M+R Benchmarks Report: Online giving continued ticking upwards in 2021 (US)

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May 2022

Overall online giving to nonprofits increased by three percent in 2021 in the US, according to a new report. Monthly giving increased by 24 percent, accounting for 22 percent of all online revenue in 2021. This new data is reported in the 2022 M+R Benchmarks Study, a report released annually by M+R, a communications agency that works with nonprofits and foundations to advance their causes online, in the media, and on the ground.

The data tells the story of how online giving is continuing to evolve following the early shockwaves of the pandemic in 2020: After an enormous spike in giving in 2020 for Hunger and Poverty nonprofits, this sector saw a 32 percent decline in online revenue in 2021. Nonprofits in the Cultural space, in contrast, saw a 27 percent increase in online revenue as vaccines made it more possible to open doors and host events.

Below are six other top takeaways from the M+R Benchmarks Study. The study is full of dozens more charts and specific takeaways by nonprofit sector (Cultural, Disaster/International Aid, Environmental, Health, Hunger/Poverty, Public Media, Rights, and Wildlife/Animal Welfare).

  • Fundraising: Total online revenue grew by 3% in 2021, while the number of gifts increased by 5%. These relatively modest figures came after extraordinary revenue growth in the first year of the pandemic.
  • Email: Email list sizes increased by 7% in 2021, building on 4% and 2% growth in the previous two years. The average response rate for advocacy email was 1.8%, a 4% increase over the previous year. The average open rate across all email messaging was 22%, a 16% jump from the previous year.
  • Web Engagement: The majority of nonprofit website traffic came from users on mobile devices — 54%, with 46% of traffic from users on desktop devices. However, users on desktop devices made up the majority of donation transactions (65%) and revenue (76%). The average gift made on a desktop device was $75; for mobile users, the average gift was $46.
  • Social Media: Public Media nonprofits were the most active on Facebook, with 3.7 posts per day. The average for all nonprofits was 1.0 posts per day. While revenue from Facebook Fundraisers declined by 20% from the previous year, Facebook Fundraisers still accounted for 1.1% of all online revenue in 2021. 23% of nonprofits reported being active on TikTok last year.
  • Digital Ads: Nonprofit spending on digital ads increased by 19% in 2021, with nonprofits spending an average of $0.06 for every dollar raised in online revenue. Return on ad spend (ROAS) was highest for search ads ($3.72). Large nonprofits (those with annual online revenue over $3MM) spent 52% of total advertising budgets on direct fundraising, while Small nonprofits (those with annual online revenue under $500k), devoted 74% of budgets to direct fundraising ads.

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