Nonprofits' Online Revenue Rose 10 Percent in 2019, Study Finds

Nonprofits' Online Revenue Rose 10 Percent in 2019, Study Finds

Online fundraising revenue at U.S. nonprofits rose 10 percent on a year-over-year basis in 2019, up from 1 percent year-over-year growth in 2018, an annual survey by M+R finds.

Based on data from more than two hundred nonprofits, the firm's 2020 Benchmarks Study found that overall online revenue in 2019 saw a return to the long-term growth trajectory considered "normal" before the 2016 election. That trendline was broken following the 2016 election by a 23 percent jump in giving in 2017 to organizations and causes opposed to or targeted by the Trump administration, before leveling off in 2018. Online revenue among rights organizations fell for the second consecutive year in 2019, down some 4 percent, while all other issue areas saw increases, led by hunger/poverty (20 percent), health (15 percent), and the environment (12 percent). The study also found that online revenue for small nonprofits grew 13 percent in 2019, compared with 10 percent for large organizations and 8 percent for midsize nonprofits. 

For the first time since its debut fourteen years ago, the study recorded an increase in the overall response rate to fundraising emails, up 1 percent in 2019, to 0.05 percent. The email response rate for advocacy messages, on the other hand, was flat at 1.97 percent, while an 11 percent increase in the open rate, to 16.32 percent, and a 6 percent uptick in the click-through rate, to 2.77 percent, were balanced by a 4 percent decline in the page completion rate, to 73.53 percent.

The analysis also found that revenue raised via Facebook increased 6 percent on a year-over-year basis, accounting for 3.5 percent of all online revenue, and was heavily concentrated on or around GivingTuesday, with 26 percent of all Facebook-derived revenue raised in November and December; and that users on mobile devices accounted for half of all nonprofit website visits, up 11 percent from 2018; a third of the number of online donations, up 17 percent; and 25 percent of online revenue, up 21 percent.

"Nonprofits made a giant leap following the 2016 election, and the relatively flat growth curve two years later simply represented a return to normalcy," said Will Valverde, M+R creative director and author of the study. "For those of us who have been holding our breaths, hoping to see a return to what generally has been thought of as 'normal', some of that is here. That said, we know that the economic and social disruptions driven by this pandemic will wreak profound changes for nonprofits. Social media, mobile messaging, email, digital advertising, and other tools that help bring supporters closer to causes will be more important than ever in this moment."

"2020 Benchmarks Study." M+R Report 04/23/2020. "New Data: Online Giving to Nonprofits Grew by 10% in 2019." M+R Press Release 04/23/2020.