition programs to more than 9x their former size.

She launched Agility Lab Consulting in 2022 to support business leaders in reaching their audiences through smart strategies that stay ahead of shifts in technology, algorithms, consumer interest, and rising demand for privacy.

Connect with Elyse:


About Julia Campbell, the host of the Nonprofit Nation podcast:

Named as a top thought leader by Forbes and BizTech Magazine, Julia Campbell (she/hers) is an author, coach, and speaker on a mission to make the digital world a better place.

She wrote her book, Storytelling in the Digital Age: A Guide for Nonprofits, as a roadmap for social change agents who want to build movements using engaging digital storytelling techniques. Her second book, How to Build and Mobilize a Social Media Community for Your Nonprofit, was published in 2020 as a call-to-arms for mission-driven organizations to use the power of social media to build movements.  

Take my free masterclass: 3 Must-Have Elements of Social Media Content that Converts

Hey, real quick. I've developed a brand new free resource just for you. It's called the nonprofit social media Content Planner. This brand new planner will help you plan, develop, and manage a year's worth of useful and usable written or other forms of content that your audience will love. You can just text the word Planner 2377 or go to Grab your free copy today. All right, on to the episode. Hello and welcome to Nonprofit Nation. I'm your host, Julia Campbell, and I'm going to sit down with nonprofit, industry experts, fundraisers, marketers, and everyone in between to get real and discuss what it takes to build that movement that you've been dreaming of. I created the Nonprofit Nation podcast to share practical wisdom and strategies to help you confidently find your voice, definitively grow your audience, and effectively build your movement. If you're a nonprofit newbie or an experienced professional who's looking to get more visibility, reach more people, and create even more impact, then you're in the right place. Let's get started. Hi, everyone. Welcome back to Nonprofit nation. I am thrilled to be here with you today. And we're going to talk about something that I feel like is a pain point for a lot of marketers and a lot of fundraisers, a lot of nonprofits in general, how consumer demand for privacy is impacting donor acquisition, and how we can pivot our digital strategies to focus on data autonomy and audience trust. And I have with me today data privacy expert Elise Walnut. Elise is a senior marketing and tech leader with 16 plus years of experience driving results at the intersection of revenue, advocacy, brand, and policy objectives. She's delivered over $39 million in net new revenue for organizations over the past five years. She built the Digital activation campaign for the Clean Future plan that powered the majority of President Biden's inflation reduction act. And she's grown acquisition programs to more than nine times their former size. Welcome, Elise. Thanks for being here. Thank you for having me. Yay. And we were saying, we met at the Nonprofit Technology Conference, the first time I ever went in DC in 2016. That was such a fantastic conference. And you have worked for the past almost two decades. You've worked at some of the largest nonprofit brands in the you know, some of my listeners, they might have heard of Amnesty International, Heifer International, Feeding America, UNICEF, the Nature Conservancy, the World Food Program, and you recently launched Agility Lab Consulting. So tell me how this came about and tell us about the work that you do today. So I spent my whole career working either in house in various nonprofits like you mentioned, or working on the consulting side, supporting them. And I really noticed last summer that things were shifting with our results in terms of donor acquisition and audience reach. Primarily from Facebook is where we were seeing it at first with a really high cost to acquire, and we were just struggling to reach people. And what I realized when I started digging into it was that it had everything to do with data privacy. So we were being impacted by some of the changes that Apple had made with their iOS update and that subsequently really limited Facebook's reach, and that had a huge trickle down impact to us. So I set a plan in motion internally to address the pieces of the program to get ahead of this, so that we were thinking about how to diversify, where we were investing to find new donors. But then also thinking about some of the practical things we could be doing, like content strategy and really bringing in a solid email list so that as tech makes changes in the future, we weren't so impacted by them. So I've always had an entrepreneurial bug. And when I realized that this was impacting nonprofits to such a big extent, I wanted to help them understand it. So I branched off on my own, launched Agility Lab Consulting in October and focused on helping organizations understand what's happening, state of play wise, and then also helping them to adjust so that they are not getting hit by this later and having to work backwards. This issue of data autonomy and I feel like you coined this term, I don't think I've heard it before, so correct me if I'm wrong. Data autonomy, consumer privacy, this trend toward data privacy, now, it's so important for nonprofits to understand, especially because we are so focused on getting visibility and reaching new audiences and getting more people into the fold. So can you set the stage for us, especially for those of us who don't know about the iOS update, we don't know about the data privacy changes? Why is this issue so important right now? So where this all really started is with