Email list size grew but email open rates declined while online revenue was up mainly because of growing monthly giving for some of the largest nonprofits last year. Those are some of the top-line takeaways from the 2015 M+R Benchmarks Study (#3DBench15), which incorporates data from 84 participating organizations for the calendar year 2014.
Data analyzed included almost 2.5 billion email messages sent to more than 37 million list subscribers, almost $413 million in online donations for more than 6.4 million online gifts and almost 7.5 million advocacy actions.
Website traffic grew by 11 percent year over year and email list size grew 11 percent in 2014, with all sectors experiencing slower growth than in the previous two years, except the environmental category.
Among other overall statistics from the groups analyzed:
- For every 1,000 fundraising messages delivered, an average of $40 was raised;
- For every 1,000 advocacy messages delivered, an average of 29 actions were generated;
- For every 1,000 email subscribers, organizations had an average 285 Facebook fans and 112 Twitter followers, growing faster than email audiences;
- For every 1,000 website visitors welcomed, groups raised an average $612;
- One website visitor was worth an average of 61 cents, down 12 percent from 2013.
- The average online one-time gift was $104.
- The average monthly gift was $23.
- Page completion rates held steady for advocacy messages but declined 11 percent for fundraising.
- Response rates were down because of lower page completion rates for fundraising messages and because of lower email click-through rates for advocacy messages.
“Donors and supporters and activists are kind of coming from everywhere these days,” said Madeline Stanionis, principal and creative director at M+R Strategic Services, which partnered on the study with the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). Five or 10 years ago, donors and activities primarily were driven by email. “That’s no longer the case, and it kind of has been that way the last couple of years. Donors are everywhere now,” she said.
“It means a lot of things for organizations. You can’t discontinue email or direct mail or telemarketing. You have to be in more places. That’s a high bar and often means tough decisions on resources. But because supporters are coming from so many places, that’s a real concern and challenge for nonprofits,” Stanionis.
Supporters don’t necessarily feel like they have to join your email list and while the number of people engaging online is growing it’s not necessarily via email. “People perceive these days that they can get information everywhere. Email lists are growing but slowing down,” Stanionis said.
For the first time, this year’s study shared detailed email, web and social media statistics from Cultural organizations, in addition to Domestic Hunger/Poverty, Rights, International, Environmental, Health, and Wildlife/Animal Welfare.
Cultural groups were exceptional in most every way from the rest of the subsectors in the study, whether it was more social media followers, more funds raised by email or the lack of monthly giving compared to other subsectors. “Cultural is a standout. It’s just different than the rest of the groups,” Stanionis said.
Email open rates were up 4 percent overall, to an average of about 14 percent; up 5 percent for email fundraising messages and up 9 percent for advocacy. Click-through rates (CTR) for email fundraising messages were up slightly at 0.48 percent while advocacy CTRs, at an average 3.3 percent, were down 12 percent from 2013. Cultural groups had the highest open rate of any sector at 20 percent, the highest fundraising CTR at 0.7 percent and the highest fundraising response rate at 0.1 percent. Cultural groups also averaged 816 Twitter followers for every 1,000 email subscribers, vastly more than the overall average of 112 followers among study participants.
Response rates were down in both fundraising messaging (12 percent to 0.06 percent) and advocacy (18 percent to 2.9 percent). The decline for fundraising was driven largely by lower page completion rates, and the drop in advocacy rates was tied to a lower click-through rate.
Overall online revenue increased by 13 percent in 2014, with the largest gains in the Environmental, Health, and Rights sectors. The change in online revenue was largely was driven by the number of online gifts, up 13 percent year over year, while the average gift size dropped by 2 percent.
Monthly giving grew at a much faster rate than one-time giving, up 32 percent in attributed revenue. Associated one-time revenue was up 9 percent in 2013.
Average revenue per 1,000 fundraising messages delivered was $40, with most sectors around that overall average except Cultural. It was another area where it stood out, with revenue of $141 per 1,000 fundraising messages delivered.
The overall average email open rate was 14 percent but Cultural groups averaged 20 percent. Recipients of fundraising messages licked through at a rate of 0.7 percent, compared to 0.48 percent overall. The sector had the highest fundraising email response rate, at 0.1 percent, against an overall average of 0.6 percent.
Monthly giving as a percentage of online revenue was up from 13 percent in 2013 to 17 percent in 2014. Cultural groups again were exceptional but for a different reason: monthly giving accounted for just 1 percent of online revenue. That could be a result of fundraising being structured around larger, annual membership contributions for cultural groups. Environmental groups received 23 percent of online revenue from monthly gifts. That’s probably due to a combination of organizational strategy and donor preference.
Online monthly giving grew by 32 percent compared to 9 percent for one-time giving. Hunger/Poverty and Wildlife/Animal Welfare saw one-time revenue unchanged but still raised more money as a result of monthly giving rates. International experienced a decline of 17 percent in one-time giving but monthly revenue was up 24 percent.
The study also examined paid marketing efforts by nonprofits. About three-quarters of the organizations reported spending in at least one category of paid search, retargeting or text/display ads. Text/display ads were the most common, with almost two-thirds reporting at least some investment, followed by paid search, at 58 percent, and retargeting, which was used by half of organizations.