Target Net-New Donors with Intent Data: Not for Profit Transformation Series

This is the eighth and final article in our series dedicated to helping NFPs develop data-driven marketing and advertising strategies to drive sustained donation growth.

December 17, 2021

Learn how intent data can help reveal fresh, relevant audiences who may already be searching for your NFP’s cause.

Earlier in this series, we discussed the importance of knowing your donors, and in our previous article we described how to append second-party data to your existing donor database. In our experience, both of these methods will help your NFP identify potential donors to target in marketing and advertising.

However, only a small percentage of the people exposed to ads are actually actively looking to buy that product or service, or to donate to an NFP. As a result, the ad creates brand awareness among the audience, but the ad only influences the purchase decision of the small percentage of people who are actively in-market to buy. In the case of nonprofits, it means that they may be targeting large potential donor audiences with paid media to create awareness, but only a small number of people are likely to be actively searching for a nonprofit organization to make an actual donation.

Instead of buying ad reach for everyone in a target audience, what if you could only target those people who are actively seeking to donate to the cause(s) your nonprofit serves? You can—by using second-party intent data (online search + social) signals.

What is Audience Intent Data?

Intent data is any data shared by consumers or donors that speaks to what’s currently on their mind.

For instance:

Companies such as Google or Amazon package everyone that enters these search terms, or any terms that your NFP is interested in, into logical “audience segments.” Your NFP can then show ads to the people in those segments, and drive them to a landing page where they can donate.

In Which Channels Can I Use Intent Data?

Intent data is mostly used in programmatic advertising, in platforms called display side platforms or DSPs. Programmatic advertising includes many forms of advertising, including banners, video, digital radio, cTV and DOOH. Examples of best in class platforms that execute programmatic display campaigns include Google’s Display & Video 360, Amazon DSP and The Trade Desk. DELVE has deep experience with all of these platforms. 

I’m already using pre-packaged third-party audiences in my programmatic advertising efforts. Why should I care about using intent data in programmatic advertising, now?

When Google discontinues third-party cookies after 2023, you will no longer be able to create third-party audiences for targeting—such as people likely to donate because they visited web pages for the Red Cross or United Way.

However, intent data will remain, including people who exhibit direct donor intent (e.g., searching on Google for “best nonprofits for urban hunger”) and inferred donor intent (e.g. people buying books on relating to nonprofit careers, or people watching a documentary on Amazon Prime about a non-profit cause). 

Moreover, because DELVE manages tens of millions of dollars in programmatic advertising for brands, we have extensive experience with buying media against third-party audiences and intent audiences. We always see that intent audiences perform much better than third-party audiences. Why? Because intent audiences are more granular and more recent than third-party audiences.

Common Challenge: Lack of Experience Using Intent Data for Precision Targeting in Programmatic Advertising

One of the challenges in implementing second-party data sources (such as intent data) is the lack of staff or agency skills using this type of technique. It is often the case that the nonprofit marketing team has hired a traditional media agency whose segmentation and targeting capabilities are limited to the out-of-the-box features found in Facebook advertising or Google Ads. 

Neither the in-house nonprofit marketing team nor their agency may have experience using enterprise paid media tools like Amazon DSP or Google DV360 to integrate second-party data signals to inform ad targeting. 

Getting it Right

In addition to psychographic data, non-for-profit marketers can really kick their data-driven strategy into high gear by capturing intent data that signals donors are “in market” (actively searching) for non-for-profit organizations and donation opportunities. There are four types of intent data that marketers can capture to enrich their data:

  1. Open web (browser) intent data: This is data that is captured via mobile and desktop browsing behavior such as searching for causes, issues, or organizations.
  2. Connected TV (CTV) viewing data: This is data that is captured from smart TVs that combine streaming, web browsing, and download behaviors.
  3. Social intent data: This is unstructured data that results from conversations inside social media platforms where users may be discussing or expressing interest in causes, issues, or organizations. 
  4. Consideration intent data: This is unstructured data that is typically collected from Google search queries where searchers are actively researching and evaluating issues, causes, or not-for-profit organizations. 
  5. Donation intent data: This is data that is captured via e-commerce sites such as Amazon where consumers are purchasing products that indicate active interest and a potential receptiveness to receive donation offers from not-for-profit organizations.

As previously discussed, when evaluating second-party data sources for enriching your first-party data file, start by looking at the gaps in your existing donor data that could aid in campaign segmentation, targeting, and message personalization. In this case, second-party intent data should be a part of your data enrichment strategy as it can be a game changer to improve media targeting and cost efficiencies. 

Sources like Amazon DSP provide insights into consumer searches across and this information can be used to target those consumers and direct them back to your nonprofit website, landing pages, or other digital properties. The search intent of the consumer can be used to identify important psychographic attributes such as interests and values. 

Intent data can reveal fresh, relevant audiences who may be searching for your nonprofit cause—including younger audiences that prefer to communicate via storytelling and sharing experiences in digital channels. 

In Summary

Here and in our previous articles, we’ve described how NFPs can lean on second-party data and intent data to bring net-new donors to their cause—especially Millennials.

How can NFPs can bring it all together? In order to truly embrace personalization, focus on a strong first-party data strategy, and activate personalization and data in more effective advertising, NFPs should invest in a modern donor database (called a data lake or customer data platform) designed for marketing and advertising use cases.

If you’d like to delve deeper on NFPs, we encourage you to read our NFP Manifesto as well as our latest research on reaching Millennial Donors.

Ready to get started? Contact us today at


Reaching Millennial Donors

Want to gain a deeper understanding of how and why Millennial donors 25-35 years of age give to social causes? Start with our 2021 Research Report, created in partnership with Aspen Finn.