the European Union. So in 2016, they passed GDPR, which is kind of the landmark legislation that defined consumers right to understand how third parties are ingesting their data, but then also using it subsequently. And it also gave consumers the right to ask for that data to be deleted and understood by each individual and just giving them the power back. So that legislation impacted every business that touched consumers who are in the EU. And that hit when we're thinking about big tech. Google, Meta, Apple, they all have to comply with those standards, and that informed a lot of how they're responding now. So Apple's choice primarily has been to position themselves as leaders in the privacy space and to use this as a brand play. And that's really smart. I think that's something that we can all learn from is thinking about how we can use this as a moment to build credibility. But Apple really leaned into that, and in 2021, they released an iOS update that forced third party web developers so apps to ask for permission for people to be tracked via their mobile devices, and 94% of people said no. And I think that's pretty accessible for us as everyday people to understand that when people are asking you, do you want to be tracked? You just say no. So there was that, and they also released updates that impacted people being able to anonymize their email address. That's the reason your open rates are very bloated now and not very trustworthy when you're looking at your email. I was thinking open rates were great now. Okay, yeah. So it's changed how we've had to optimize that. And the other piece that Apple and Firefox and other browsers updated was eliminating support for what's called third party cookies. So third party cookies are what allow us as marketers to essentially follow people around the Internet. So when you see a pair of shoes that you've been viewing and they are just following you from site to site on Facebook, in your email ads, et cetera, that's powered by third party cookies. And those are considered not consented by audiences because it's not really understood what's happening. So the objective has moved from leaning on implicit consent and assuming that audiences understand how their data is being used to opting for explicit consent and having to present to people, hey, this is what we're going to do with your data once we acquire it. Do you agree with that? And they have to actually say yes for you to opt in. So with that iOS update at the start, that really impacted Facebook's reach because they were so dependent on mobile audiences, so they no longer have the same learning capabilities to understand how audiences are moving throughout the web. And that impacted for industry, for nonprofits, our ability to upload an email list and build lookalike models and target people in different ways. So I think what people need to understand at this point is that Facebook's just first and subsequently we'll see this impact across Google paid ads and other efforts that we roll out digitally because of that upcoming third party cookie elimination via Google Chrome, which is meant to hit in 2024. Okay. Because so much has been written about the cookie list future. And when we talk about the cookie list future, I'm assuming we're talking also about that little pop up that comes up on the majority of websites that I've been on that says either accept or reject cookies. Is this a part of? Yes. So and should our nonprofit website have that? Yes. So it's not technically required in the US yet because we don't have a federal privacy bill. But what's important to understand is that if you're serving EU constituencies, you're required to have that. And what we're seeing is that people are moving toward that now so that they can start to test and learn how it impacts their data rates. Because there are five US states who did adopt privacy laws this year, and there are 22 US states who are considering legislation. So this is kind of just the way of the future. And my opinion is that if you start thinking about compliance from the GDPR lens, you have an aggressive model that you can replicate from and if you're complying with that you're going to be compliant for anything the US states come up with. So those cookie opt in banners, that's what you mentioned, that little floating banner at the bottom that says hey, do you accept all or reject all? When people reject it essentially says that their activities on your website can't be tracked. So not required yet, but we are moving to a place where it's going to be required. So it's great to start testing now. So that's going to affect Google Analytics and all sorts of website analytics. Yeah, Google Analytics for people who have already implemented that banner, there's been a large opt out rate. So the benefit to testing it now is there are some language tweaks that you can make so that you guide people to the action you want them to take, changing the button color so that the accept all is green or setting it up so that their cookies can be customized rather than just rejected. If you're thinking about a testing rollout that you can segment and push in waves instead of just all out, then if we get to a point federally in the US where that's required, you're set up really well to know what's going to happen with your analytics and be prepared for that. So in your opinion, should we continue to advertise on social media? Like if we have limited marketing budgets, limited capacity, where should we put our digital advertising budget? So it's a question with a lot of parts, I think. Yes, I think there is still a place for social media advertising. And I think when I talk to organizations that serve primarily an EU based audience, their opinion is, yes, invest