NTEN Study: Charity Donations Surge Online in 2013

According to a new study by the Nonprofit Technology Network, in tandem with the marketing firm M+R, the power of the online donation is growing, while email is becoming less effective as a fundraising vehicle.

Just because email marketing isn’t doing so well these days doesn’t mean that online fundraising as a whole is suffering.

Quite the opposite. M+R and NTEN’s 2014 Nonprofit Benchmarks Study, which covers the reach of nonprofits in online media, found that online donations as a whole grew in 2013, with an average one-time donation of $68.

The study, which focused on 53 nonprofits in four areas—environmental, international, wildlife and animal welfare, and rights organizations—showed that social media, while still smaller in reach than email, is surging. Other study highlights:

Email’s reach is declining … Email marketing in general saw some steep drops from 2012, the study found, with open rates falling 4 percent and click-through rates decreasing 13 percent for fundraising messages and 17 percent for advocacy messages. These drops helped contribute to a modest 0.07 percent decline in response rates. But as NTEN notes, results varied across nonprofit sectors. “Interestingly, the response rates to advocacy emails from environmental nonprofits were more than two times higher than overall response rates for advocacy emails,” the firm stated.

… But online revenue is rising: While email responses fell, fundraising itself didn’t see a drop. Overall, online revenue increased by 14 percent, driven mostly by the international and animal welfare sectors. For every 1,000 messages they sent, nonprofits yielded around $17. Interestingly, the category that did the best overall, the international sector, was an outlier on several fronts—and it relied on email the least to generate fundraising revenue. The study notes that the international sector was best equipped to handle social response, jumping quickly on events such as Typhoon Haiyan in 2013.

Where social shone: Social media remains a much smaller portion of the pie than email, but it’s growing far faster, the study noted. Although email lists expanded by 14 percent in 2013, organizations saw much larger growth on Facebook pages (37 percent) and Twitter accounts (46 percent) in 2013. An outlier is wildlife, where, for every 1,000 email subscribers, the organizations studied had 816 Facebook fans—far above the average of 199 for the space. Meanwhile, international groups, while not nearly as dominant as wildlife groups on Facebook, tended to have stronger Twitter followings. As far as volume, most organizations posted on Facebook once a day, on average, and sent four or five tweets.

Mobile too minute to judge: One place that’s still too small to get a read on? Mobile. According to the study, for every 1,000 email subscribers an organization has, it has just 13 mobile subscribers. The study suggests that organizations have underinvested in texting as a medium for social outreach.

The full study is available on M+R’s website, with highlights available in an infographic on Mashable.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!