Thu, March 28 2013

New Study: Online giving is up; Email response is down

Katya Andresen's avatar

Author, Robin Hood Marketing

Filed under:   Fundraising essentials •

M+R Strategic Services & NTEN just released their annual online benchmark study for nonprofits, and they found online fundraising continues to grow - as does the social network reach of nonprofits.  (The study is based on analysis of 55 large nonprofits, including the American Red Cross, Sierra Club, American Lung Association, AARP and Human Rights Campaign.) 

That’s the good news.  The bad news is that email response rates are declining.  Possible explanations are that electoral campaigns or (for international organizations) a lack of a major international humanitarian crisis in the news may have hurt response rates.  But the cause also could be our own fundraising practices.  The study notes: “The lower response rates are also part of a long-term trend: in the years we have produced this study, we have never seen fundraising response rates increase from year to year. This long-term trend may be driven in part by a practice common to many email fundraising programs: continuing to send fundraising messages to unresponsive email addresses over long periods.”

What does all this mean to your organization? I posed that question to Will Valverde, Vice President of Creative Development at M+R Strategic Services and co-author of this year’s Benchmarks study. He said:

“Email remains a critically important piece of the puzzle for most nonprofits, but declines in fundraising email response rates show the importance of connecting with donors through more than one channel. Successful nonprofits are responding to this reality by securing more and more revenue from monthly donors, and by rapidly expanding their audiences not just for email, but on social media as well.”


Key findings of the study shared by M+R are:

● A 21 percent increase in online revenue overall from 2011, with only International groups seeing a decline in online giving.
● A sharp decline in certain key email metrics – such as a 14 percent decline in click-through rates for advocacy messages and 27 percent decline for fundraising messages. This trend was driven mostly by the decline in click-through rates among Rights and International groups. Advocacy messages sent on behalf of Environmental groups performed best.
● Since 2011, online monthly giving grew by 43 percent – more than twice as fast as one-time giving. Although still a small percentage of overall giving, sustaining gifts now account for 18 percent of revenue for International groups.
● Email list sizes continue to grow for all sectors and sizes, up 15 percent in 2012. This trend was greatest for Wildlife and Animal Welfare groups, which grew their email lists by 32 percent from 2011.
● The growth of social media audiences outpaced email lists in 2012, growing an average of 46 percent on Facebook and 264 percent on Twitter. However, Facebook continues to be king for connecting with supporters on social media, reaching 149 Facebook fans for every 1,000 email subscribers.

You can review the full study here.

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