Facebook used to be a social network. Now it’s a data company, maybe even the largest in the world.

Social media used to be a novelty in fundraising, usually handed to annual giving to engage millennials. Now with 79% of Americans on Facebook and the recent opening of the backend of their massive data warehouse, significant opportunities for major gift fundraising are now possible.

A little over 18 months ago, Facebook opened up their database for organizations to mine. Previously, you could only talk with those individuals who followed your page. Now, in an effort to monetize its data, Facebook allows you to build custom audiences around thousands of criteria including, those who have:

  • An expressed interest in your organization.
  • A philanthropic history.

and custom audiences who have:

  • Net worth of $2 million+.
  • Liquid assets on hand of $3 million+.
  • Income of $500K+/year.
  • A home worth $2 million+.

and the list goes on and on.

Facebook says it has over 300,000 columns of data for each user based on both user behavior on the network and purchased outside data. You may be proud of your donor database; Facebook has you beat by a mile. Considering this, how would your strategies change if you knew you could gain access to this data?

The Private Sector is Rapidly Investing

As these new data tools have become available, the private sector has taken notice and is shifting its strategies and ad dollars in response.

By the end of 2016, digital and social ad spend reached $71 billion, while TV commanded $72 billion. Many are predicting that 2017 is the year that digital and social ad spend will pass TV for the first time. Why this shift? It is all about data quality, quantity, and precision targeting. Not only have budgets been shifting, but a talent battle is also underway to find those who know how to access the data and build these precision audiences.

To better understand the possibilities these new tools provide to major gift fundraising, it might be helpful to understand how we got to where we are today. What is possible today is a result of three distinct phases.

Phase One: User Behavior Data Acquisition
Facebook and other social networks were launched to help people connect with their friends, families, and the brands they love. When you have liked, commented, shared, and spent time reading and interacting with content on these platforms, your actions were recorded and placed in your profile as “interest” categories. The goal of all of these networks has been to gather as much information about your likes and dislikes as possible.

Phase Two: Purchased and Appended Data
About 18 months ago, Facebook began purchasing vast quantities of external data about its users. Facebook went to several of the largest data warehouses and purchased and appended that data to user profiles. Here are just three of those databases that have been appended:

  • Acxiom, a database that tracks over 1 trillion financial transactions among 7K+ global companies.
  • Datalogix, by Oracle Data Cloud, is a database of more than 110 million American and British households and $3 trillion in consumer spending.
  • Epsilon, manages the Abacus Cooperative, a transactional database on consumers and businesses in the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. They also manage the TotalSource Plus database, the most comprehensive source of compiled U.S. consumer data. Finally, they manage Shopper’s Voice, the largest self-reported consumer database in North America.

Facebook purchased this data so they can fundamentally change the marketing and advertising experience to be “hyper-relevant” for consumers. To accomplish hyper-relevancy, they take the data we have shared with them (Phase One) combined with purchased data (Phase Two) to create an incredibly rich database that allows organizations to build precise, hyper-targeted audiences. When you are targeting this way, your creative materials can likewise be more precise. Combine hyper-targeting with precision messaging, and you get hyper-relevancy. This kind of relevancy drives response rates up dramatically, and at a lower cost.

Phase Three: Connecting Brands
This last phase is taking place right now. Those organizations that are seeing results are installing Facebook code on their web pages to remarket and increase conversions. Think about looking at a pair of shoes on Amazon and then seeing those shoes follow you around on the web afterward. The upside to Facebook with all these installed codes is they now have another window into what their users are doing on these off-network web pages. The insights coming in from these tracking codes are fed back into the Facebook ecosystem to further increase the precision of targeting and relevancy of content.

What Does This Mean for Your Organization?

Social networks have grown up, and it is time for development leadership to take them seriously. Social network databases can be better, more accurate, and more current than your donor database and include the kind of wealth data you have been trying to append for years. There is good news—these social databases are inexpensive to gain access to, and when married to your database, the combination can be powerful. Additionally, Bentz Whaley Flessner has seen these shifts in the market and has recently launched a new set of services aimed at helping organizations get up to speed. Our introductory service in this suite is a one-day deep dive into social databases and an exploration into specific opportunities for your organization. Contact us today. Together, we transform philanthropy.


BWF Client Advisory originally published March 1, 2017

Copyright © 2017 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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