A Deeper Look at Online Giving Trends

infographic2015M+R and the Nonprofit Technology Network have released their annual Benchmarks Study on email and online fundraising and advocacy. They surveyed 84 nonprofit organizations including several from the international sector. International sector participants include the Red Cross and Oxfam in the United States and Canada, FINCA International, Ipas, Mercy Corps, ONE, Operation Smile, Pathfinder International, Qhubeka, US Fund for UNICEF, United to End Genocide, UUSC, Women Thrive Worldwide, and World Bicycle Relief.

The study looks at nonprofit use of email and online fundraising and advocacy, as well as the results from those efforts. The survey compares data from 2014 and 2013.

Overall online revenue for nonprofits increased 13% in 2014. International organizations, however, saw their online revenue decline of 18%. The survey attributes the decline to the lack of a disaster on the scale of the Typhoon Haiyan, saying “donor behavior is often driven by a sudden, overwhelming, urgent sense of need.” When online donations are separated in to one-time and monthly, international organizations saw a decline of 17% in revenue from one-time donations but an increase of 24% in revenue from monthly donations.

Fundraising emails generated an average of $40 per 1,000 messages sent. International organizations had a higher response with an average of $87 per 1,000 messages sent. The average one-time gift to international organizations following an email solicitation was $120; the average monthly gift was $25. Only 14% of online giving to international organizations comes through email solicitations.

Traffic to non-profit websites in general increased 11% over the previous year; international organizations saw a 3% increase, the lowest of any sector.

Online donations, through websites rather than email, average $612 per 1,000 visitors and on average 7.6 website visitors become donors. International organizations have an above average 9% conversion rate, and earn $2.81 per visitor. The average non-email online one time gift for non profits is $104, significantly lower than the $207 received by international organizations. Monthly gifts are closer with an overall average of $23, and $28 for International organizations.

In addition to assessing email and website revenue, the survey also looks at online advocacy.

Nonprofits, on average, saw their email lists grow by 11% in 2014. International organizations saw a slower growth with a 2% increase. However, they also saw less email list churn, “the number of subscribers who became unreachable in a 12-month period,” with only 6% unsubscribes and 5% bounces. International organizations had the lowest median number of messages per month, per subscriber with 1.7.

Nonprofits reported that total email opens increased with an average open rate of 14%. International organizations saw a 13% open rate overall, but a 21% open rate for advocacy emails and a 12% open rate for fundraising emails. Click through rates on average were .48%, although advocacy emails generated a 3.3% click through rate. International organizations saw .34% overall click through and 2.2% advocacy click through.

The survey also looked at how nonprofits were investing in online marketing tools. Most nonprofits are not investing significant resources into paid searches or retargeting: 42% do no paid searches, 50% do not pay for retargeting. International organizations are investing in those areas with 73% using paid searches and 60% paying for retargeting. Most nonprofits are using text and display ads, with only 34% not paying for that service; 67% of participating international organizations do purchase text or display ads.

International organizations are growing their Facebook and Twitter fans, however they are still the lowest levels of the surveyed sectors. On average, international organizations had 34,000 Facebook fans, a 32% increase, and post once per day. Twitter followers for international organizations average 30,000, an 18% increase, with 5.1 average posts per day.

The sponsors of the survey encourage nonprofits to track their own data in order to understand what is typical of their own organization. This survey represents one tool for benchmarking and provides ideas on which data points to track. However, every organization is different and should focus on the data that is most important to meet their unique needs.

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