National Data: NPO Digital Is A Small Share of Media Spending

Overall media spending by larger nonprofits increased by just 3 percent year-over-year with the digital media spend increasing by 120 percent, representing 7.4 percent of all media spending. For smaller organizations, overall media spending increased by nearly 20 percent during the same period with digital media spending increasing by 60 percent, representing 30 percent of all media spending.

Paid online search was the number one digital marketing spend followed by social media, email, online display or programmatic network buys and the all-encompassing “other” coming in last.

Of organizations with more than $2 million in total revenue, digital represents just 7 percent of all media spending.

These are among the results of a study of digital media use by nonprofits conducted during June 2019 by Campbell Rinker on behalf of data-driven provider Wiland in cooperation with The NonProfit Times. Two, separate groups of 5,000 surveys were sent to readers of The NonProfit Times known to work at a nonprofit. They were selected at random and invited to participate online via email invitations.

The results were presented during a session titled “A Field of Dreams? Digital Media Spending in the Nonprofit Sector Results of a Landmark Study” at the Bridge To Integrated Marketing Conference in National Harbor, Md. this week. The panelists were Roger Hiyama, senior vice president, client services, at Wiland, Jessica Kirsche Morrow, digital marketing manager at The Nature Conservancy and Paul Clolery, vice president and editorial director of The NonProfit Times.

About half of the nonprofits answering this study earned less than $2 million in total revenue annually. About one in three earned from $2 million to $10 million and approximately one-quarter earned more than $10 million in total revenue.

When it comes to digital, throwing money at it isn’t going to work. “A large number of organizations mentioned that they don’t know where to start or don’t have the staff experience to do more online – 34 percent of smaller organizations and surprisingly 19 percent of larger organizations,” said Hiyama.

Responsibility for digital marketing is most likely to rest with the marketing communications department. The second most likely place it would fall is development, fundraising, advancement or membership. Roughly one-third of organizations split digital marketing responsibility across multiple groups.

Respondents rarely pursue a single objective with their digital media spending, with an average of 2.3 goals. The most common goals were fundraising and branding/education (72 percent overall for each). Larger organizations tend to focus first on branding/education before fundraising, while smaller organizations are more apt to pursue fundraising first. Advocacy was cited as a third-level goal.

Approximately 45 percent of respondents said “Growing digital fundraising is a key initiative of our organization” was either somewhat or completely accurate. However, only 20 percent anticipated increasing their digital media spend by more than 10 percent during 2020.

For organizations with more than $2 million in total revenue, the largest share of online display advertising goes to pure acquisition. Larger organizations put more into remarketing display ads to website visitors, while smaller nonprofits put more into co-targeting. While both large and small organizations tend to pursue very different sourcing methods for pure acquisition, the larger groups seem to do their own work while the smaller nonprofits seem to rely more on support from their ad platform.

When asked which method of attribution is used to attribute donors and revenue to a source channel, 79 percent of smaller organizations and 60 percent of larger organizations reported that they don’t use any attribution method. Among larger nonprofits, 21 percent said they used an attribution window.

“I was surprised that digital media spending jumped from 2018 to 2019 by so much but it’s clearly still lagging behind where it would drive more website traffic and overall digital revenues,” said Hiyama. “Surprisingly, however, with over 60 percent of larger organizations and 79 percent of smaller organizations not using any method of revenue attribution, it may be difficult to justify significant spending shifts from traditional media to digital media.”

To receive a complete set of slides with the data, please go to http://info.wiland.com/npdigital-media-survey