Launching Deniz’s Digital Surgery

14th January by Deniz Hassan

Published on


We are excited to introduce a brand new regular contributor to AAW Insight…the brilliant Deniz Hassan who for the past three years has been leading the global digital fundraising team at the UN World Food Programme.

Prior to this, he founded Clockwork Pie, the UK's first digital fundraising agency and was Head of Digital at Merlin (now part of Save the Children) where he counts his lucky stars that he was fortunate enough to be mentored and taught by in his words “two of the most amazing fundraisers of our time - the late, great Danielle Atkinson and AAW’s Imogen Ward”

Over the next few months, Deniz will be sharing his thoughts and reflections on digital fundraising and will also be happy to answer any burning questions or issues you may have about your own programme – so whether you are a seasoned digital professional or this is something completely, utterly new and, let’s face it, scary for you… he’s happy to help.

In his first piece for us he talks about the many pitfalls of attribution programmes and offers some thoughts on how, if they can’t be avoided, your cries of help can at least be listened to….

Deniz Hassan image

So…someone clicks on a Facebook ad, gets to your website and donates. Firstly, good job; something has gone right. But secondly, what exactly went right? Because when you check in your Facebook report it shows the conversion (and if you’ve set yourself up correctly, the value of said conversion…more on that in a bit) nestled snuggly beside the campaign that drove it. Nice.

But hang on! As we all know, you’re a well-rounded digital marketer so you pop into Google Analytics (again, if you’ve set up your ecommerce tracking correctly)…and it’s gone. Vanquished like a Voldemorte Horcrux after a slap with Harry Potter’s wand. So you rifle around your transaction IDs trying to match them up with your donation gateway and you find that, yes, the donation does exist. But wait; it’s been ‘wrongly’ attributed to Google. Curses.

And herein lies the problem. Every digital platform wants to claim success for every transaction so they can squeeze more dollar from our closely guarded budgets. And the nature of multichannel clicking and viewing makes this incredibly easy for them to do and damn near impossible for us lot to unpick.

Now imagine having that problem across a whole bunch of channels - from apps to emails; display and email; search and YouTube. This is the world of attribution – exactly what faced us at the World Food Programme and is probably facing your organisation even if you don’t know it.

What a mess. Can’t we all just get along?

Frankly, no. The likes of Google, Facebook and Apple aren’t going to be chucking their car keys into a bowl anytime soon. If you’ve been following the IOS 14 saga, you’ll see just how far apart they are. Not only are there different platforms, but different models, metrics and windows.

And now imagine you’re spending millions each year. The landscape of data just becomes unfathomable. You know how much money you’ve made and from how many donors, but if you look at each platform individually you’ll probably see at least 35% (don’t quote me on this – I haven’t done any particular study other than looking at lots of stuff) more donors than you actually have. Which gives you a pretty big margin of error when your board ask you where you’re going to invest.

Can’t someone do something?

If I banged my head every time a digital marketer told me they get their main insights from Google Analytics, I suppose I’d have a bumpy head. I cannot iterate this strongly enough. If you are just using GA to drive your data and make your investment decisions then you are in danger of making the wrong decisions. Google Analytics uses a ‘last click’ model which will tend to over favour organic and paid search while undervaluing the other channels which might be higher up the conversion funnel.

There are things on the market which help you to a certain extent. Data driven attribution models allow you to create sets of rules that attribute based on where and when a conversion has taken place vs just a click. For example, in a conversion journey that had five touchpoints, you can assign each channel a weighting based on where in the journey an action occurred. That would get round an issue such as someone clicking on five Facebook ads and finally converting after one AdWords click and seeing AdWords get the prize.

Google offers this but only as part of its 360 suite which costs over $100k per year. And it doesn’t work very well beyond the Google Marketing Platform.

At the World Food Programme, we’ve invested in and built our own system based which fits us like a glove. It takes into account everything we about our programme which is specific to us. For example where we invest and every single interaction that leads to every single transaction. If there are a hundred clicks across different devices we’ll know it and model it. We’re working towards a system that lets us do this within a few clicks and make it look pretty at the same time.

It links up every digital property with our donation gateway, CRM, data warehouse and business intelligence tools.

The cheap and easy(ish) way

We’ve had the skills and resources to do it our own way and it’s been tough, but not every organisation has this luxury. But while it may not be possible to attribute every donation directly in your database at point of sale, it is possible to get broader insights which can help you make decisions. And all it involves is looking at all your disparate platform data and joining it together in your brain. While it won’t help you in reporting anything, it will at least help you to make informed decisions.

First, make sure you’re pushing the transaction values into your Facebook pixel and that you have that pixel triggering for every transaction. There’s a bit of coding required but it’s quite straight forward – see FB’s advice here. You’ll need to ensure your payment gateway can push the dynamic values in. It will probably look something like this {variable} – sorry devs, I know that’s a very basic description.

For example, let’s imagine we’ve got two channels running – Facebook and organic search for simplicity. And say we’ve invested $10k in Facebook. You get a thousand donations and in Facebook you see 1000 attributed and in Google Analytics you see 600 attributed to Facebook and 400 to organic. The game here is to work out the true value of your investment.

As a starting point we know that the minimum value is that of the 600. We don’t dispute those. But for those 400 the question is, “Did organic search really drive these or just help out?”

From here we have a few tools in our armour. Let’s look at the landing pages those organic conversions came through on. If it’s all coming through on a landing page specific to your FB campaign then we know FB has driven them. Easy job. From here you just decide how you want to reward FB. In this example, as it’s pretty clear cut, you’d likely go for 100% on FB and say the investment was pretty successful.

If we’re none the wiser after looking at landing pages, let’s look at trends. What’s the normal organic conversion when we’re not running FB ads, and so what’s the uplift when we are? You can simply take this % and apply it to the 400.

Now where it gets a bit more complicated is when you look at your attribution window and see you’ve got it set to 28 day click and 1 day view in Facebook. That is a very generous window to FB. At this point you can look at data such as the time it took to convert. If someone click on an FB ad on day one and converted on search on day 28, then it’s not the same as someone doing it all on one day. It means organic played a bigger role so you would want to reward it accordingly.

And before anyone comments about that not being particularly scientific, I know. It’s not supposed to be. You could sum it up as saying “look at all your data sources and use your common sense”.


My goal in writing this wasn’t to solve your attribution issues really, but to make you aware that they exist and hopefully give you a few coping mechanisms. But know this…you are not alone. And it isn’t just small organisations facing this. Huge organisations across each sector have to contend with the same mess and, like dogs the bigger you are the bigger your mess.

If anyone wants to pick my brain on this please just say hi. You can contact me here

In keeping with our digital theme, we are also pleased to announce the publication of an AAW Audience Study which has tracked trends in social media followers for top UK charities over the past three years. 

If you’d like to receive a copy of this report please email Jane Medley at