2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study

Portland, OR (June 1, 2009)- 2008 was quite possibly the most exciting year in the short history of online activism and fundraising. The attention brought to the industry as a result of the 2008 elections motivated millions of online activists and inspired visionary engagement strategies among nonprofit practitioners. This report is an analysis of online messaging, fundraising, and advocacy metrics for nonprofit organizations.


M+R published the first eNonprofit Benchmarks Study in 2006, in partnership with several other organizations, and followed it up with the 2008 study published with the Nonprofit Technology Network (NTEN). During that time, a number of major developments in the online world- from the rise of social media and mobile advocacy to inboxes more crowded than ever- have impacted the effectiveness of email programs. Yet, as the campaign season proved, email is still the primary driver of online advocacy and fundraising.
This new study covers data collected from 32 nonprofit organizations, covering all of calendar years 2007 and 2008. In combination with the previous two studies, it presents a four-year landscape of nonprofit email, fundraising, and advocacy results. The environmental groups it benchmarks against are:
* Earthjustice (www.earthjustice.org)
* Environmental Defense (www.edf.org)
* League of Conservation Voters (www.lcv.org)
* National Parks Conservation Association (www.npca.org)
* Save Our Environment (www.saveourenvironment.org)
* The Wilderness Society (www.wilderness.org)
This year’s study calculates, for the first time, nonprofit email benchmarks for specific list segments, such as donors vs. non-donors, geographically targeted audiences, and interest-area segments. It also analyzes specific types of advocacy emails like phone call alerts, surveys, and tell-a-friend emails.
Key Findings of the 2009 Benchmarks Study:
* Email open and click-through rates fell from 2007 to 2008, while response rates remained relatively steady. Open rates declined from 17 to 16 percent, and click-through rates have declined nearly a half of a percent, to 2.4 percent. These declines are less pronounced than the downward trends found in previous studies.
* The average subscriber on each email list received about 3.5 messages per month. This was unchanged from 2007 to 2008.
* In our sample, the number of online gifts increased by 43 percent over 2007, while the total dollars raised online increased by only 26 percent. The response rate for fundraising messages held steady at 0.12 percent across all sectors.
* The increase in the number of gifts helped offset revenue lost from a decline in average gifts. Average gift size across all participating organizations was $71, down $15 from the previous year. This decline was most pronounced in the fourth quarter of 2008.
* Fundraising emails sent to previous donors received response rates more than three times as high as those sent to non-donors.
* Email lists continue to grow, though more slowly every year: growth was at 17 percent in 2008, down from 19 percent in 2007 and 21 percent in 2006.
* 19 percent of email addresses “went bad” annually, due to bouncing or unsubscribes- the same as in 2007.
* For most organizations, almost one-third of all online actions are taken by the most active subscribers – just seven percent of the list.
* Alerts sent to previous action-takers on a given issue received response rates three times higher than those sent to the full file.
Related Resources:
2009 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study