The 2019 M+R Benchmark Report is out and, like most assessments of 2018, it offers a mixed perspective.
“Another way of looking at 2018 online revenue: nonprofits were poised, with nearly perfect balance, between growth and decline.”
So, how you see the year may depend which side of that fence you were on!
Overall, online revenue was up by 1%, virtually flat, compared to last year’s 23% increase.
The report points out some bright spots.
Revenue from recurring monthly gifts grew 17% and now accounts for 16% of online revenue.
Social media has experienced growth, with Facebook Fundraisers providing a sizable boost for some organizations.
Both of these trends underscore the importance of engaged, committed donors.
It notes some areas for concern as well.
Email, while still the “workhorse” of online fundraising saw declines open and click-through rates and an 8% fall-off in revenue. Meanwhile, lists continue to grow (up 5%) as do the number of messages per subscriber (up 8%).
Retention is falling. Only 25% of donors who made a first time gift in 2017 gave again in 2018. For the smallest givers ($25 or less) that drops to 10%.
And there are some areas in which the jury is still out.
Digital ad budgets grew by 144%, with just over half (55%) committed to direct fundraising, and the balance to lead generation (23%) or awareness and education (21%). Return on that investment is difficult to measure; it’s often not immediate or directly attributable.
Mobile web traffic continues to grow, currently accounting for 48% of visitors compared to 44% for desktop users. However, desktop users account for 63% of gifts and 71% of revenue. Again there are a number of possible reasons, from demographic changes to privacy concerns.
So, what does it mean to you?
It likely depends. The report is based on multi-year data provided by 135 non-profit organizations. There’s a lot of good information to be distilled, including dramatic variance among some sectors. You may need to dig into the details to figure out what applies to you.