What Nonprofits Need To Know About Cookies

If you use the internet, you probably notice that most websites have a pop-up banner prompting you to accept or reject cookies.

Written by
Monique Lorette
June 13, 2023

If you use the internet, you probably notice that most websites have a pop-up banner prompting you to accept or reject cookies. Most of the time, we hit accept so we can continue our reason for being there. Whether you love or hate it as an end-user, cookies play an essential role in digital marketing. But what does it mean when we accept cookies? Let’s look at website cookies, how they work, and how your nonprofit can use them strategically and appropriately. 

What are cookies? 

A website cookie (aka HTTP cookie) is a small text file or piece of data collected and stored on your computer after visiting a website. The file, which contains a unique ID, allows websites to identify a person when they return to the site. 

What are cookies used for?

The following are just some ways a website uses cookies:

  • Cookies can enhance the user experience by making interactions faster and easier. For example, they can remember login information such as usernames and passwords or allow users to hold and remember items in shopping carts.
  • Cookies can personalize advertising. For example, brands can use cookies to determine the age range of their users and then develop marketing strategies best fit for that audience. 
  • Cookies simplify retargeting. For example, cookies contain information such as what products or services users are viewing, allowing marketers to retarget users in segments across various channels (social media, display, email, etc.). 

What are the types of cookies?

First-party cookies: These cookies are created and stored on a single domain–the website you are visiting. In other words, they do not get shared with third-party websites or marketing partners. Theoretically, these cookies improve and even personalize an individual’s website experience. An example of a first-party cookie is when you visit a site, and it remembers your personal data, such as a username or password. 

Third-party cookies: These cookies are created on one domain but shared across all third-party domains with access to the tracking code. By storing and managing cookies, ad tech companies can deliver and track ad campaigns across various websites. Theoretically, these cookies track user activity and serve ads to consumers based on their browsing activity. An example of a third-party cookie is when you view a product on one website and get an advertisement for the same (or similar) product on a different website. 

How can you use cookies appropriately? 

There are a few things your nonprofit organization can do to ensure complete transparency with your audience. While this is not legal advice, here are some suggestions from a digital marketing expert on how to appropriately use cookies. 

  • Be sure to include a cookie consent pop-up banner on your website. These banners are a very simple warning that you intend to use cookies and should allow the user to accept or reject specific cookies. Consent banners make users feel in control of their personal data and create more trust between you and your clients.
  • Be sure to know what you’re tracking, where it is going, and how to use it. Nonprofits, especially, may require more privacy. If this is your case, consider relying on first-party data so that you can collect information without having to share it. 

What’s in the future for cookies? (The inevitable end of third-party cookies.)

Users may hate them, and marketers may love them, but one thing is sure– the death of third-party cookies is inevitable. Many businesses have begun focusing more on consumer privacy, and by 2023 marketers will no longer have the opportunity to track and target consumers online using third-party cookies. While the end of third-party cookies creates more privacy for users, it creates a problem for marketers who rely on this data to develop campaigns. 

Before Google cookies go away and take the last bit of third-party consumer data, marketers must be proactive and explore new strategies to reach their audience. Although Google proposed its Privacy Sandbox initiative to help marketers reach their target audiences without using as much personal data, it is crucial not to rely solely on it. One recommendation is to focus heavily on first-party cookie data. Analyze who interacts with your website and how they interact with it to determine their reason for being there. Identifying these behavioral marketing insights can help you enhance search engine optimization and website experience for users.