News and analysis
March 27, 2013

Online Giving Totals Rise by 21%, Study Finds

The sums charities raised online last year grew 21 percent compared with 2011 totals, and the number of Internet donations they received climbed 20 percent, according to a new report that analyzes online fundraising and advocacy at 55 charities.

The 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study was published by M+R Strategic Services, a fundraising and advocacy consulting company, and the Nonprofit Technology Network.

One of the brightest spots was monthly giving, which grew by 43 percent.

Nonprofits are actively promoting monthly giving, says Sarah DiJulio, a principal at M+R Strategic Services: “If you can convert a one-time donor into a monthly donor, your retention rates are so much higher.”

Response Rate Drops

But the study’s findings weren’t all positive. The share of people who made a gift in response to an e-mail fundraising appeal dropped 21 percent.

The reasons behind the decreases varied by type of group, say the report’s authors. For example, civil-rights and international development groups saw decreases in the number of people clicking through from e-mail messages, while for other organizations the number of people who started to make a donation but failed to complete the transaction was a bigger problem.

The report’s authors speculate that the presidential campaign, fewer legislative battles in Congress, and fewer humanitarian crises attracting news coverage might have also contributed to the decline. Another possible cause, they say: charities’ tendency to send e-mail appeals to people who have not given recently.

“There’s not a customary practice, like there is in direct mail, where after two years you might take a group of donors and put them in your lapsed file,” says Ms. DiJulio.

Over time, having a large number of unresponsive e-mail addresses drags down the response rate for the entire list.

The study also found that charities’ social-media efforts continued to grow in 2012. Organizations’ Facebook fans grew by a median of 46 percent, while their Twitter followers shot up by 264 percent.

Yet despite the growth, on average charities in the study had 149 Facebook fans and 53 Twitter followers for every 1,000 people on their e-mail lists.

Send an e-mail to Nicole Wallace.