Nonprofits Strive to Be Heard Amid the Digital Noise

July 6, 2017

In an increasingly digital world, nonprofit organizations are intensifying their use of digital platforms for communication with donors and supporters. According to M+R Strategic Services’ 2017 Benchmarks Study, in 2016 nonprofits increased their digital presence in virtually all areas, including email, social media, website traffic, and paid digital advertising. Further, these increases in digital communication appear to be working, with an increase in online revenue of 14% and an 8% increase in web conversion rates.

The digital marketplace continues to become more saturated and highly competitive for nonprofits just as it does in the case of for-profit businesses. While nonprofit email lists grew by 10%, and the number of email messages sent by nonprofits increased by 10% as well, open rates declined by 7% (for an industry average of just under 15%) and the response rate for fundraising messages dropped by 8%. So while online giving rates are on the rise, digital communication efforts to achieve these results is becoming increasingly labor-intensive.

A startling figure that arose in the data was the 69% increase in nonprofit spending on digital advertising. Will Valverde, chief author of the M+F report, indicated several possible reasons for the steep jump. “First, ads are more effective now. When you start seeing good results, you tend to invest more in them,” Valverde said. Other reasons may be that organizations feel the need to offset the drop in their email open rates, and that digital advertising is the next logical step for many nonprofits after they update their website and invest in mobile technology to enhance their digital presence. In any case, the primary goal appears to be fundraising, as 60% of the ads placed were designed to drive traffic to online giving pages.

The upsurge in digital communications corroborates the findings of ECFA’s Generosity Project, which determined that givers, and millennial givers in particular, pay attention to all digital channels of communication, although their willingness to give and/or promote ministries on social media remains nebulous.

To read more about M+R’s findings, click here.


This text is provided with the understanding that ECFA is not rendering legal, accounting, or other professional advice or service. Professional advice on specific issues should be sought from an accountant, lawyer, or other professional.


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