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How Do Your Numbers Compare?

by | May 28, 2024

Bob Merrigan summarizes the 2023 M+R Benchmark Report.

The M+R just released the 2023 Benchmark Report, their “2024 Spin Through the Gripping World of Nonprofit Digital Programs.” I’m a fan and wanted to read it as soon as it was available. I’d encourage you to as well. In the meantime, here are a few top-line insights worth considering.

Overall, 2023 results were flat to down slightly. On average:

  • online fundraising was down 1%
  • direct mail revenues were down 6% 
  • slightly more revenue came in through online sources 

With the transition from Universal Analytics to GA4, it’s difficult (to impossible) to make many direct year-to-year comparisons of web performance. Still, I think there are five key areas that offer performance metrics that you should be watching.

  1. Retention is king. As acquisition becomes more difficult and expensive, it’s imperative to hold on to existing donors. Overall retention this past year averaged 44%, meaning just under half of the donors who gave a gift in 2022 gave again in 2023. For donors making a first-time gift, that drops to 23%, but for repeat donors it’s 61%. 
  2. Nurturing sustainers pays. This past year, monthly giving accounted for almost one-third of online giving. The average gift for a monthly donor was $24 while the average one-time gift was $115. But before you waver: 41% of sustainers were still giving monthly after 24 months. (For those of you doing the math, that’s $576 — more than five times the value of that higher initial single gift!)
  3. Email is still a workhorse. This past year, email accounted for about 16% of online revenue with a single fundraising email generating an average of 7.5¢. This is down a little more than 15% from what was reported last year (although M+R strongly discourages such comparisons since participants vary every year).

Email lists continue to grow — up 7%, even after nearly 16% of current subscribers are lost to churn. On average, each subscriber received more emails (up 12%) for a total of 59 messages, 27 of which were devoted to fundraising. For fundraising emails, the average click through was 0.54%; the average response 0.07%. Advocacy emails averaged 2.1% click-through and 1.4% response.

  1. Advertising continues to grow. Nonprofits spent about 13% more on advertising this year than last, with most (61%) dedicated to fundraising (25% awareness and 10% lead generation). Search and social ads account for the bulk (80%) of this spend, with search offering the highest return ($2.70 for every $1.00 spent). (Note: the return on Google Grants ads is only about 13¢ though). The return on display advertising crept into the black this year as well, with a $1.00 investment delivering $1.26.
  2. Social is still a challenge. Or, as the study authors noted, requiring “a willingness to experiment and take risks.” Facebook is the dominant medium, with nearly all nonprofits participating and averaging 1,041 fans for every 1,000 email subscribers. Twitter/X is next (but falling) with 527 followers per 1,000 email addresses. For Instagram, that drops to 251, and down to an average of 36 for Tik Tok. About half of nonprofits rely on influencers to help boost their reach and for half of these, all or some of those individuals are being paid.

I did not include mobile here, but the study does — with revenue up 14% but still representing less than 0.5% of online revue. However, I thought one of the best lines of the report was in this section and it’s an appropriate note on which to end: “Continuing to expand audiences, executing thoughtful strategy, and making every message matter are the keys to growth.”

Check your numbers. I hope you keep growing!

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