What Do Industry Benchmarks Say About You?

For the past several years, by late February or early March I've begun looking forward to the release of the Convio Benchmark Report (or, the "Online Marketing Benchmark Study for Nonprofits" as it was officially labeled).

In 2012, publication slipped to April. In 2013 to May. Now, after months of watching, the "2014 Luminate Online Benchmark Report" was published in October. Released at the annual BBCon Conference. (In all fairness, it should also be noted that the period surveyed changed from calendar year to fiscal year, so the perspective is still about as recent as ever.)

The report is a little leaner (more compact and direct, mostly), but still packs quite a wallop. After all, how often do you get the chance to compare your organization's online fundraising performance to that of some 800 nonprofits across the country? Or see how you compare on a segment-specific basis?

I encourage you to download it and spend some time comparing your own trends.

In the meantime, here's what jumps out at me:

  • Most housefiles are growing (up 8%).
  • There's a lot more clutter out there (66% greater volume of messages to 72% more individuals).
  • In spite of that, open rates are holding steady (even up slightly).
  • While click rates are falling, the drop isn't as dramatic as last year's. 
  • The number of gifts, average gift and total revenue are all up.

But it's no longer a matter of simply "build it and they will come."

  • While there was an increase of more than 60% in email volume, the corresponding (consequent?) growth in total revenue was just over 8%. 
  • While there was also an 8% increase in file size,  the median value of an email address dropped more than 10% (from $13.90 last year to $12.26 this year). In addition, the number of first time donations fell more than 5%. 

That should be a red flag to anyone who has been relying on the 'rising tide to lift all boats.'

I think the amount of email clutter is a concern and will become increasingly so. According to this report, the median number of emails sent per year is 144. That's the midpoint … half of the organizations out there send more! Granted, not all messages go to all constituents and one of the bright spots mentioned is that there are also more tailored messages being sent.

My take: the bar in this business continues to rise. If you want to improve your performance, you'll have to raise your expectations as well.

The payoff can be there. The report showed a 16.8% growth in sustainer growth and an 18.99% increase in repeat donations.  Donors appear willing to become - and stay - engaged. It's up to you to nurture that involvement.