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Allyson Kapin 5 min read

Highlights from the 2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

M&R and NTEN just released an impressive benchmarks study that analyzed 32 nonprofits' online advocacy and online fundraising programs in 2007 and 2008. The Nonprofit eBenchmarks study also analyzed specific list segments, such as donors vs. non-donors, geographically targeted audiences, surveys and tell-a-friend emails. Here are the highlights.

While more than 35 percent of American adults now have a profile on at least one social networking site – the best way to reach supporters is still email. However, as online programs have matured, the decline in the performance of email has slowed. Email open rates declined 1%, compared to a 3% decrease between 2006 and 2007. Don’t be too alarmed though. Open rates can be an unreliable metric due to spam filters, preview panes and image blocking -- all of which make it hard to know whether someone is actually opening (or reading) an email.

Other interesting findings include:

  • For email newsletters, open rates and click-through rates fell slightly (1-2%) in 2008, though the changes were not strictly statistically significant.
  • Email lists are continuing to grow, though the rate of growth was 17% in 2008. This is down from 19% in 2007 and 21% in 2006.
  • The average subscriber on each email list received about 3.5 messages per month. However, since many organizations are segmenting their lists and targeting messages, some people may be receiving 10 emails monthly from an organization while others may only receive two or three.
  • Emails sent to activists who had recently taken action on a given issue received 3x the response rate of regular full-list actions.
  • The annual churn rate, or the rate at which an email list “goes bad” in a year, held steady at 19% between 2007 and 2008.
  • For most organizations, almost one-third of all online actions are taken by the most active subscribers who comprise about 7% of the list.

Online Fundraising

  • While online giving was up in 2008, as the economy tanked, year-over-year returns flattened and those who did donate gave less in the fourth quarter.
  • For fundraising messages, open rates were down from 2007 to 2008, but click-through and response rates did not change.
  • The number of online gifts increased by 43% over 2007, while the total dollars raised online increased by 26%. The response rate for fundraising messages held steady at 0.12% across all sectors.
  • Average gift size across organizations was $71 in 2008. This was lower than in 2007, when average gift size was $86.
  • Fundraising emails sent to previous donors received response rates more than 3x as high as those sent to non-donors.
  • Gifts of under $250 accounted for 97% of all gifts, but only 59% of total dollars raised by participating organizations in 2008. Gifts of $250 and greater made up just 3% of all gifts, but accounted for 41% of all revenue!

What does all of this data mean for nonprofits?
1. Continue to embrace low dollar donors.
2. Segment, test and repeat.
3. When people first join your list, hook them and engage them immediately.




Allyson Kapin

Allyson has been named one of "Top Tech Titans" by the Washingtonian, one of the Most Influential Women In Tech by Fast Company, and one of the top 30 women entrepreneurs to follow on Twitter by Forbes for her leadership role in technology and social media. As Founding Partner of Rad Campaign, she leads the firm's client and online strategic services. For over a decade Allyson has helped non-profit organizations and political campaigns create dynamic and award-winning websites and online marketing and recruitment campaigns. She works side-by-side with her clients to meet their web needs and maximize their online effectiveness to create real world impact.