Nonprofit Email Metrics Fall, Revenue Grows: Study

Nonprofit groups pulled in 24% more revenue by email in 2017 than they did the year before, even while every other email metric declined, according to this year’s M+R Benchmarks study. In contrast, the email growth rate was 19% in 2016. 

Email contributed 28% of all online giving, and beat the overall growth average of 23%. But email list growth — 11% — was outpaced by that of Instagram (44%), Twitter (15%) and Facebook (13%).

In addition, open rates for fund raising and advocacy fell by 1%. And fund-raising click-through rates fell 6% to 0.42%.

In general, fund-raising email response rates fell to 0.06%, to 2.2%, and advocacy rates declined to 2.2%. Page completion rates declined by 6% to 17%, and advocacy rates by 4% — to 76%.

The result: nonprofits had to send a fund-raising message to about 1,667 recipients just to generate a single donation. But that doesn’t mean that email has stopped working.

“The messages that land in an inbox may be clicked on less than before, but they are supplemented by hashtags, News Feeds, web visits, banner ads, and more,” the study notes.



Here are some email results by nonprofit vertical:

Environmental groups sent more emails per year per subscriber — 89 — compared with 66 for every other sector.

Of those recipients, 8% took an action three or more times, compared with a 6% average. 

Health nonprofits increased their email revenue by 41%, although they had the lowest volume — 38 messages per subscriber per year. They sent the lowest number of fund-raising messages: six, compared to an average of 25.

Organizations related to hunger and poverty pulled the most revenue per 1,000 fund-raising emails: $138, compared with an overall average of $42. And their lists grew by an above-average 19% — a “remarkable change,” given that their email list size suffered 1% declines in 2015 and 2016, the study says.

The international sector pulled an average email monthly gift of $27, compared with an $18 average. And its revenue per 1,000 fund-raising emails delivered grew by 40.2%. But

But it suffered an 8% falloff in email list size — the only sector to experience a decline. The study said this could be a symptom of the area’s high churn, including a 15.7% bounce rate (vs. an average of 10.0%) and a 9.2% unsubscribe rate (vs. a 7.6% average.

The Public Media sector produced the lowest share of revenue with email (10%), and the Wildlife/Animal vertical the highest (57%), the study notes.

Overall, 1.0% of nonprofit website visitors joined an email list, and 1.1% completed a donation.

The study is based on data from 154 nonprofits.


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