all that you can in acquisition right now, because we don't have a federal law, and once we do, your options are zero on that front. You're going to be very severely impacted. So yes, I think people should continue to invest in paid social advertising. However, I think you also need to use this moment to test other channels. Oh, diversify important. That starts with analyzing your file and understanding who's on it and why, what content is resonating with them, what do you know about the geography that they're coming from, what do they care about? And building some pipelines so that you have smart content on your site that feeds into those interests and also helps to know if you wanted to do more one to one advertising to say hey, just as an know the New York Times would be a great place to reach this group of people that I have on my file. So I'm going to spend more of my advertising on buying directly from them rather than know, meta ads. So I think starting to test new things and opt into other channels so that you have some baseline data to go from later will be really beneficial. What about Google Ad grants? I know a lot of nonprofits use Google Ad Grants to advertise to a larger audience. Will they be affected and sort of what's your advice around that? So a lot of this we don't know yet because it's dependent on Google. And this is what I mean with autonomy being so important, all these tech empires can just make a decision tomorrow, and we feel the hit versus legislation. We usually have a heads up and two years to figure out compliance. But the big pending question with Google is really what's going to happen with Google Analytics four? The thing to know about Ga Four, which a lot of us just migrated to, is that it's not actually GDPR compliant. So what that means is that Google is getting hit with really big fines from the EU pretty consistently at this point. So they're at some point going to have to do an ROI calculation on their end to say, hey, should we get into a compliance or should we just keep taking these hits? And the reason they wouldn't get into compliance is because right now when you use Google Analytics, they own your data and they can use that data to inform their ads. That's what powers their ability to understand how people move throughout the web and really articulate that audience interest. So if Google at some point says, hey, it makes sense for us to comply with GDPR, we're going to update our product, or if federally in the US. That changes the calculation for them, they might make tweaks that really impact Google Ads as well. So that's the big thing on their end. And it's also with the elimination of third party cookies from Google Chrome, which is a move that Google says they're going to make, so that they are also protecting their brand, that'll impact some of those more intricate retargeting ads that you might stand up. But I think in terms of Google Ad grants, I would still invest in those. But similarly to Facebook, know that change will probably be coming because so much is at play right now. Right? And these changes are going to affect not just Meta, but if you advertise on TikTok or if you advertise on LinkedIn, Pinterest, really anything that is a mobile app or anything that's on the web. Yeah, it's a really good moment to think about how you can, I think, especially for smaller organizations, understand how you want to build more of a thought leadership strategy and empower your staff, primarily your C suite as well, to be really vocal and to know their voice so that you can create great organic content on those channels. Especially right now, LinkedIn has a great algorithmic presence that hasn't moved toward being pay to play quite yet in the ways that other channels have. So building that strategy now so that you're gaining that organic reach and then making sure you're driving people to sign up for your email list or do something that gets them to subsequently join your community gives you that. Information about them so that you can stay in touch, which will have so much more power now than it ever did, at least in the last 15 years, so that you can not be so reliant on algorithms and cookies to get in front of your audience, but you have more of that one to one touch point. Yeah, you read on your website, I love it. So it's agilitylab IO in the state of privacy. You write, this doesn't have to feel like a loss of control. These shifts present the opportunity to dig deep in understanding prospective and current audiences to better collect more first party information that powers your ability to connect no matter what's ahead of us. So thinking more about the big picture and what's so interesting is one of my favorite marketing books is from 1999. It's permission marketing by Seth Godin. And he talks about exactly he foresaw the future happening before all of us, and he always does. But he talks about anticipated wanted communications from people where you have fully opted in. You don't trick people. You don't manipulate people with cookies, maybe follow them across the web even if they don't explicitly give their permission. You don't track their data, but it's all permission based. Do you see the trend in marketing going back towards that? Like you write on your website, marketing like it's 2010? Yeah, I think that's the entire name of the game. I think it all starts with good content and with people trusting you. So I think that's the play, really, that Apple has really leaned into is the ROI metrics. Bear out that if people trust you, they will give you their data, but they have to know how you're using it and what's going to happen to it. So that's where your privacy policy has to really reflect how you're releasing things to third parties, like