The annual M+R Benchmarks Study is out and there’s plenty of great nonprofit data to dive into. I’m going to review and provide takeaways over the next few blog posts.

Fundraising Data To Learn From

Today I’m going to look at some of the online fundraising stats and what you can learn from them.

The data: Total online revenue grew by 32% in 2020.

The takeaway: At first glance, awesome! Due to corona, many organizations upped their digital game and that could have paid off. On the other hand, it’s worth remembering that you have donors who receive your direct mail pieces but choose to donate via credit card online.

Why is that important: People knew that many offices were closed, so they chose online donations rather than mailing a check that might not be processed for months. Doesn’t mean that in 2021 that trend will continue.

No matter what, your nonprofit has to provide donors with different means of payment. At the same time, connect with donors and ask how they prefer to be communicated with. Some may only want email, some specifically ask for direct mail pieces. It’s a good way of showing donors that you care about them.

online donations

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The data: Only 41% of 2019 online donors were retained and made another online gift in 2020.

The takeaway: The sector’s retention rate still sucks. You need to up your gratitude game, work on building relationships and making connections with all donors.

Why is that important: Retention costs less than acquisition. The longer a donor sticks around, the higher their lifetime value. Are you tired of chasing your tail and every year having to find 6 new donors for every 4 you maintain? Concentrate heavily on retention for great results.

The data: Only 19% of online revenue was monthly giving.

The takeaway: We can do better! Monthly givers have higher retention rates and higher lifetime value than one-time givers. It’s also convenient for donors: They can make a stretch gift (stretch the payment of the gift over 12 months) which may end up being larger than if they had given one-time.

Why is that important: Many organizations shy away from asking for monthly gifts. Their thought process is we need the money NOW and so we want a gift NOW and don’t want to spread it out over twelve months.

Know why retention sucks? See above.

A little forward planning and your organization can build a very solid base of monthly givers. It helps budget planning because you know how much revenue will be generated in a given year from this group.

You’ll need to create special communications and marketing for monthly givers. Maybe offer them more of an “inside peek” behind the curtains. Some special features and events. Make them feel the love and they’ll continue giving.

One other item you need to look at pronto: Your online donation page. Is the option for monthly giving prominently displayed? If not, fix that. Today. Offer the option to donors.


The data: Email revenue per 1,000 fundraising emails sent was $78.

The takeaway: Not great Bob.

Why is that important: I’d like to delve into something here that is very relevant- data hygiene.

I’m sure you’d be super frustrated if you sent emails to 1,000 subscribers and you only ended up raising $78. But are those 1,000 subscribers actually active? Are they opening your emails? Are they clicking on your calls to action? And very important, are they donating once or more a year?

Cleaning your data is critical for achieving better results. Stop sending emails to people who haven’t opened your emails in the last 3 months. If you pay per email address that you’re sending to, then emailing people who never open the email is a waste of money.

Additionally, your ability to raise money via email is also affected by

  • Your email subject lines: 33% of people open emails based on subject line alone. That means your subject lines have to stand out in crowded inboxes.
  • Personalization: Do your emails address the subscriber by their first name? It’s all about creating and strengthening that one-to-one relationship. If you have their first name, start your emails with a friendly, personalized greeting!
  • The contents of your ask. If your email causes people to scroll forever, they’ll bounce. They’ll never click on your call-to-action button. Keep your fundraising emails short to medium length.
  • How you present the ask. As you would do with a direct mail appeal, you should be presenting a problem that donors can solve. How do they solve it? Click the donate button and fill in the form on your online donation page.

Next week we’ll take a deep dive into the latest email data and how it relates to your fundraising and marketing efforts.