Why First-Party Data is Critical for Charity Marketing

In the world of marketing, data is one of your organisation’s biggest assets.

It’s what helps organisations understand their audience, make informed decisions, and create effective campaigns.

Third-party data has traditionally been the go-to for many charities, particularly to avoid any ethical concerns about the use of first party data. However, there’s a growing realisation that first-party data is critical for success.

In this article, we’ll explore why first-party data is so important for the future of charity marketing, and how you can start collecting and leveraging it (safely!) to take your campaigns to the next level.

So whether you’re a small nonprofit or a large charity organisation, read on to discover the power of first-party data.

What is First-Party Data?

Let’s kick off with the basics! 

First-party data is any data that an organisation collects directly from its audience. This can include information such as:

  • Demographic information e.g. age, location, gender 
  • Contact information e.g. email address, phone number
  • Behavioural data e.g. website interactions, social media activity
Why First-Party Data is Critical for Charity Marketing

Essentially, any data that a supporter willingly provides to a charity organisation is considered first-party data. 

One of the key benefits of first-party data is that it is completely owned and controlled by the organisation that collects it. 

This means that it can be used for a variety of purposes, from informing marketing campaigns to improving the overall supporter experience. 

In contrast, third-party data is collected by someone else. This type of data can be helpful in some cases, but it lacks the personalisation and specificity of first-party data.

Concerns Around Using First Party Data

Historically, charities have expressed concerns about the usage of first party data for marketing purposes. 

Several charities hold quite sensitive data about their users, so the thought of extracting data to use for anything other than service delivery can seem daunting. 

Similarly, with strong ethical values at the heart of non-profit organisations, the idea of using data in this way can feel like a diversion from the charity’s values.

Impact of Data Protection on Charities Using First Party Data

Privacy regulations like the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) mandate that organisations must handle any user data responsibly.

Why First-Party Data is Critical for Charity Marketing

This involves obtaining consent for data collection and use, providing clear information about data use and offering users control over their own data.

Charities, like organisations in the private sector, need to ensure that they are not in breach of these regulations which can feel like a daunting prospect.

However, unlike the private sector, charities are often placed on a pedestal when it comes to ethical practices.

This creates a tendency to avoid any kind of behaviour which could be seen as close to the line.

Benefits of First-Party Data in Charity Marketing

The benefits of first-party data in charity marketing are numerous. Here are just a few of the key advantages:


First-party data allows charities to personalise their marketing efforts to a much greater extent. 

By understanding the interests and behaviours of their supporters, charities can create targeted campaigns that are more likely to resonate with them.

Once an emotional connection has been built with a user, they will be much more likely to continue engaging with your content, show loyalty to your charity and donate to or support your cause. 


First-party data is often more cost-effective than third-party data. This is because it is collected directly from supporters, rather than from a third party source. 

In addition, first-party data is generally more accurate and reliable, as it comes directly from the source.


With first-party data, charities have complete control over how the data is collected, stored, and used.

This means that they can ensure that the data is being used ethically and in compliance with data protection regulations.


First-party data provides valuable insights into who your supporters are and how they interact with your organisation. 

By analysing this data, charities can gain a better understanding of their audience and make data-driven decisions about future marketing efforts.

Challenges Faced by Charities in Collecting First-Party Data

While the benefits of first-party data in charity marketing are clear, there are also some challenges to collecting and utilising this type of data. 

Here are a few of the most common challenges:

Data Quality

The quality of first-party data can vary widely depending on how it is collected. 

If the data is collected through surveys or other methods that rely on self-reported information, it may be less accurate than data collected through website interactions or other automated methods.

Data Privacy

Charities must be careful to collect and use first-party data in compliance with data protection regulations. 

This can be a time-consuming and complex process, requiring careful attention to detail and a strong understanding of data privacy laws.

Data Management

Managing first-party data can be challenging, especially for smaller charities with limited resources. 

It’s important to have systems in place for collecting, storing, and analysing data in an efficient and effective manner.

Strategies for Collecting First-Party Data in Charity Marketing

So how can charity organisations collect first-party data effectively?

Here are a few strategies to consider:

  • Website Forms – one of the most common ways to collect first-party data is through website forms. This can include sign-up forms for newsletters, donation forms, or other types of forms that ask for supporter information.
  • Surveys – surveys can be an effective way to collect first-party data, especially for gaining insights into supporter preferences and behaviours. It’s important to keep surveys short and focused, and to provide an incentive for supporters to participate.
  • Social Media – social media can be a valuable source of first-party data, especially for understanding how supporters interact with you online. By tracking social media interactions and analysing data on followers and engagement, charities can gain valuable insights into their audience.
  • Events – events can be a great opportunity to collect first-party data. By asking attendees to provide their information when registering for an event, charities can expand their database and gain insights into their audience.

Best Practices for Using First-Party Data in Charity Marketing

So you’ve collected first-party data – now what? Here are a few best practices for using this data effectively:

Tailored Content

Use first-party data to personalise your marketing efforts to each supporter.

This can include tailoring email campaigns, social media posts, and other marketing materials to their specific interests and behaviours.


Segment your supporter database based on key characteristics, such as donation history, interests, or location. 

This can help you to create targeted campaigns that are more likely to resonate with each group.

Testing and Optimisation

Test different marketing campaigns and strategies to see what works best with your audience.

Use data to optimise your campaigns over time, making tweaks and adjustments as needed to improve results.

Tools and Technologies for Managing First-Party Data in Charity Marketing

Why First-Party Data is Critical for Charity Marketing

There are a variety of tools and technologies available to help charity organisations manage their first-party data effectively. Here are a few to consider:

CRM Systems

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems can help charities to collect, store, and analyse first-party data in a centralised database.

This can make it easier to manage data and ensure that it is being used effectively.

There is a wide range of different CRM systems, tailored specifically to charities.

Some of the favourites include Donorfy, Blackbaud and Keela.

Marketing Automation

Marketing automation tools can help charities to create targeted campaigns that are personalised to each supporter. 

This can include automated email campaigns, social media posts, and other types of marketing materials.

Depending on the data you hold about your users, this could include things like:

  • Follow up campaign to people who attended a previous event
  • Donor campaign to people who donated previously
  • Previous users of a service
  • Users who match the criteria of an upcoming project e.g. based on age or location, for example. 


Analytics tools can help charities to analyse data on their audience and understand how they interact with their organisation. 

This can include website analytics, social media analytics, and other types of data analysis.

The Future of Charity Marketing with First-Party Data

In conclusion, first-party data is critical for success in charity marketing. 

By collecting and leveraging this data effectively, charities can build stronger relationships with their audience, personalise their marketing efforts, and ultimately, drive more donations. 

While there are some challenges to collecting and utilising first-party data, the benefits far outweigh the costs. 

With the right strategies, tools, and technologies in place, charity organisations can take their campaigns to the next level and make a real impact on the world.