ROSETTA: How to Read the Charts

Each one of the 201 nonprofit participants who provided data for the 2020 M+R Benchmarks Study is a shining point of light. They protect the fragile places on this planet and work to end hunger and inequality. They preserve history and produce beauty. They seek cures and serve justice and safeguard truth.

We admire them for the work they do every day, and we deeply appreciate their time and generosity in contributing to this year’s Benchmarks. They are stars, every one.

To make the most of our charts and findings:

  • Start by reviewing the topline data labeled “All.” This number represents the median figure for a given metric for all participants who reported data.
  • It can also help to take a closer look at other nonprofits within your issue space, so wherever possible we have broken out the findings by sector. If you’re not sure which sector applies to you, review the full list of participants⁠ to find the peer groups in your orbit.
  • We also sort our participants by size. For our study, “Small” refers to nonprofits with annual online revenue below $500,000; “Medium” includes those nonprofits with revenue between $500,000 and $3,000,000; “Large” covers all those with online revenue greater than $3,000,000.
  • Not all participants were able to provide data for every metric. If a chart does not include data for a certain sector or size, it’s because we were not able to collect enough results to report a reliable average.

One last important note before you go exploring. Each year we are joined by a new crew of participants (who are lovely and we love them), so comparing one year’s study to another could be misleading. Wherever we make year-over-year comparisons, we are looking back at results from this year’s (lovely and beloved) participants.

Got all that? Okay, let’s light this candle.

COUNTDOWN: Fundraising

5. Overall online revenue increased by 10% in 2019. Hunger/Poverty nonprofits reported the largest year-over-year increase at 20%, while Rights nonprofits comprised the only sector to report a decline (down 4% from 2018).

4. Revenue from monthly gifts increased by 22%, more than twice as fast as revenue from one-time gifts (8%). Monthly giving accounted for 17% of all online revenue in 2019.

3. The average nonprofit donor made 2.1 gifts and contributed $150 in 2019. Both are increases from 2018, when the average donor gave 2.0 times and contributed $149.

2. Email messaging accounted for 16% of all online revenue in 2019, down from 18% in 2018.

1. On average, 39% of donors who made an online gift to a nonprofit in 2018 made an online gift again to that nonprofit in 2019. The retention rate was 22% for donors who made their first gift in 2018, and 58% for repeat donors.

COUNTDOWN: Email Messaging

5. Email list size decreased by 2% in 2019. This followed modest growth in 2018 (6%) and 2017 (8%). Three sectors reported double-digit declines in list size in 2019: Health (down 18%), International (down 19%), and Hunger/Poverty (down 28%).

4. Nonprofits sent an average of 50 email messages per subscriber in 2019, a 2.1% decline in volume from the previous year. Fundraising appeals accounted for 22 of these messages on average, newsletters for 11, and advocacy messages 7. Wildlife/Animal Welfare nonprofits sent the highest volume of messages (81 messages, with 35 of those being fundraising messages). Health nonprofits sent the fewest, just 44 messages.

3. The email response rate for advocacy messages was 2.0%, up by 0.41% from 2018. An increase in open rate (up by 11% to 16.32%) and click-through rate (up by 6% to 2.77%) were balanced out by a slight decline in page completion rate (down by 4% to 73.53%).

2. Fundraising email response rate increased by 1% in 2019, to 0.05%. As with advocacy messaging, an increase in open rate (up by 9% to 17%) and click-through rate (up by 22% to 0.56%) were mostly offset by a decline in page completion rate (down by 19% to 11%).

1. For every 1,000 fundraising messages sent, nonprofits generated $45 in revenue. Rights nonprofits had the lowest revenue per 1,000 messages sent at $21, while Public Media nonprofits generated the highest return at $124 in revenue per 1,000 messages sent.

COUNTDOWN: Web Engagement

5. Organic website visitors accounted for 44% of total nonprofit website traffic. Organic visitors are those who arrive at a website by clicking through search engine results that are not paid or sponsored.

4. Nonprofits raised $0.30 per organic website visitor, with 0.17% of organic website visitors making a donation.

3. Half of all nonprofit website visits came from users on mobile devices. Desktop users accounted for 41% of visits, and Tablet users 9%. Mobile users increased their share of traffic by 11% from 2018.

2. Desktop users accounted for the majority of donation transactions (61%) and revenue (69%). Mobile users generated 33% of transactions (up by 17% from 2018) and 25% of revenue (up by 21% from 2018).

1. Nonprofit homepages took an average of 2.911 seconds to load on desktop machines, while donation pages took 2.227 seconds to load.

COUNTDOWN: Text Messaging

5. Nonprofit text messaging audiences grew by 26% in 2019, at a time when Facebook audiences grew by just 4% and email list sizes declined by 2%.

4. While this growth rate far outpaced other channels, nonprofits had just 72 mobile subscribers for every 1,000 email addresses.

3. Text messaging volume increased by 14% overall.

2. Text message click-through rates were 4.2% for fundraising messages and 9.8% for advocacy messages. Both figures are far higher than comparable email metrics.

1. Peer-to-peer message recipients received 1.4 messages per month in 2019, and responded 14% of the time.

    COUNTDOWN: Social Media

    5. For every 1,000 email subscribers, nonprofits had an average of 496 Facebook fans, 221 Twitter followers, and 83 Instagram followers. Cultural nonprofits had the largest social media audiences relative to email list size, with 1,796 Facebook fans, 488 Twitter followers, and 772 Instagram followers for every 1,000 email subscribers.

    4. Instagram was the fastest-growing of the three social media platforms we tracked, with a 42% increase in the number of followers. The number of Twitter followers increased by 7%, while Facebook pages grew by 4%.

    3. Nonprofits received 3.5% of all online revenue through Facebook, with the vast majority of that revenue coming through the peer-to-peer Facebook Fundraisers tool. Facebook Fundraisers revenue increased by 6% over the previous year.

    2. Each organic Facebook post only reached 4% of a nonprofit page’s fans. Meanwhile, 28% of the audience reached by a given post was not already following the nonprofit.

    1. The overall Earned Reach Average (the number of Facebook users reached by a given post relative to their audience size) for an organic post was 0.091. This marked a 16% decline from 2018. Public Media nonprofits reported an Earned Reach Average of 0.341, far higher than any other sector.

    COUNTDOWN: Digital Ads

    5. For every dollar raised online in 2019, nonprofits spent $0.07 on digital advertising (note that this is not a measure of ROI, but a ratio of ad budget to overall revenue). Nonprofit investment in digital ads increased by 17% in 2019.

    4. Prospecting ads made up the bulk of fundraising advertising budgets. Nonprofits spent $1.83 to reach prospects for every dollar spent on retargeting in 2019.

    3. Direct fundraising accounted for 44% of nonprofit digital advertising budgets. Nonprofits spent 24% of digital ad budgets on branding, awareness, or education ads, and 23% on lead generation.

    2. Search advertising had the highest return on ad spend (ROAS): $3.59 in revenue per dollar spent on advertising. Display ads ROAS was $0.74, social media ROAS was $0.70, and video ads ROAS was $0.53.

    1. The average cost per lead through digital ads was $2.49. Wildlife/Animal Welfare nonprofits saw the lowest cost per lead at $1.21, while Health nonprofits reported a cost of $5.06 per lead.

    Bright Stars