Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

An insightful walkthrough of M+R’s annual Benchmarks Study

April 30, 2022
A young businesswoman sits at her desk and looks pensively at a pile of papers while she reviews the most recent M+R Benchmark Report for nonprofits.

M+R’s annual Benchmarks study offers abundant information on recent trends in forward-thinking nonprofit organizations’ marketing and fundraising efforts. Their most recent findings delve into the power and efficacy of digital marketing channels such as advertising, social media, and email.

To help your nonprofit organization glean the most relevant and impactful insights from this thorough study, let’s discuss some of the most prominent findings.

Digital ads

M+R notes that, while a nonprofit digital ads program can require intensive effort to run successfully, the value of these fundraising ads is undeniable. By breaking it down further, the study found that:

  • Nonprofits increased their spending on digital ads by 19% in 2021.
  • Nonprofits devoted 52% of their digital advertising budgets to direct fundraising asks.
  • Hunger and poverty nonprofits experienced a notably higher return on ad spend (ROAS), with a return of $12.60 for every dollar spent on search advertising, while most nonprofits from other sectors saw a $3 ROAS.
  • View-through revenue, or revenue generated from donors who gave after seeing but not clicking on an ad, contributed to 35% of all funds sourced from digital ads.

These numbers illustrate an intersection between the influences of global events and nonprofit strategy when it comes to executing an effective online advertising program. Yet, despite year-to-year fluctuations, digital ads are still immensely rewarding.

Email messaging and social media

When it comes to metrics such as email open rates, M+R notes the impact of technological changes, such as Apple’s updated privacy protections, could skew results. While email response rates and page completion rates dropped slightly from the previous year, email open rates jumped by 16%.

For nonprofit social media marketing efforts, M+R features in-depth statistics and graphs on supporter engagement:

  • For every 1,000 email addresses, nonprofits had an average of 736 Facebook fans, 229 Twitter followers, and 141 Instagram followers.
  • On average, Facebook Fundraisers generated five gifts each, with an average gift size of $35.
  • On Facebook, 30% of each organic post’s audience was not already following the nonprofit.
  • Facebook posts containing just a text-only link experienced the lowest engagement, with an M+R engagement score of 0.23%, compared to 0.31% for posts featuring photos and 0.32% for those with videos.
  • Notably, the average Facebook engagement score for nonprofits increased by 23% from the previous year.

These findings reinforce the importance of multichannel donor engagement. In order to maximize your nonprofit’s reach and secure as much support as possible, it’s crucial to diversify your communications to resonate with your donors’ varied preferences.

Membership and ticket sales

M+R reports that memberships that provide benefits, such as branded tote bags or free admittance to a museum, continued to generate more revenue, with a 6% increase in 2021.

While the pandemic certainly took a toll on membership- and ticket-related revenue, the study points out that membership email messaging performed better than non-member fundraising, with a response rate of 0.21% compared to 0.06%. At the same time, it’s essential to remember that your nonprofit’s ideal communication strategy depends on your unique priorities, resources, and goals.

Website performance

Mobile devices have become immensely popular and prevalent in modern fundraising. Noticing this, nonprofits have made significant efforts to engage their supporters where they prefer. From text-to-give to mobile-optimized donation pages, donors have more ways to support causes whenever and wherever they please.

Yet, M+R notes an unexpected finding in its study: “In 2021, the desktop share of nonprofit website traffic increased by 14%, while the mobile share declined.” In spite of this deviation from the recent trend, many overall takeaways remain consistent and clear:

  • The majority of traffic came from mobile users at 54%.
  • While users on desktop devices contributed an average gift of $75, the average gift size for mobile users was $46.
  • Organic traffic, or website traffic generated by unpaid search results, represented 41% of all nonprofit website visits.

With these findings, it’s clear that the key to maximizing revenue for your nonprofit is interacting with supporters on their device of choice. Whether you’re promoting mobile giving opportunities or redesigning your donation page, the more you consider the donor experience, the more motivated prospective donors will be to make a gift to further your purpose.

Implications for your nonprofit

If you’re curious about how your organization fits into these patterns, you can use M+R’s tool to benchmark yourself by filling in your own statistics and learning where you fall among other nonprofits in the study. As with any strategy, discovering insights for improvement will pave the way for greater success in the long run.

Ready to Get Started?

    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing