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Steve Peretz 6 min read

2010 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study Reveals Surprising Stats

Thanks to Allyson for inviting me to guest post.  I’ll try to keep it short and just sweet enough to fill you in on everything you need to know about the new 2010 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study from M+R Strategic Services and NTEN.

(This stuff fascinates me – which I guess is good since it’s my job. But I won’t be offended if you just want to skip straight to the report itself!)

If you’ve worked with us before at M+R you know we’re data nerds—and with this year’s benchmarks report we’ve embraced our inner nerds at a whole new level, working with 31 nonprofits to figure out what worked, what didn’t, and why it matters when it comes to online messaging, fundraising and advocacy. 

When we started analyzing the results of this year’s study, the nonprofit world was still licking its wounds from 2009.  True, it was a challenging year for online fundraising and advocacy – half of the nonprofits in this year’s study saw their online fundraising revenue stay even with or drop below last year’s revenue numbers. 

But our study revealed some interesting – dare I say surprising – results:

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 our high-level benchmarks from this year’s study – and I encourage you to download the full report!

  • 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.


I hope our findings are helpful as you dig into your own data.  Please do download the full report, and feel free to comment below with questions.

Finally, as you analyze your own email and online fundraising program, just remember that the only trend that really matters is YOUR trend!

*Steve Peretz is a Senior Analyst at M+R Strategic Services.


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