Blogs by Amy Vanpouille Padre
As promised, we’ve got some takeaways from the always-fascinating M+R Benchmarks Study of online giving.
This year’s study included data from 133 nonprofits, including seven Avalon clients. Be sure when reviewing the findings to look not just at overall metrics, but also at the metrics for organizations in your sector and of comparable size.
- Website traffic grew by 4% over 2015, which amounts to millions more visits.
Takeaway: Since more people are visiting your website, make sure it’s optimized to convert donors—make it easy for people to give by creating a straightforward path to the donation form. And be sure the donation form (and the site as a whole) uses responsive design so that everything looks good on all devices.
- Nonprofits sent 10% more messages per subscriber in 2016 than in 2015, which accounts for increased email fundraising numbers. However, most email metrics are down. Fundraising email open rates fell by 7% (to 13%), while click-through rates dropped by 14% (to 0.38%). The average response rate is now 0.05%.
Takeaway: With the increased volume in everyone’s inboxes, it’s becoming increasingly more important (and more difficult) to stand out in the crowd. So focus on that.
- Yes, email revenue has increased, but more organizations are also turning to digital ad spending (which is up 69%!) as a new/additional way to raise money and grow their email lists.
Takeaway: It might be time to explore and test digital ad spending, in addition to your email campaigns.
Avalon staff who attended the Nonprofit Technology Conference (NTC) in Washington last week reported that, as usual, the conference didn’t disappoint. New ideas and trends, networking, and collaboration were the order of the day. We had the opportunity to visit with old friends and colleagues, and share with and learn from new ones.
Avalon’s session, All Hands on Deck: Managing a Rapid Response Campaign, was well received, with lots of great questions and discussion. Check out the slides below for some of the insights from our presenters (and Avalon clients): Sylvia Moskovitz (Farm Sanctuary), Sarah Stallings (National Geographic Society), Jack Mumby (Common Cause), and Avalon Vice President Anne Senft.
Blackbaud’s 2016 Online Benchmarks report is out—fascinating as ever, confirming that we’re on the right track, and giving us some ideas and reminders to run with in the new year. The report analyzes data from June 2015 to July 2016, with year-over-year comparisons to the previous fiscal year. Below, the takeaways I find most relevant to our work:
1. Year-over-year email list growth slowed down to 10% this past year, which may not be a bad thing. The ever-changing algorithms of ISPs demand increased quality, driving the trend for slimmer but more engaged lists. The focus has moved from quantity to quality, which is good news for us as fundraisers, because we know that growing an email list is just the first step in converting those names to donors. Having a huge list doesn’t mean much if the people on it are unresponsive. And although email list growth slowed, the proportion of constituents that donated increased by 13%—confirming that email lists are more productive. In other words, the work we’re doing to convert activists and supporters into donors, and to pinpoint those most likely to give now, is working!
2. Email is still gold, with each address worth $12.30 of online revenue in 2015. This value is bolstered by what looks like a shift of focus from quantity to quality. Again, building the file is important, but once you build your list, it’s equally important, if not more so, to focus on converting email subscribers to activists, donors, and ambassadors for your cause.
3. Healthy email appeal click rates suggest that organizations are creating strong content and targeting supporters effectively. Fundraising email click rates increased year over year 2.11%. This one’s a double-edged sword—even with the increase in clicks, conversion rates didn’t change. But the CTR increase is impressive, given the number of emails sent.
4. Total online revenue grew by 4.89% year over year, which, although much healthier than overall giving, is modest growth compared to previous years. During the same time period, the Blackbaud Charitable Index (which covers the full nonprofit sector) also shows slower growth, especially among larger organizations.
5. First-time giving decreased slightly year over year with 1.3% less revenue coming from first-time donors and the average first-time gift holding steady at $105.81—a 2.56% increase. Disaster and international relief experienced a significant decline, seeing over 19% less revenue from first-time gifts. These results aren’t surprising, given that there were no major natural disasters during the time period covered by the report.
6. Relationships rule, and this year’s data continues a positive trend of strong repeat giving performance, up 8.63% year over year. This is a direct result of nonprofits putting more effort into retention strategies and tailored digital communications. Cultivating online donors always pays off!