Nonprofits' Online Revenue Grew 1 Percent in 2018, Study Finds

Nonprofits' Online Revenue Grew 1 Percent in 2018, Study Finds

Online fundraising revenue at U.S. nonprofits rose 1 percent in 2018, after recording 23 percent growth in 2017, an annual survey by M+R finds.

Based on data from a hundred and thirty-five nonprofits, the 2019 M+R Benchmarks Study found that overall online revenue was relatively flat on a year-over-year basis, while online revenue for "rights" organizations fell 14 percent — after seeing an 88 percent jump in 2017 — with smaller declines for health, international development, and wildlife and animal welfare groups. According to the report, the flat growth in 2018 may be a natural reaction to the large increase in 2017, and 2019 may see a return to a more normal growth trendline.

At the same time, the report notes that new peer-to-peer fundraising tools may have affected the 2018 data; for example, revenue raised via Facebook Fundraisers, which accounted for 99 percent of all revenue processed through Facebook for surveyed charities, is not included in the overall calculation — even though Facebook Fundraisers appear to be a valuable new source of giving for many nonprofits, especially health nonprofits, which received $29.88 through Facebook for every $100 in online revenue received from all other sources.

The survey also found that revenue from one-time gifts in 2018 fell 2 percent, while monthly giving revenue rose 17 percent, and that retention rates dropped across all giving levels, with slightly more than a third (37 percent) of donors who made an online gift in 2017 giving to the same nonprofit in 2018. 

In addition, the survey found that digital ad budgets jumped an average of 144 percent in 2018, with small nonprofits more than tripling their investment in ads. And while mobile devices accounted for 48 percent of all traffic to nonprofit websites, mobile generated only 30 percent of donations and 21 percent of total revenues. According to the report, however, while mobile lists tend to be much smaller than email lists, mobile users engage at a relatively high rate. 

"Another way of looking at 2018 online revenue: nonprofits were poised, with nearly perfect balance, between growth and decline," the report's authors conclude. 

"LOOK: The 2019 M+R Benchmarks Study Is Here!." M+R Blog Post 04/25/2019. "2019 M+R Benchmarks Study." M+R Report 04/25/2019.