What The iOS 14.5 Apple Update Means for Nonprofit Marketers

Apple’s latest update (iOS 14.5 iPhone) makes it easier for iPhone owners to control data collection which will indirectly make it harder for nonprofit marketers to reach donors on certain platforms.

This update is the most prominent step toward data privacy for the end user. It’s an important milestone for privacy rights but also requires a re-examination of how we allocate our marketing budget.

For nonprofit marketers this trend toward more data privacy means:

  • Ads become more expensive on most platforms
  • Total donations per ad campaign decline over time
  • Other communications channels start to become more cost effective

For Context: A (Very) Brief History of How We Got Here

I believe putting the privacy of the end user’s data in their control is the right thing to do. I’m happy to see progress toward more transparency around data collection and use, plus more decision-making control for the user.

For digital marketers, this trend is making certain strategies less effective and we will need to adapt to the changing ecosystem if we want to stay relevant.

Over the last 5 years we’ve seen a significant increase in awareness and concern around data privacy. Some of the big milestones in the last 5 years include:

The Use of Facebook Ads in the 2016 Election to sway voters brought the influential power of targeted ads into national headlines.

The Cambridge Analytica Data Scandal in 2018 revealed the collection and use of personal data from millions of Facebook users without their consent.

The Congressional Hearings with Zuckerberg in 2018 showed that Washington is at least making some effort to understand data privacy (and potentially try to do something about it?).

The Social Dilemma (2020) was released and viewed in 38M homes within the first 28 days of launch on Netflix. This documentary catapulted data privacy – among many other concerns of social media – further into household discussions.

Apple’s 14.5 iPhone Update (April 2021) gives users more power in preventing apps from collecting their user data. In its own efforts to be on the right side of history, Apple is aggressively increasing their stance on data privacy and adopting it as a primary marketing strategy.

How Does This Trend Impact Digital Marketers & Communications Professionals?

Targeted ads on Facebook are effective specifically because of the amount of demographic and interests data they have on their users.

As users prevent platforms from collecting data on them… the bottom drops out on targeted ads. It is simple and a tremendous shift.

And… it’s not just Facebook.

Throughout this post I’ve been highlighting Facebook because it is the most prominent player and poster child for data privacy, but it is not the only platform that will become less effective.

In general, any platform that allows you to narrow your marketing to a specific audience based on demographics and interests is becoming less effective. Any platform that uses these marketing features will become less effective:

Audience Selection – Platforms are getting less data on who their users are and what their interests are. This makes it harder to identify people who are most likely to support your cause.

Retargeting – Less users are allowing their cookies to be tracked, which means it is harder to know whether they saw your ad or visited your site. Missing this information makes it much more difficult to send targeted ads to people who have already seen your brand or latest cause.

The most popular platforms using this technology:

  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Instagram
  • YouTube
  • Google

How Does This Market Shift Impact Nonprofits?

Nonprofits who put energy and money into digital ads will see a decline in their return on ad spend.

Furthermore, if your support base is left-leaning and believes in privacy rights, they’re probably also leaving and/or limiting their use of platforms like Facebook.

Takeaway: Less of your target audience using platforms like Facebook + less effective targeting = lower return on marketing efforts on those platforms.

What Can Nonprofit Marketers Do To Adapt?

If you’re tracking ROI by marketing channel, you’ve probably already recognized this trend and started reallocating your marketing budget. If you aren’t, check out this guide and start measuring your return ASAP so you can make the most of your budget.

Here are two takeaways to consider:

Build A Strong Foundation – Reduce risk of decline by limiting your reliance on any one platform. Make sure you have you have the basics covered by strengthening your own asset: Your Website. Your website is its own information hub that serves to educate potential supporters. You’ll be much less susceptible to platform swings if you have a strong foundation on your website.

Make Specific Adjustments – Look at your ROI per marketing channel to see what’s performing best and spot any trends. Having accurate data about what you’ve invested and what you got in return is the safest way to make informed decisions about how to reallocate budget.

Example simple dashboard via spreadsheet

Learn more about setting up a campaign monitoring dashboard here:

Overlooked Nonprofit Marketing Fundamentals That Are Eating Your Budget

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