data brokers, like all of your ad services, et cetera. But I think really the opportunity is to start thinking about what fields you need to be able to operate. So first name, email address, but know their location, what they care about. Starting to think a little bit more like retailers on that. Know, we get onto Sephora and you log in and you see, hey, update your beauty profile. Those are all first party data fields. So what, as a nonprofit, do you need to know, and how can you incentivize people to give that information to you? So getting more creative about how we create content that gives people the motivation to raise their hand and say, yes, I want you to know this about me. Yes, you can contact me. I would love to see more quiz type content. Like you just said, Sephora, it's so funny. Anytime you go to any retailer involved with clothes or makeup, I always have to answer like 50 questions, and I always do. Or like Warby Parker, I just tried to get some new lenses for glasses. And they really ask you a lot of questions. You don't have to answer the questions, but it does make that marketing and those communications much more tailored to you without using cookies. So I think that's interesting. I would love to see nonprofit organizations be more intentional rather than just sort of reactional with the way they collect and use data. So you have put together a four step framework that I know you teach, but I wonder if you could just sort of give us a broad overview, tell us a little bit about it. It's a framework to help nonprofits not only protect their brands, but protect their reach. Yeah, so it's a four step data autonomy framework. And what I really wanted to help organizations understand is the benefits of breaking down silos between primarily legal It and marketing and fundraising, which, dependent on structure, might be in separate departments, maybe they're one in the same, who knows? But really helping organizations understand that everybody needs the seat at the table when it comes to what's happening right now because there's a lot involved. So the four steps, the first is comply. So that's really where I think as marketers and fundraisers, our temptation is to just shove privacy policy updates and whatever else over to the legal team and call it a day. But you need to have really open lines of communication with legal or whoever is populating your privacy policy so that they can protect you, but also make sure that the third party data integrations that you're building are well understood internally so that they can be well understood externally, because that's what's going to build your audience trust. And it's also for your PR team or whoever is representing you externally. That's what's going to save you from being in hot water if something happens later and somebody says, hey, why are you using my data in this way? You didn't tell me you were going to do that. So can you sit across the table from a major donor and tell them, hey, this is what we did, and stand by that? So first is comply, walking through all the steps that are involved with that, with your privacy policy, et cetera. Second is analyzing, which is what I spoke to about looking at your file, understanding what's working, and determining how to scale. The third piece is integration. So with third party cookies being eliminated, the other big thing we'll lose is insights into our analytics portfolio and how people are using how people are using. Our website and how people are coming to our website. Right. So there are some integrations that you can build, like the Facebook conversion API is one that will lend itself to more privacy compliance because you're sharing fewer data fields and there will be more integrations to come, I'm sure, but also helping you to think about what your tech stack should look like. So with Google Analytics, is it still the best choice? It's free, yes, but is it really free if it's setting you up for all this future change? So there are other platforms that you can use that are pretty inexpensive, a few hundred dollars a year. So is it worth the migration to that instead? And then the last is building. So building your first party data acquisition strategy and how you're going to create that content, like you said, with Quizzes and what other tactics that you might employ to bring that data. Yeah, data autonomy, things that we just don't think about. And I can just hear my audience saying, oh my gosh, one more thing to think about. But it's all part of what I teach. Be proactive. Be as proactive as you can rather than simply reactive. And that's know, listening to podcasts, doing research, getting some training from experts. We do not have to be the experts. You are the expert, Elise. I do not need to be the expert because I can call on people like you to be the expert. That's really helpful. What are some trends that we need to be paying attention to this year? I mean, I know you were saying the 22 states proposing legislation. Do you think there's going to be federal legislation? What are some other trends we should be paying attention to? Yes. So I do think there will be federal legislation eventually. Whether it happens in the next year or two, I would say is up in the air. I would say my guess is in the next five, we'll have federal legislation. Right now, the argument is primarily that some of the states, like California, have more aggressive legislation. So they don't want the federal legislation that's proposed right now because it acts as a ceiling rather than a floor. So states aren't able to build upon it. It is what it is. So there are benefits to us as nonprofits and businesses because that creates a framework we can comply with across the states. And I think we'll get