2018 Policy Changes to Know for 2019

As a year, 2018 felt like it was somehow both very short and endlessly long. One factor in this confusing perception of the past calendar year could have been how rapidly news broke, reports were released, and changes occurred. In the tech space alone, there many significant policy changes that will have an impact on digital strategies moving forward. So, if you missed them in the sea of updates, or if you need a recap, here are the 2018 policy changes you need to know for this new year.


GDPR, also known as the General Data Protection Regulation, went into effect on May 25, 2018 in the European Union. This standardized set of rules and expectations for how the data of European citizens should be handled requires companies and organizations to allow EU residents to opt-out of having their data tracked and used. To get into the details and see how GDPR applies to your organization, check out our full guide to GDPR for nonprofits here.

Google Ad Grant

It’s more than just a name change. In 2018, Google AdWords — now Google Ads — updated their Ad Grant policies to focus less on driving traffic and spend and more on driving conversions that demonstrate measurable impact. This means that accounts now need to maintain the following in order to stay active:

To read more about the changes and how you can make sure your account is up to par, check out our guide to the Google Ad Grant policy updates for 2018 here.

Facebook Advertising

Facebook was in some hot water this year relating to their digital advertising platform. In response to how their ads were used, Facebook instituted new guidelines for any ads “related to politics or issues of national importance” which can lead to approval issues for nonprofits. If your organization would like to run ads that relate in any way to policy or societal issues (immigration, poverty, health crises, etc.), you will need to go through an additional review process that may take a few days to be completed. From Facebook:

“As part of the authorizations process, US Page admins and advertisers must enable two-factor authentication (2FA) and verify their identity and location. To complete authorization, the Page admin must also link ad accounts used for political content to the Page and create an approved disclaimer to show who is paying for ads. You can learn more about the authorization process and which ads qualify as political by viewing the Help Center, including these issues of national importance, Once you have become authorized, you can go back to the ads creation interface and select, “This ad is related to politics or an issue of national importance”

What this means for nonprofits: Be sure to build your ads well in advance of your intended launch date to make sure they run on time, and be prepared to make adjustments if they aren’t approved.

Another change to Facebook Ads in 2018

The addition of the Info and Ads tab on your Facebook business page that shows users all active ads at all times. This change will hopefully help anyone manage ads to keep better track of ad success and spend across the account. For even more help managing ads, check out our Facebook advertising checklist.

Mobile-First Indexing

Since the dawn of time (also known as the beginning of the Internet), Google’s crawling, indexing, and ranking systems have typically used the desktop version of a page’s content for analysis. As long as most users were on desktop, this didn’t pose a problem. With mobile searches increasing at a rapid rate, however, the game has changed. In 2018, Google started to use the mobile version of websites for indexing and ranking notifying sites that are migrating to mobile-first indexing via Search Console.

So, what does this mean for your organization in 2019? Make sure your site is optimized for mobile usage and searches. Add metadata that fits both desktop and mobile screens, and consider adding structured data on key pages. As of now, Google reports that that being indexed this way has no ranking advantage and operates independently from its mobile-friendly assessment, but ultimately we can infer that mobile-friendliness will play an even larger role in search engine optimization.

MailChimp Tags

In 2018, MailChimp replaced static segments with tags. If you previously created static segments, they automatically converted them to tags for you, and you’ll find them on the Tags page in your list. Now, you can group your subscribers based on information and behavior, and use tags to add another label identifying their relationship to your organization. This update is MailChimp taking one step closer to becoming a CRM, and allows their users to better segment their messaging. Your organization can setup your tagging system in whatever way works best for your organization’s programming and email sends, but the key is to limit to a few kinds of tags and remain consistent. Some ideas for how to tag:

  • Lead status: Where they are in the funnel of engagement
  • Donor status: Lapsed, repeat, top, or new donors
  • Engagement status: Have opened many of your emails, or haven’t opened in a while (could mean it’s time to try building a winback series)
  • Source: Did they join your list at an event, through your website, or from somewhere else?
  • Role, title, or institution: Could be especially useful if working with schools, universities, hospitals, or other institutions

To learn more about how you can get started using tags, check out MailChimp’s resources.

Lots of policy updates in 2018, and we can expect the same from the year ahead. So review the changes above, and make sure they are factored in to any strategies this year.


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Was there a policy update that we missed? Share it with us and tweet @WholeWhale.