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Claire Kerr 13 min read

5 Research-Backed Trends to Help You Finish 2023 Strong

Many charitable organizations experienced a worrying trend in 2022: A 10% dip in individual donations and a declining donor retention rate. The Fundraising Effectiveness Project documented just how many donors in 2021 didn’t return to give again in 2022!

What can fundraising professionals do to put 2023 back on track? Fortunately, there are solutions to help your nonprofit organization find new donors and retain your existing ones.

Care2 has collected the most effective tips you need to know to improve your fundraising and advocacy programs. Read on for new research from M+R Benchmarks, Care2, NEON One, Tatango, and more!

1. Email + SMS: A measurable fundraising lift

Capturing SMS numbers has become an increasingly important goal for charities and nonprofit organizations. Your donors and advocates respond to text messages and are active on this channel. 

After all, research from Tatango shows that text messaging has a 99% open rate and 6.8% click-through rate!

Text messaging is also a valuable stewardship activity, helping you thank your donors and keep your supporters up-to-date with your initiatives.

SMS subscriber list sizes increased by 11% in 2022, according to the M+R Benchmarks Report. The average nonprofit organization had 236 mobile subscribers for every 1,000 emails in their database, sending approximately 21 text messages per subscriber annually. That represents a 28% increase in volume over the previous year!

Boosting List Growth with Integrated SMS & Email - Tatango & Care2 webinar

Tatango & Care2 SMS list growth example

Fundraising success is boosted when SMS messages are paired with an email program. M+R found that adding text messaging to an existing email program can increase the amount of revenue raised by person by 25-50%.

Check out the case studies in this recorded Care2 webinar with Tatango: Boosting subscriber list growth with SMS and email.

2. Investing in acquisition has never been more important

The M+R Benchmarks 2023 report also detailed how nonprofit organizations are benefiting from digital advertising for branding, fundraising, and maybe most importantly …. Lead generation. Nonprofits increased their digital ad spending by 28% in 2022.

The organizations in the study reported spending about 15% of digital ad budget on lead generation. It cost approximately $3.41 to acquire one new lead.

Why is it so important to assign budget to new supporter acquisition? 

M+R broke it down: “Considering the steady drain of churn, and how important new subscribers are to a thriving email program, the idea of email programs without support from ads is distinctly unappetizing. The fundamental metrics underpinning email and ads programs show how much each depends on the other.”

The most effective email programs are supported by a robust advertising program, and vice versa! Read how African Wildlife Foundation re-engaged their email leads using Care2 Cultivate, seeing an incredible 105% increase in donations from active supporters, and a 127% increase in donations.

3. Boosting open rates: The emotion of your subject lines matter! ☺

How often do you think about the emotions you want to communicate to your supporters? 

It turns out that research from NEON One shows that the words you use in a subject line can boost (or harm) your email’s performance.

Their Nonprofit Email Report shared the results of an AI sentiment analysis of charitable organization email subject lines, identifying which feelings improved open rates.

These are the top performing emotions and the open rate they prompted:

Neon One Nonprofit Email Report 2023
Keywords to use in nonprofit emails

How do you get a big feeling into a single subject line? The words “support,” “survey,” “donate,” “issue,” “news,” and “national” tend to result in higher open and click-through rates.

PS: Your donors don’t go off “vibes”, they go off the “preview”

NEON One’s report noted that emails including preview text raised 53.85% more than those that did not. Preview text is often how your supporters and donors decide whether to open your email.

Think of how you assess your own inbox and decide what to click on first! Make sure your preview text contains information your list members would find valuable, urgent, or intriguing.

4. Google Ad Grants: Don’t leave money on the table!

The Digital Outlook Report 2023 surveyed thousands of nonprofit professionals to ask them how they are managing digital programs, teams, and projects at their organizations.

One surprising outcome was how many nonprofit organizations admitted they are not taking advantage of Google Ad Grants. 44% of organizations in the survey haven’t registered to use this generous Google gift. 

While it does take training and on-going maintenance to benefit from Google Ads, if organizations are not using this service we risk the free program being terminated for everyone.

Care2 has a handy guide to understand if your organization is eligible for Google Ad Grants and a great breakdown of 10 tips for effective Google Ad keywords.

5. Improving deliverability: What good is the message if nobody hears it?

The Digital Outlook Report 2023 shows the majority of nonprofits aren’t doing enough to improve email deliverability. If your list is unhealthy, you risk ruining your send reputation and having your important emails sent to the dreaded Spam folder. 

Unfortunately, many organizations in the survey reported that they are simply archiving inactive emails, instead of being proactive about keeping those list members engaged.

How organizations are addressing email deliverability - Digital Outlook Report 2023
Email deliverability tactics - Digital Outlook Report 2023

This year, make data hygiene an organizational priority and get ahead of the problem before it overwhelms your communication plans. 

One of the easiest things to start with is using third-party email validation platforms. Try cleaning up your file using services like:

Mail Tester
Sender Score

Once you’ve cleaned your list, you can plan to improve your content! Learn more about how to improve your email deliverability in Care2’s eBook: The New Rules of Email Deliverability

The Center For Effective Philanthropy’s State of Nonprofits 2023 warned that almost all nonprofit leaders surveyed were concerned about employee burnout.

More than one-third of these professionals rated ‘burnout’ at the highest level of concern! These worries increase workplace stress, create staffing challenges, and disrupt long-term goal setting.

At Care2, we support charities and nonprofit organizations as they plan for the future by helping them quickly recruit new email and SMS supporters.

Let us show you how we deliver qualified and reliable prospects for your fundraising and advocacy campaigns. Book a quick call now.


Claire Kerr

Claire Kerr is a nonprofit veteran who has worked for organizations in economic development, education, and fundraising sectors. At Care2, she works with charities and nonprofits as they use digital channels to acquire new supporters. She has presented online, social & mobile fundraising best practices at conferences around the world, and also teaches “Digital Strategies for Nonprofit Organizations” at George Brown College in Toronto.