Let’s Talk Digital Privacy

Recently, Danielle Rice, Dan Sumpter, and Nils Smith joined Trent on the Cause+Effect podcast as a senior leadership team to discuss digital privacy. We hope these insights and tools help you navigate the issues surrounding digital privacy.

The issue of digital privacy – it’s something we can no longer avoid in the nonprofit sector.

And it’s incredibly crucial to the future of direct-response marketing, fundraising, constituent engagement, and developing an effective brand to communicate with your constituents.

But finding the balance between keeping user information private and fully embracing the convenience of innovative digital tools can be quite a challenge.

Think for a moment about your own personal way that you interact and give permission to data.

What do you value more, convenience or privacy?

For instance, if you disabled the location service in all of your apps, many would no longer be effective. Or what about tools like Alexa? Do you truly care about the privacy you may forfeit or do you value the convenience?

Let’s look at a few aspects of how privacy issues are currently affecting the nonprofit sector…


When someone places an ad, they choose to target you based on specific behaviors. Those behaviors are based on data points they know about you. These could be simple things like demographics or where you live (because you’ve enabled location). But they could also be more personal things like what you typed into Google. There’s a balance around how much you are willing to give away so you can receive relevant advertising in turn.

The data is a shortcut to a relationship… I’m going to learn things about you so I can try to be your friend.

Many people think that having more privacy, especially within advertising, limits the number of ads you will see.

It doesn’t. You still receive ads; you just receive ones that are less personalized. And to many that can become a bit annoying!

So as an organization, how does that affect your ability to put together an ad that’s going to cut through and actually reach someone when you don’t have a specific idea of whom you are targeting?

The good news is that you can still tell an incredibly compelling story in a creative way and reach a portion of your audience. So it’s important to think in those terms as you approach your creative product based on the data you do or do not have.

The discipline of now having parameters around privacy takes us back to the core of relationship. In other words, what can we do to connect with people in an authentic way?

 Privacy Policy

Articulating your own corporate policy around privacy and making sure that it’s public and accessible to your constituents and your donors is vital. 

Of course there are laws that need to be followed organizationally in terms of how you handle data. But beyond that, what about an internal policy? How do you communicate that to your donors and your constituents?

Privacy bleeds into security when you have access to important data for clients or donors. How is your organization handling password management and access to data? (Billions of dollars were lost in the past year due to security breaches, which for a non-profit can be debilitating.)

Start with a clear explanation of your privacy policy on the footer of your website. Use plain language, telling users exactly what you will and won’t do. Define the expectations. Are you going to email them daily? Weekly? Monthly?

Many times we are asked how often an organization should be sending texts or emails. Well, how often did you tell them you were going to?

Social Media

Here’s the main thing to keep in mind: Quality is more important than quantity.

This means that every post matters! Data drives algorithms based on how other people are interacting with our content.

And because it’s built on quality, we need to invest more energy into creativity in order to affect the algorithm. Every post matters more than it did before data was in the driver’s seat.

All in all, chances are, the issue of privacy will now inhibit some of our “shortcuts.” We were once able to easily reach people with algorithms and numbers that might in the future look different. But it’s now back on our shoulders to say, “That doesn’t mean we can’t still reach you!”

So don’t lose heart. People motivated others into movements that were effective long before the digital era. Just think about the spreading of the gospel for thousands of years… it certainly didn’t rely on social media targeted advertising!

It was the world’s most important message, transferring from one heart to another. Actual people were the carriers.

And we still can be.

For more tips and insight from our senior leadership team around current issues surrounding digital privacy, be sure to listen to the Cause+Effect podcast episode,Digital Privacy: What’s the Balance?

+ More Insights from Dunham+Company: “10 Things to Keep You Current in 2022

Ready to take the next step? Dunham+Company is here to help your organization have more impact and establish deeper relationships with your donors and supporters.