there. It's just a matter of how aggressive it will be. So that's something to definitely watch. The nonprofit alliance, if you don't follow them, they track the legislative side of this very well and are strong advocates for helping to help legislators understand why potentially nonprofits should be exempt from some of this legislation. And in some states that is true that nonprofits are being exempted, but that will be something to watch. And then I think the other big thing to watch is how your metrics are changing in terms of your digital marketing. So watching your cost to acquire new donors, but also how much in general, it's costing you to just get basic impressions out there that'll show you one to what extent you need to diversify. But it also gives you a baseline metric so that you can guesstimate, hey, if we saw a loss of, the average is a 25% decline from 2022 compared to 21 of new donors because of these privacy changes. But with that in mind, you can kind of guesstimate what future year projections will look like because the reality is that it's probably going to be a few years of decline and that's something that we need to prepare ourselves for that. There's so much changing in tech right now. We see the layoffs every day because of regulation and Meta has really squarely pointed to regulation being the cause of today. There were 10,000 people laid off and 5000 new jobs closed and they lost $10 billion last year. So regulation is good for us as humans and it's where we're moving. But we become so beholden to algorithms that we're going to feel the hit. We're just not going to have the easy time that we've had the past ten years. Yeah, I've heard people talk about the golden age of lead acquisition, donor acquisition from Meta, from social media. It's definitely over. It's been over for a little while, but now we really need to focus on the diversification. And I've always taught this as a social media marketer, someone that trains nonprofits in this. I've always said you cannot put all your eggs in any one basket because just look what's happened in the past few months with Twitter. Just look what has happened now. Meta is introducing a subscription model. There's no way for us to be able to plan and to be able to predict what these multi billion dollar corporations are doing. So we can use these tools to our advantage as much as we can, but we can't rely on them. And I think what's so interesting about this conversation is the importance of having your fingerprints on your content. Now I can't take credit for that saying it's Jay Acunzo who has another amazing podcast and he's an author but he know with the proliferation of generative AI and chat GPT, so much of the internet is going to start to look alike and cookie cutter and be generic. But with what you're saying, with it being harder to reach your audience via these kind of paid tools and retargeting tools, I think having content that is uniquely yours, like you said, building thought leadership and building that audience that would miss you if you were gone, that's going to become even more crucial. Yeah. And I think this is where big brands can learn from more local or smaller brands because those are the teams that are going to have their thumb on understanding who cares about them in the community and who they can leverage as influencers. That word means a lot of things, but those people who will lift you up organically and care about you because they value your mission. So identifying those people and building that cohort that can really drive home the point so that you're building more human interaction rather than all of these technical really dependencies. So you wrote a very helpful white paper. I'm going to put it in the show notes. Agilitylab Ioresources. It's the three things to know about preparing for Privacy impact on Audience acquisition. And I won't have you list all three things, but what do you think is the most important piece? And then I will encourage my audience to go download the full white paper. I think really, again, we just need to be thinking about how we prepare ourselves so that we are being more creative and really operating like marketers rather than this kind of mesh of what things have become in the last decade. We've learned so much, but we also need to be able to go back and rely on our instincts and our creativity and build the processes and operational groundwork that allows us to scale in a real sustainable way. Oh my gosh, I love that. Where can people find out about you and how to work with you? So my website is agilitylab IO. I'm most active on LinkedIn, so you can follow me there. And I do send out an email update at least once weekly so that you are getting helpful tips. It's not meant to be salesy, it's meant to actually give you some sound advice so you can move forward. Okay, great. Thank you so much for being here. I have took like a million notes. I'm still taking notes. So much to think about. So I really appreciate you sharing your expertise and thanks for coming on the show. Thanks everybody, for listening. Well, hey there. I wanted to say thank you for tuning into my show and for listening all the way to the end. If you really enjoyed today's conversation, make sure to subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast app and you'll get new episodes downloaded as soon as they come out. I would love if you left me a rating or review because this tells other people that my podcast is worth listening to and then me and my guests can reach even more earbuds and create even more impact. So that's pretty much it. I'll be back soon with a brand new episode, but until then, you can find me on Instagram at Julia Campbell 77. Keep changing the world, you nonprofit unicorn.