Survey: Room To Grow For Online, Sustainer Giving

July 28, 2014       Patrick Sullivan      

Online giving and recurring giving has lots of room to grow, particularly for small nonprofits, according to a recent survey.

The overall average gift hovered around $400 for organizations in the Individual Donor Benchmark Report but average online gifts were just less than $100 in 2013. Only organizations with annual budgets of less than $2 million were surveyed. Nonprofits are raising about 36 percent of their budget from individual donors but that number varies widely, especially for smaller organizations, according to the study by Third Space Studio, a fundraising and management consultant.

The 29 organizations surveyed saw a 79 percent increase in online revenue compared to 2012, but that only represents an average of 16 percent of overall revenue. An average of 204 donors gave an average of $94 online in 2013. Small organizations led the way with the highest average gift of $112, while super organizations had the most online donors, 396.

Recurring giving represented a substantial chunk of revenue, especially for the smallest nonprofits in the survey. “They’ve figured out how to reap the benefit of monthly (or quarterly) donations: bigger average gifts with a very high renewal rate,” wrote the study’s authors. On average, 4 percent of the organizations’ donors were monthly donors giving an average $625 per year. The smallest organizations had an average of six donors giving $1,335 per year, or about 18 percent of individual donations. Super organizations had an average 45 sustainers giving $162 per year.

The goal of the third annual survey was “to create a clear picture of realistic fundraising goals and results that organizations can share with their staff and board,” Heather Yandow of the Durham, N.C.-based firm said in a statement announcing the results. “It can be difficult to compare your organization to organizations with a much larger budget, and we are working to solve that issue by collecting our own data for smaller organizations.”

The average amount raised from individuals in 2013 was $168,042, with a big disparity between large organizations (revenue between $400,000 and $800,000) and super organizations (more than $800,000): $160,949 versus $431,497. The smallest organizations raised nearly $40,000 on average from individuals, while mid-sized organizations received an average of about $75,000.

Average number of donors and average gift varied widely by organization size, with super organizations predictably having the most donors on average (1,021) and the highest average gift ($697). Small organizations had the second-highest average gift at $336, large groups came next at $313, and mid-sized nonprofits brought up the rear, at $252. There were big jumps in the average number of donors between small, medium and large organizations: 148, 372 and 789, respectively.

About half of survey respondents were member organizations. These organizations had more than twice the number of donors than non-member organizations – 821 compared to 319 – but their $366 average gift trailed that of non-member organizations, which had $435. “This evens out so each organization is generating almost the same overall percentage of their revenue from individuals (37 percent versus 35 percent),” wrote the authors.

Dependence on foundations was either flat or declining for the majority of respondents between 2012 and 2013. Three nonprofits in the survey greatly reduced their dependence and 10 reduced it, while another 10 reported the same amount of dependence. None greatly increased their dependence, and only three reported an increase.