onlinegivingIt’s that time of year around my home…  It starts with pumpkin latte’s, morphs to pumpkin bread, rolls over to chocolate oatmeal “no bakes” (they are my favorite) and by the time Thanksgiving arrives we are in full Christmas cookie workshop mode.

My dear wife, her sisters, my two daughters-in-laws (and now my granddaughters) have our kitchen looking like Santa’s workshop with tins of cookies and gingerbread houses everywhere.

But cookies do make the world go round!

Of course, in the fundraising world, cookies now have a whole new meaning and use.  And the sad part is that the vast majority of  the two million nonprofits in the U.S. are still resisting its implementation.

Marketers, of course, have been using cookies to monitor website traffic for nearly two decades.  However, charities and nonprofits are still queasy about this process that tracks visitors to their website for privacy reasons.  The time has come for good causes to realize the use of “cookies” on line is more about stewardship than it is privacy.

Wiki defines cookies today as “a cookie, also known as an HTTP cookie, web cookie, or browser cookie, is a small piece of data sent from a website and stored in a user’s web browser while the user is browsing that website.”

Make no mistake about it, two decades ago cookies may have been used more for snooping that for stewardship.  The fundraising industry had not figured out how to store, use and reuse the data. However, today the technology is helping donors, as well as,  charities to meet the critical needs of both parties in the giving process.

For the donor, they are able to receive more custom appeals for only the causes and projects they support, and of course, for the charity cookie placement enables them to identify, qualify and retarget donors based upon the donor’s needs and desires.  This dramatically increases giving while at the same time reduces the shotgun mass marketing appeals that so often deaden the ear (and heart) of donors.

Here are just a few examples of how “cookies” can help you this holiday season and at year-end:

SITE RETARGETING.  The best charities today are using the technology to reengage their website visitors.  Most major donors today research on line sometimes months before they are ready to make a donation.  The charity who usually gets the gift is the one who captures the audience info (with cookie pixels) and then retargets banner ads, video, Facebook and other social media, mobile/tablet messaging to the donor until they are ready to make their gift.  Is your charity using retargeting?

IP ADDRESS RETARGETING. The most successful charities today also target web donors without the use of cookies.  They can simply get the IP list (in real time) of the precise location where web traffic is coming from and then retarget advertising to those platforms to spike more donations.

SEM and SRT.  Most charities today are wading into the pool of search engine marketing by bidding on Google key words and phrases in their market so that their charity shows up in the organic search high on the list, hopefully on the first page.  However, only the best charities are using search retargeting (SRT) to serve up advertising to SEM responders days, weeks and months after they have clicked on one of your key word searches.

LOOK-A-LIKE TARGETING.  The best nonprofits today are using cookies and code to create a profile of their best donors.  Once the audience profile is created they are able to find new donors with the similarities to existing donors.  The best charities not only monitor traffic to their sites, but specifically those who “convert” or make a donation.  They then use this information to find new donors who look like previous donors.

There are at least a dozen other ways that charities are using cookies to increase donations through retargeting web-traffic.  The important thing for you to ask yourself this holiday season: “Is my charity properly using cookies to improve stewardship and increase giving?”

I am looking forward to watching (and eating) a few holiday cookies as part of our family tradition again this year.  Yes, my wife , her sisters, my daughters-in-laws, their friends and now our grandkids demonstrate how much love they have for one another while they bake holiday cookies together… BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, they know to serve to their friends the kinds of cookies they like.  Everyone knows old grandpa Jones likes Chocolate No Bakes…  (I only go after the snicker doodles when the no-bakes run out.)

Rest assured, if you develop a donor-centric cookie strategy for your financial partners and future donors, it will be a rewarding experience for them and pay dividends for the cause you care so much about.

Roy C. Jones, CFRE

Roy C. Jones, CFRE

I hope it is a tradition  that your charity, like our family, hands down for generations… especially those chocolate oatmeal no-bakes!