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How Much Money Should Your Nonprofit Be Raising Online?

One of the key questions I get from nonprofits is, “How much money should we be raising online?”  It’s a good question and hard to answer, especially if your online fundraising program is new and you have little data.

Here is a resource that can help.  Today, Convio released the Convio Online Marketing Benchmark Index Study. This annual report analyzes the online fundraising performance of approximately 600 nonprofits that used the Convio platform in 2010.  A key strength of this study is that it provides aggregate benchmarks for fundraising performance and benchmarks for specific industry segments or verticals, such as Environment and Wildlife and Animal Welfare.  The study also provides data for organizations based on size of email file.  In short, Convio has sliced and diced the data to make it easier for online leaders (like you!) to find the appropriate benchmark for your online programs.

Key Findings:

1.     Online is the fastest growing fundraising channel for nonprofits!  In 2010, Convio clients raised $1.3 billion online - an increase of 40% over 2009.

2.     Online giving is growing fastest for small organizations.  This is an interesting finding.  According to the report, organizations with less than 10,000 email addresses grew online giving by 26% vs. a median growth rate of 20% for all nonprofits.

3.     The median donation across all verticals increased from $83.44 to $91.94 in 2010.

4.     Email files continue to grow and email continues to be the key driver of online fundraising for nonprofits. The median total email file grew 22% to 48,700 constituents.

5.     Advocacy supports fundraising. In 2010, 6.42% of advocates were also donors.  This compares to 5.97% in 2009.

6.     Web traffic grew slightly but website to email sign-up conversions decreased to 2%.  We have to do something about these LOW conversion rates.

7.     Email open rates for fundraising appeals fell slightly to 17.67% from 18.55% in 2009.

8.     Email click through rates for fundraising appeals rose slightly to 1.76% from 1.72% in 2009.

9.     Response rates for fundraising appeals remained steady at .16%.  This means that if you send an email to 10,000 people 16 will donate.  Yikes!


What Do All These Numbers Mean To Your Nonprofit?

Good grief, if you’re not online.  Get online today!   This means building a website first not launching a fan page on Facebook.  Note: Online fundraising grew most for the smallest organizations (26%).  Clearly the online channel is an important fundraising tool for ALL nonprofits.

Grow your email file organically.  Do this by optimizing your website so that you can easily convert website browsers into registered users of your site.  Tactics such as Search Engine Optimization and use of social media can drive more traffic to your site.  Also, be sure to offer compelling content about your cause so that prospective donors SEE THE VALUE in giving you their email address and engaging with you online.  With website to email file conversion rates at 2%, this is clearly an area for growth. 

Go beyond organic growth and invest in paid acquisition to build your email file.  Consider tactics like Google Ad Words, Facebook Ads, and Lead-Acquisition through companies like Care2.  And, remember to track the performance of your new “leads” so that you can determine the cost and value of different tactics and optimize your program accordingly.

Don’t neglect your file.  Use segmentation strategies to ensure that you know what content donors and prospective donors want and respond in kind.  For example, if a new prospect joins your file via a Google Ad Words campaign to “Save the Turtles,” continue to send this prospect additional content about your turtle-recovery program before introducing them to other aspects of your mission.

Replace bad email addresses. Managing your online program will require you to deal with email churn.  Consider replacing hard bounces by doing an email update, i.e. working with a third-party vendor who can match your file and find new email addresses for your constituents.  In addition, budget for ongoing acquisition.  If you don’t take care of and continue to GROW your email file you will significantly lower your chances of raising more money year over year.

Last, but certainly not least, focus on creating compelling content.  I know you’re tired of hearing it but content is QUEEN!  Without smart, creative, clear and compelling content you’ll never be able to attract, retain or convert your donors online or offline.

Reader Comments (4)

This is really interesting insight, especially seeing real numbers from the email campaigns. And I wholeheartedly agree with these points:

- Good grief, if you’re not online. Get online today!
- Grow your email file organically.
- Online giving is growing fastest for small organizations.
- Don’t neglect your file.

I feel like some of the online strategy above is too reliant on email though. I have had better success in the online social space with higher engagement with my content and better response to donation calls to action. I definitely represent a small nonprofit but our social strategy is scalable and will only get bigger and have more impact. Despite my success on Facebook I would argue that the return on Facebook ads is not worth it. 1% click through is awful, and this isn't just me, FB ads performance is notoriously poor.

This was a helpful post though, thanks for sharing!
March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoey
Are there any good recommendations for third-party vendors who can match non-profit files and find new email addresses at an affordable rate?


- Trent

March 15, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTrent Lange
Hi Trent,

Check out Fresh Address, Tower Data and InfoGroup Nonprofit for email appends and email updates.

March 20, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJocelyn
I whole heartedly agree the content of the website will determine the success of your email database. Segmentation and providing informational emails to customers specific to their interests is crucial.

Social Networking is a new and fabulous area for development, but it all starts with the foundations of the website.
March 23, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Cullen

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