Online fundraising yields favorable results in 2013, study finds

If history has a way of repeating itself, then nonprofits may find themselves having to accept online donations even more in 2014.

According to a recent study released by M+R and the Nonprofit Technology Network, the average one-time online donation in 2013 was $68. More than 5.6 million number of gifts amounted to nearly $325 million for nonprofit organizations, or an estimated 1.7 cents for every fundraising message. Each website visit yielded about 60 cents for the 53 charities surveyed, the report found. Social media and direct email messages were found to be drivers in steadily climbing nonprofit website traffic.

Further information released from "The 2014 M+R Benchmark Study" included:

  • Email fundraising still has a pulse, as more than 2.1 million messages were sent to nearly 42 million e-subscribers for a click-thru rate of 0.45 percent
  • Email lists grew at 14 percent on the whole
  • Environmental groups sent the most emails at an average of 5.6 per month
  • Nonprofit online donation forms drew a lot of Web traffic in 2013: There was a 14 percent increase in both online revenue and in the number of gifts
  • 16 percent of nonprofit online revenue came from monthly donations at an average of $20
  • Social media's impact was large as well; nonprofit Facebook presence grew 37 percent last year
  • Twitter annual growth jumped 46 percent
  • Nonprofits were posting more than one update on Facebook each day and averaged more than five tweets per day

Although response rates were slightly down for direct email marketing, the research shows that it still yields results, and does so in a cost effective and convenient manner. On the macro level, nonprofits are beginning to effectively reach donors across multiple channels, including email, social media and more traditional methods like phone calls and direct mail. Even charities' websites drew more traffic last year - a 16 percent increase, to be exact. 

What's more promising is that nonprofits' homepages served as an online fundraising tool of sorts: M+R's study found that of Web users who made it to the organization's donation form converted at a rate of 15 percent. In support of historical trends, nonprofit marketing output increased significantly during the holiday months and as a result, so did online giving. The average number of fundraising messages a nonprofit churned out in December of last year was seven - more than 80 percent of its overall content output that month.

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