Online Giving, Email Open Rates Climbed During 2019

Online giving returned to its long-term trend line during 2019, growing by 10 percent last year, according to the newly released M+R Benchmarks Study.

The 201 nonprofit participants this year is the largest pool in the 14 years of the study, which is researched and created by M+R, a communications agency that works with nonprofits and foundations. The authors analyzed more than 8.7 million gifts, totaling $476 million raised online.

The 10-percent increase falls in line with long-term growth that many organizations had considered normal. A spike in online giving after the 2016 election, especially for causes opposed to or targeted by the Trump administration, leveled off in 2018. One-third of online donations last year were made by users on mobile devices, a 17-percent increase in transaction share from 2018.

“Nonprofits made a giant leap following the 2016 election, and the relatively flat growth curve two years later simply represented a return to normalcy,” Will Valverde, creative director at M+R and author of the annual Benchmarks Study, said in a press release announcing the results. “For those of us who have been holding our breaths, hoping to see a return to what generally has been thought of as ‘normal,’ some of that is here. That said, we know that the economic and social disruptions driven by this pandemic will wreak profound changes for nonprofits,” he said.

“Social media, mobile messaging, email, digital advertising, and other tools that help bring supporters closer to causes will be more important than ever in this moment.”

The study also examines response and open rates of emails, both focused on advocacy and fundraising, across a variety of nonprofit subsectors and categories.

For the first time, there was an overall increase in year-over-year email fundraising response rates, up 1 percent to 0.05 percent. Open rates were up 9 percent to 16.52 percent and click-through rates were up 22 percent to 0.56 percent. Page completion rates declined by 19 percent to 10.87 percent.

Response rates for advocacy email messages were flat, at 1.97 percent

Open rates were up 11 percent to 16.32 percent and click-through rates were up 6 percent, to 2.77 percent. There also was a decline of 4 percent in page completion rates, down to 73.53 percent.

Nonprofits sent an average of 35 email messages per subscriber in 2019, a decline of 2 percent in volume from the previous year. Fundraising appeals accounted for 15 of the 35 messages, almost 43 percent, compared with nine for newsletters and four dedicated to advocacy.

Mobile users generated half of all website traffic in 2019, up 11 percent over the previous year; a third of donation transactions, up 17 percent, and a quarter of revenue, up 20 percent. Desktop users accounted for 41 percent of traffic but still made up the majority of transactions (61 percent) and revenue (69 percent).

For every 1,000 email addresses, nonprofits had an average of 496 Facebook fans, 221 Twitter followers, and 83 Instagram followers.

Nonprofits received 3.5 percent of all online revenue through Facebook, with the vast majority of that coming through Facebook Fundraisers. Revenue from the peer-to-peer tool increased by 6 percent over 2018. The average gift was $30, based on almost 59,000 unique Facebook Fundraisers.

As a ratio of ad budget to overall revenue, for every dollar raised online in 2019, nonprofits spent an average $0.05 on digital advertising. That investment in digital ads increased by 16 percent in 2019.

To access more data in the 2019 M+R Benchmarks Report, click here.