Why Your Online Messaging Matters

The newest study on 2009 online fundraising and advocacy results was released yesterday by M+R Strategic Services and NTEN. Used as a reference along with Convio’s results, a picture emerges as to benchmarks, or even just guides, to measure your own organizations’ results.

Here are some highlights form 2010 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study. The complete study is also available for download.

  • Small List, Big Results: We’ve historically found a relationship between email list performance and list size. In this year’s study, we grouped participants into three tiers for email list size (Small, under 100,000; Medium, 100,000-500,000, and Large, 500,000+ deliverable email addresses), and found significant differences in benchmarks based on this analysis. Groups with small email lists had much higher open and click-through rates and had double the email fundraising response rate of bigger nonprofits. But Small groups also had double the unsubscribe rate of their larger peers.
  • Mission-Based Market Share: When it comes to the share of online revenue attributable to different types of gift programs – such as monthly giving, one time gifts and tribute gifts – our results showed marked differences across sectors. Whereas Environmental nonprofits in our study raised 96% of their online revenue from one-time gifts, Health nonprofits raised 50% of their online revenue from “other” gifts (including event giving) and tribute gifts, and International groups lead the way through monthly giving, which made up more than 25% of their online revenue.
  • Click-Through to Success: The largest difference between high and low performing email programs in our study was seen in email click-through rates. So, if you’re looking to emulate the most successful email programs in our study, then work to improve your click-through rates.

Here’s a quick hit list of the high-level benchmarks from this year’s study:

  • The average study participant sent 4 emails per subscriber per month, but Environmental nonprofits sent their subscribers 5.2 emails per month, while Health nonprofits sent just 2.1 emails per month, on average.
  • Email fundraising response rates were .13%, and email advocacy response rates were 4.00%.
  • The average gift size for a one-time online gift was $81.33.
  • Annual email file churn was just under 17%.
  • Online fundraising grew overall by 4.5% between 2008 and 2009.
  • For half of the nonprofits in our study, online revenue either held steady with 2008 or declined. This decline was driven by a drop in the average gift size.