Nonprofit fundraisers: If you sent the average subscriber on your list about 50 email messages last year, you’re pretty much on par with your peers, according to the 2016 M+R Benchmarks Study.

Titled “Benchmarks X,” the newly-released study includes 105 participants across eight sectors and is intended to be a tool to help nonprofit professionals compare their own results to their peers and competitors.

Here are four findings from this year’s study that I found particularly interesting, as well as some advice on how best to leverage them:

1. The average nonprofit in the Benchmarks X Study sent the average subscriber on its list 49 email messages in 2015.

Open rates, click-through rates, and response rates were down in 2015 for all types of messages. And yet, email revenue grew by 25 percent in 2015, faster than the 19 percent rate of online revenue growth overall. Email giving accounted for 29 percent of all online revenue last year, and nonprofits received $44 in donations for every 1,000 fundraising messages sent. With open rates, click-through rates, and response rates all declining, this increase comes down to volume. Volume, in two ways: more people and more messages. 

These findings confirm and affirm what we found in our Donor Loyalty Study. In a nutshell, when you send quality, personalized content with a frequent cadence, you’ll raise more money.

Specifically, our study found that quality, length, and frequency absolutely matter. Most donors prefer short, self-contained content. More than half of all donors want at least monthly communication, with Millennials wanting to receive content at least twice monthly.

And, personalization matters. Approximately 71 percent of donors feel more engaged with a nonprofit when they receive content that’s personalized.

Finally, content is not just king, it’s money. Donors are turned off by poor content, which may cause them to stop giving to your organization. In fact, a full 72 percent – seven in 10 donors – say poor content would have an effect on whether they continued to donate to a nonprofit.

Spend time on your email content; send frequent, clean, concise messages; and be diligent in your list segmentation! 

2. Overall, 13 percent of online gifts were made from mobile devices. 

In a recent Forward Together post, my colleague Amanda Myers reports, “While mobile technologies are still in their early days, usage is growing quickly with a recent survey by Accenture finding 14 percent of respondents routinely making payments via their mobile device, a number expected to surge to 22 percent by 2020.”

And, Reggie Henry, CIO of the American Society of Association Executives hosted a session at this year’s Abila User and Developer Conference focused largely on mobile. He says, “Develop a mobile mindset. Your current website and its structure are probably not useful on a mobile device. Responsive design is a must, but it’s just the cost of entry. Today, our customers are assessing the value of our services based, in part, on our ability to integrate into their digital world.”

3. For every 1,000 email subscribers, nonprofits have 355 Facebook fans, 132 Twitter followers, and 19 Instagram followers. 

Engagement with social media posts varied by sector, with Wildlife/Animal Welfare groups seeing the highest rates of engagement on both Facebook and Twitter, while Hunger/Poverty organizations saw the lowest engagement levels. Average engagement rates were 5.4 percent for Facebook and 1.6 percent for Twitter, including clicks, comments, shares, retweets, likes, and other actions.

There’s no denying that social sites are here to stay and play a role in how nonprofits connect with supporters. However, what we learned through our Donor Engagement Study is that donors feel more engaged with an organization through donating dollars and volunteering time, and feel less engaged around channels like social media and email.

So, my advice here is don’t get distracted by the shiny new objects. While many new tools, channels, ideas, etc. can help bolster your efforts to engage with your donors, they can also prove to be a distraction if the fundamentals aren’t in place.

4. Monthly giving accounts for 17 percent of all online revenue.

And, monthly giving is growing quite a bit faster than one-time revenue. In the first Benchmarks Study, only about half of the participants had a recurring giving program at all. 

The easier you make it for donors to give recurring gifts, they more you’ll likely receive them. Donation forms on your website should plainly and clearly give visitors ongoing payment options.

Case in point: Abila Fundraising Online (AFO) client, the Lexington Humane Society, has seen a major spike in monthly giving since revamping its online donor experience, including launching a new website and implementing AFO in January of 2016. With a new field titled, “Payment Plan” directly below donation amount on its “donate” page, the Society has gone from 113 donors giving $2,500 each month to 140 donors giving $4,200 each month. And that’s in just three-month’s time.

How do you stack up against your fundraising peers and competitors? Check out the infographic below and the full 2016 M+R Benchmarks Study.

M+R