Email-Derived Revenues Down For Non-Profits in 2018 Despite List Size Growth

May 9, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Email | Industries | Non-Profit

Non-profits sent an average of 59 email messages per subscriber in 2018, an 8% increase from 2017, according to the latest annual M+R Benchmarks Study. Fundraising emails were responsible for the largest proportion of emails sent, at about 2 per month (25 annually), followed by Newsletter emails (11 per subscriber for the year).

International non-profits sent out the most emails in 2018, with an average of 104 messages per subscriber, while Health organizations, once again, sent the fewest emails with 44 total messages per subscriber.

Although Fundraising emails constituted the largest share of non-profit emails overall, some groups favored other types. For example, Public Media non-profits sent far more Newsletters (54 per subscriber) than Fundraising emails (19 per subscriber). Cultural groups also favored Newsletters.

Advocacy email volume fell considerably (-14%) after the previous year’s 23% year-over-year increase per subscriber.

Email Lists Grow

Even though email lists didn’t grow as much as in the previous 2 years, the non-profits surveyed on average saw their list sizes grow by 5%. Health groups saw the largest increase in list size – of 74% – while Wildlife/Animal Welfare experienced an 18% decline from 2017.

Non-profits maintained a larger number of subscribers to their email lists than followers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Fundraising Response Rates

Response rates didn’t show any improvements last year. The average open rate across message types fell to 15%, while click-through rates remained flat across message type.

Fundraising emails registered a decline in open rates but saw a 4% increase in click-through rates.

Hunger/Poverty groups enjoyed the highest median open rate (21%) for Fundraising emails, while International groups’ emails were about half as likely to be opened (11% each).

Wildlife/Animal Welfare groups (0.53%) had the highest click-through rates for these types of messages, more than double the rate of Public Media groups (0.23%).

Online Revenue From Email Falls

On average, 13% of all online revenue for the non-profits sampled came from email. Lower response rates in 2018 may have contributed to an overall 8% decrease in email-derived revenues, with Rights non-profits taking the biggest hit with a 40% decline in revenues from 2017.

The area that gained the most benefit from email sends was the Environmental sector, which received 21% of its online revenue from email solicitations.

Overall, non-profits collected $45 per 1,000 Fundraising emails delivered. Hunger/Poverty and Cultural groups both averaged the greatest return per 1,000, of $70, whereas Wildlife/Animal Welfare groups managed only $26 per 1,000 emails.

There are many more statistics covering email, social media, conversion rates, and donations in the study, which is available for download here.

About the Data: The report is based on a survey of 135 non-profits who contributed data for the 2018 calendar year. The email data is from an analysis of almost 4.4 billion email messages sent to more than 37 million list subscribers. More than $376 million in online donations from 7 million online gifts.

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