Pandemic, Inflation, & War … Oh My!

by | May 13, 2022

Encouraging Findings from Blackbaud’s Latest Benchmarks Update

  • 92% of the organizations responding reported an increase in revenue per donor

  • Monthly giving continues to grow (up 24%) and now represents 22% of all online giving

  • Over the past three years, overall giving has increased 19% and online giving increased a whopping 42% with just over one-fourth of the online donations made using a mobile device

  • The report’s findings indicate an increase in overall giving (9%) and in the average gift amount (10%)

Just when you think one crisis has passed, a new one erupts. Or a former fire reignites.

I don’t mean to make light of any of the issues; they’re all quite serious. But they can also create distractions that may undermine your focus. “What will this mean for our organization?” you might ask. “How should our plans be modified?” Or even, “Will we survive?”

Three recent “snapshots” of the industry offer an encouraging perspective. I won’t try to cover each in its entirety, but want to point out some highlights that jumped out at me.

The donorCentrics Index of Direct Marketing for 2021 Q4 provides an overview of direct marketing giving for the 12 months ending with Q4 2021 and based on some 78 million gifts to 59 organizations. While donor retention (-3.1%) and donor counts (-2.1%) showed some decline, 92% of the organizations responding reported an increase in revenue per donor which resulted in an overall increase in median revenue of 7.7%.

One of the aspects of this report I find most fascinating are the comparisons to same time last year, which help maintain a longer perspective. For example, while the number of new donors fell by 5.1%, that was in comparison to a period showing an astounding 21.7% increase in number of new donors from the prior year.

The M+R 2022 Benchmark Report provides a slightly different perspective on fundraising in 2021, focusing primarily on the online activities (including emails, digital advertising and social media interactions) some 187 participating organizations used to generate nearly $1 billion in contributions. This, too, shows an overall increase in revenue (3%) driven by the combination of more gifts per donor (from 2.1 to 2.7) and higher average gift (from $111 to $125). Monthly giving continues to grow (up 24%) and now represents 22% of all online giving.

One of my favorite aspects of this report is its perspective on email marketing and digital advertising. Based on some 5.8 billion email messages, I think these are valid standards of comparison. Email lists continue to grow (7%), as did the total number of messages per year per subscriber (from 59 to 61). Perhaps not surprisingly, unsubscribe rates were up as well.

Interestingly, the report authors ask, “If a much larger portion of the audience opened fundraising emails in 2021, why did a substantially smaller portion actually complete gifts?” and then go on to offer one of the most cogent explanations of the impact Apple’s new privacy protections made on open rates. In the month after the change, fundraising open rates climbed by 17%. While we can’t say with certainty the increase is created by false opens, it does seem suspicious … and strengthens the case for using something other than open rates as a measure of engagement.

Finally, the Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report also reports an increase in overall giving (9%) and in the average gift amount (10%). More impressively, the report points out, over the past three years overall giving has increased 19% and online giving a whopping 42%. Just over one-fourth of the online donations were made using a mobile device.

An insightful comparison of donor retention rates caught my eye. While first time online only donors were slightly less likely to repeat than offline only (23% vs. 29%), those trends reverse when it comes to multi-year donor retention (64% vs. 60%). I suspect this may be pushed in part by the increase in online monthly giving, but it still bears remembering!

So, does the positive perspective these reports offer mean you can rest on your laurels?

Absolutely not! If more revenue is coming from fewer donors, it means you’d better be paying even closer attention to the donors you have!

  • How do your numbers compare to these benchmarks, for example?

  • Which parts of your mission do your donor engage with? How do you keep track of — and more importantly, cultivate — that interest?

  • Does everyone in the organization understand what you’re trying to do? Fundraising/donor development does not happen in a silo!

  • At the same time, as mobile and online giving increase, are your acquisition efforts (including social media and digital advertising) keeping pace?

  • And how will you know?

IMHO the authors of the Blackbaud Charitable Giving Report summed it up quite nicely. “Listen to your data and let it guide you.”

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