One of the great things about working in the digital communication field is that just about everything can be tracked. Visitor data. Usage patterns. Message effectiveness. A wealth of data is available, and, in the right hands, it can be used to reach a real understanding of what is and isn’t working for your nonprofit.

The downside is that all that data can be overwhelming. I’ve seen nonprofits struggle with analysis paralysis; they have trouble acting because they aren’t sure which metrics to focus on.

In an effort to help separate the signal from noise, below are five key digital metrics all nonprofits should be tracking on a monthly or quarterly basis. Also included are industry benchmarks for each metric and some simple ideas for improving your performance.

Nonprofit Metric #1: Online Revenue Growth

Online Revenue Growth: What is it and Why Should I Care?

For most nonprofits, generating revenue in the form of online donations is the single biggest goal of their web program. Stating the obvious, you should be paying close attention to how much you raise online and your year-over-year growth in online revenue. The goal should be to grow the amount you raise online each year.

Benchmark Data

According to the Blackbaud Luminate Benchmark study, their average nonprofit client raised $676,000 online in 2017 and grew their online revenue by 10.2% compared to 2016. When comparing your nonprofit to these benchmarks, I wouldn’t get too hung up on the overall amount Blackbaud reports. Blackbaud’s products can be expensive, so it’s natural that it’s clients will be larger nonprofits with healthy digital marketing budgets.

Growing your revenue by 10.2% each year is a great target for established nonprofits that have been at the online fundraising game for a long time. However, newer or smaller organizations that haven’t traditionally been aggressive online can achieve much faster growth by focusing on fundraising. We have helped a number of nonprofits double their online donations in a single year, and even had one nonprofit increase the amount raised tenfold.

Tips for Improving Online Revenue Growth

Ultimately, to raise money online you have to build a relationship with your supporters. You have to inspire people to give by telling your story well – through great content.

On a more tactical level, you should be thinking of your web program as a sales funnel. Develop strategies aimed at turning email list subscribers into first time donors, and first time donors into sustainers who give again and again. Use email list segmentation to optimize your email messaging for each group.

Nonprofit Metric #2: Email List Growth

Email List Growth: What is it and Why Should I Care?

While social gets all the hype, email is still the best way to activate people to donate. Put simply, the larger your email list, the more money you are likely to raise. Email is also a great way to promote your content and to drive other forms of action. Given the continued importance of email, it is vital to grow your email list each year.

Benchmark Data

According to Blackbaud, the average nonprofit email list grew by the same 10.2% as online revenue in 2017. The average Blackbaud customer has 70,000 subscribers. This correlation between growth in online revenue and email list size shouldn’t be a big surprise given how critical email is to online fundraising.

Email List Growth: How to Improve

To grow your email list you have to be proactive. Simply adding an email sign up to the footer of your site and waiting for people to sign up isn’t going to cut it. You need to actively recruit new supporters. Launch petitions and pledges. Run contests. Brainstorm ways to convert social followers to email list subscribers. Get clever about how you ask for new email sign ups on your site.

You should also focus your energy on organic list building tactics as opposed to purchasing email addresses. The goal should be to find people who are genuinely excited about your organization and who will engage in your mission and content. You aren’t going to get much value out of subscribers who get added to your list involuntarily.

Nonprofit Metric #3: Annual Revenue per Email Subscriber

What is Annual Revenue per Email Subscriber and Why Should I Care?

This metric shows how much revenue the average nonprofit generates from each email subscriber. This stat is critical to understanding whether or not you are maximizing the amount of money you are raising from your supporter base.

Benchmark Data

According to Blackbaud, each usable email was worth $13.24 in annual revenue to nonprofits in 2017. Blackbaud also found that 15% of list subscribers donated to nonprofits in a given year.

How to Improve Annual Revenue per Email Subscriber

If you are raising significantly less than $13.24 per email, you are likely leaving money on the table. I would take a close look at both the content and frequency of your fundraising emails. Experiment with different strategies until you find one that works. If you are raising more than $13.24 per email, keep it up!

Nonprofit Metric #4: Email List Open and Click-Through Rates

What are Email List Open and Click-Through Rates and Why Should I Care?

An email list open rate is the percentage of people who open the emails that you send. Click-through rates measure the percentage of people that click on a link in your email.

Benchmark Data

One of the depressing stats from the Blackbaud study is that nonprofits increased the amount of email they sent by 15%. That’s a lot. The glut of emails impacted the effectiveness of individual emails, as open and click-through rates both dropped. The following table shows average nonprofit click through rates by type of email, as reported by Blackbaud.

Average Open and Click Through Rates by Email Type for Nonprofits

Email Type Open Rate Click Through Rate
Fundraising 14.80% 0.55%
Email Newsletter 15.62% 1.25%
Other 16.20% 1.01%

How to Improve Email List Open and Click-Through Rates

In my experience, each list is unique. What works for some audiences doesn’t work for others. Experiment with how many emails you send, the time and day you send emails, subject lines, and the frequency in which you send to maximize your results.

Nonprofit Metric #5: Overall Website Visits

What is Overall Website Visits and Why Should I Care?

While most of our key metrics are focused on email and fundraising stats, obviously you should also be paying attention to overall trends in terms of website visits. In addition to simply communicating what your nonprofit does, your website is also the primary way you recruit new subscribers and donors. You want the number of visitors to your website to be constantly going up.

Benchmark Data

There isn’t any simple benchmark data for this that I am aware of. If you want to understand how you are doing, I would compare your site to that of other nonprofits in your sector. Compare things like the number of Google links, search rankings for strategic keywords, and the number of pages that Google has indexed.

How to Improve Overall Website Visits

The sites that attract the most traffic are the ones that create compelling content on an ongoing basis. If you have great content that your audience cares about, it will be relatively easy to attract visitors using tactics such as search engine optimization, search engine marketing, email newsletters, etc. Conversely, trying to drive traffic to a website that isn’t updated frequently is like trying to get blood from a stone.

In Conclusion

There are obviously a lot more metrics nonprofits can be tracking than what I’ve outlined in this post. I started with the most critical stats our team uses to measure the health of a web program. Later in the year we will release a white paper that breaks down more metrics nonprofits should track, provides actionable recommendations for how to improve, and includes examples from the best of the best.

Interested? Fill out the form below to receive the the white paper in your inbox when it is ready.


About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. For these clients and others, Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, helps manage crises, creates and implements online marketing strategies, and manages the development of custom applications and software.