Although it can be abused, good benchmarking data can be very useful to organizations that want to improve or put their own results in context. (Gosh, that might include your organization, right?)
Convio’s third Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index™ Study was just released. This year, Convio crunched actual transaction data related to fundraising and online metrics from 600 non-profits. That’s a lot of data, and the methodology avoids the bias of a self-reported survey, so you should pay attention. Go here to download your own free copy of the executive summary. Or send them an email if you want the full report: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are some highlights:
- The average online gift was unchanged in 2008 compared to 2007 (at about $67.50) but organizations collected more online because this method of giving grew by 14% year-over-year. [The online donation average gift is in the ball-park of a study based on a much smaller number of organizations by M+R and NTEN, which reported average gift size of $87 for 2007 data.)
- Convio cuts the data by industry vertical, which yields some interesting tidbits. The average online gift to Human & Social Services is quite high, at $128.90.
- As reported by many sources, the 4Q holiday season was tougher, reflecting the economic downturn. Convio noted that many donors continued to give but in smaller amounts. Convio noted that, historically, average online gifts jump about 30% in 4Q compared to the other three quarters.
- Open rates average 20% for e-newsletters and e-mails, with a click-through rate of 2%, continuing indications of the strength of this method of communications. The open rate measure is no longer terribly reliable, as it is being affected by the use of mobile devices and email preview panes, etc.
- Website traffic continued to grow in 2008. Not surprisingly, as the denominator of unique visitors grows, it gets harder to push out 27% growth, as non-profits did between 2006 and 2007. Still, you can’t whine about 20% growth. While Convio’s analysis by vertical is interesting, there’s no way to know what’s a good benchmark number for a small, local non-profit (in other words, by size of annual budget). Non-profits who read Philanthrophile don’t have 100,000+ unique visitors annually, the average reported in this study. But we can take a hint from the year-over-year growth rate of 20%.
- When it comes to website traffic, the difference between industry verticals’ monthly unique website visitors is startling. Higher education and human & social services have the lowest monthly medians, at just over 5,000 unique visitors. Animal welfare and visitation/performing arts/libraries top the list with monthly medians of almost 20,000 unique visitors.
- Email list growth is a critical metric for non-profits. Convio reported average growth of 20%. Keep in mind that an estimated 10% of email addresses go bad annually. Twenty percent more emails, minus natural attrition, means non-profits come out ahead by a net of at least 10%. How are Convio’s clients acquiring new emails? Primarily by capturing people who come to the website rather than manual list uploads, etc. Convio says that 3% of monthly unique visitors register their email addresses, a number that has been pretty constant over the past three years. In my experience, it’s very hard for local non-profits to grow website traffic AND get people to provide their email addresses, but it’s critical to figure this out. Convio is reporting a median “usable” (opted-in) email list size of almost 19,000.
- The response rate for fundraising appeals is a median of 0.13% (blended across verticals).
Convio notes: We know from prior analysis that many online donors are “dual channel” donors — meaning that they give both online and through mail. Offline giving is not included in this metric. Ideally, your organization should try to quantify the total lifetime value of your constituents by including both online and offline revenue. This approach will help you better understand the extent to which communicating with your constituents via multiple channels impacts your organization’s fundraising results. Convio also recommends quantifying the value of a usable email address and reports a benchmark of $14; that is, for every usable email address, an average of $14 is received via online donation annually!
If you get nothing else from Convio’s study, get this: your website is foundational to your whole online fundraising strategy. The quality of your site attracts visitors, who get engaged enough to provide their email address… and later may make an online donation!