How does your file compare?

One of the better overviews of online fundraising was released this past week, the M+R/NTEN 2015 Benchmarks Report


The perspective is based on data from 84 nonprofits (up from 53 last year) and is well worth the read. The report looks at email messaging, fundraising, website engagement, social media and (new this year) paid web marketing. These organizations participate voluntarily in the interest of raising the bar, not just for themselves, but for the industry as a whole.

While there’s lots of fodder here, I found a couple of comparisons on email messaging of particular interest.

1. Are organizations becoming more discerning about advocacy outreach?

The average total number of messages sent fell by 10%, from 53 to 48. The average number of fundraising messages also fell slightly, but still represent almost 44% of messages sent. Advocacy messages took the big hit (down more than half) while the number of newsletters went up by a third.

For every 1,000 fundraising messages sent, by the way, these organizations raised $40, almost triple the $17 return reported last year.

2. Are constituents becoming more discerning about advocacy appeals?

Click-through rates can be considered one indicator of constituent engagement. Again, advocacy messages suffered, with click throughs down more than half.


Why? The report doesn’t say, but I wonder if in part it’s due to the increased use of advocacy as an engagement tactic combined with the flurry of faux advocacy efforts. Open rates went up for advocacy messages, from 13% to 16%. Genuine engagement is a challenge; authenticity is essential.

Click throughs held steady for newsletters (but surprisingly low!) and fundraising appeals.

3. Are constituents more discerning about emails in general?

While the organizations that provided this information reduced total messages sent 10%, file size reported was up 11%. That would represent a net increase in the number of emails out there – the level of noise.

Overall unsubscribe rates went up only slightly, from .18% to .19%. (Churn is highest in the month of December, not surprisingly.)

Another new piece of data (that we all need to watch!) looked at inactive addresses, constituents who have not recently engaged with the organization. Overall, 27% of constituents were inactive. Only 47% of responders reported suppressing these addresses in any way.

I’ll look into this further in a future blog.