Online Fundraising: How Public Media Measures Up to Other Nonprofits in 2018

Membership, email, online giving

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If you have wondered if your last fundraising email could have been more effective or if your online fundraising is performing at its best, we have good news. The 2018 M+R Benchmarks report offers a look into where public media's online fundraising performs relative to that of other nonprofits. The resulting data can provide an easy list of areas to tackle at your organization.

This mardi gras of metrics compiles data from across the nonprofit sector for a close look at the activities that constitute online fundraising: email, website performance, and social media. The M+R Benchmarks report sheds light on the details that contributed to last year’s 23% growth in total online revenue. (Specifically, a decrease in email open rates and conversion was countered by increasing email subscribers, more fundraising messages, the growth of subscription giving, and ever-expanding social media audiences). 

For the first time the report highlights public media organizations and describes a few major differences of our sector versus other organizations raising money online:

Conversion Rates Stand to Improve
In 2017, the average conversion rate of a public media donation page was 12%, meaning that just 12% of donation-page visitors actually made a donation. While this is a 74% increase from the year before, it is lower than the nonprofit industry average of 17%.

While On-Air Still Rules, Email Revenue Can Grow
While most nonprofits see the highest share of their online fundraising come from email (28%), in public media, email revenue accounts for just 10% of online revenue, likely due to the effectiveness of on on-air fundraising. But,  according to Ben Chambers, senior development officer at St. Louis Public Radio, that does not stop his organization from testing new strategies: “From changing segmentation to adapting emails to fit with social media promotions, we’re doing what we can to more effectively reach donors.”

Growth of Lists at Great Pace
And yet, Public Media’s email lists continue to grow at an enviable pace, with email lists growing by 41% compared to an industry average of 11%.

New Donor Retention Is Down
While much of the growth in donors is due to reaction to the 2016 election, this growth will not last forever and we will have to work hard to retain new donors. While most nonprofits increased their new donor retention numbers in 2017, new donor retention in public media dropped by 15.3%. Chambers adds that his organization “saw a spike in new donations after the 2016 election. We need to do everything we can to retain those donors (and re-engage those who lapse), but it’s not surprising to see a dip in retention after a spike in new donations.”

Facebook Success Growing, While Instagram Falling Behind
Finally, public media fared well on some social media platforms, increasing Facebook fans by 27% (vs. the overall average of 13%) but increased Instagram followers by only 28% compared to the industry average of 44%. Chambers says he sees the need to improve performance on Instagram, “As stations grow and become more able to produce beautiful images, we need to embrace platforms like Instagram that will give more depth to our work.”

If you want to see how your organization’s numbers compare against a wide variety of industry averages, visit Greater Public’s Online Revenue Detector which includes M+R Benchmark data in addition to other studies of online fundraising.

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