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Online fundraising hits recession wall

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The weak economy in 2009 curbed online fundraising in the wake of gains it and online advocacy made in the 2008 election, a new study says.

Roughly half the 31 nonprofits surveyed by M+R Strategic Services and NTEN said their online fundraising revenue was flat and down compared to the previous year.

In 2009, by comparison, online fundraising grew overall by 4.5 percent, says the 2010 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study.

Environmental nonprofits raised 96 percent of their online revenue from one-time gifts, while health nonprofits raised 50 percent of their online revenue from “other” gifts, such as event giving, and from tribute gifts.

For international nonprofits, monthly giving represented over 25 percent of their online revenue.

Nonprofit with email lists of less than 100,000 subscribers had a much higher open rate and click-through rate, and double the email fundraising response rate, of nonprofits with 100,000 to 500,000 deliverable email addresses and those with over 500,000 addresses.

But nonprofits with under 100,000 subscribers also had double the unsubscribe rate of nonprofits with bigger email lists.

Email fundraising response rates were 0.13 percent, and email advocacy response rates were 4 percent, while the average gifts size for a one-time online gift was $81.33.

Annual email file “churn,” or the relative degree to which subscribers became unreachable, was just under 17 percent.

The study also found that the biggest difference between email programs that were high-performing and those that were low-performing was in email click-through rates.

“If you’re looking to emulate the most successful email programs in our study,” it says, “then work to improve your click-through rates.”

The study also cautioned that it represents a single snapshot in time, and that the make-up of the participating nonprofits varies from year to year.

For individual nonprofits analyzing their own email and online fundraising programs, the study says, “the only trend that really matters is your own trend.”

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