Category Archives: Benchmarks

Benchmarking Facebook page growth among Sacramento nonprofits

We interrupt our series on strategic planning for nonprofits to check in on an important tactic. Although organizations like NTEN collect and report valuable benchmark data about online communication and fundraising by nonprofits, they usually survey nonprofits that are much larger than those in a community the size of Sacramento.

Starting in March 2010, I began collecting information about Sacramento nonprofits’ Facebook results. Initially I looked at a dozen or so. In September 2011, I expanded my efforts and started tracking more than 30 organizations’ Facebook pages. I took another snapshot today.

Since I have more data for the 9-month period, I’ll report that. Excluding three outliers, nonprofits here in Sacramento experienced an average growth of 38.6% in “likes” over the past 9 months. Among nonprofits who had between 500 and 1,000 “likes” as of September 2011, Effie Yeaw appears to be the winner. In September 2011, they had been liked by 621 people and now they boast 1,125. Good for you, Effie Yeaw, as you make the important transition to being supported by donations rather than funded by a governmental agency! We’ll have to check in and find out how they managed such great growth.

I excluded Sierra Forever Families because they had literally just launched on Facebook when I took my first data snapshot. I also excluded Stanford Home for Children, which has a new identity as Stanford Youth Solutions. Evidently they abandoned their Facebook page with the old identity and are now promoting a page with the new one.

I also excluded Susan G. Komen’s Facebook page. They either picked up a huge number of new likes after the recent Planned Parenthood funding controversy, growing from 2,167 friends in September 2011 to 9,815 today, or it’s possible that they have more than one Facebook page and I previously pulled numbers for a different one than I did today.

What gets you the most new likes, Sacramento nonprofits?

(The chart below is not the entire data set, so the math won’t work right if you try to calculate the average.)

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How did your fundraising results compare to others?

Did you see this item from the Association of Fundraising Professionals?

A majority of charities surveyed saw their fundraising revenue remain stable or increase last year, according to the 2010 Year-End Survey of the Nonprofit Research Collaborative (NRC), a coalition of six fundraising and philanthropic organizations.

The survey also showed that strong fundraising results were more likely when organizations invested resources in fundraising staff and infrastructure, including volunteer management.

The study asked about two key measures of fundraising — the percentage of organizations reaching their fundraising goals and the percentage of charities raising more funds in one year compared to the previous year. In the NRC survey regarding 2010, just 52 percent of organizations reported reaching their fundraising goals that year. In a survey conducted by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP, a member of the NRC) regarding 2009, 53 percent of charities reported meeting their yearly fundraising goals that year.

In addition, the percentage of organizations raising more money in 2010 compared to 2009 was 43 percent, the same percentage found in the previous survey when respondents were asked if they raised more money in 2009 compared to 2008.

The significant shift was in the percentage of organizations raising about the same amount of money in 2010 compared to 2009. Twenty-four percent saw stable amounts of giving in 2010, compared to just 11 percent at the end of the year in 2009. At the same time, the percentage of respondents raising fewer funds dropped from year-end 2009 (46 percent) to year-end 2010 (33 percent).

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Awesome benchmarking data just in! How do you stack up?

Courtesy of The Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmarking Index Study

Courtesy of The Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmarking Index Study

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:  info@convio.com

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!

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