Email, Search Marketing Bring in Big Donations for Nonprofit Organizations

by | 2 minute read

The average nonprofit organization is an email marketing machine. Last year, these organizations sent out an average of 66 messages per subscriber. Email continues to be a powerhouse tool for nonprofit fundraising. But, these organizations are also using other digital advertising formats. Here’s what works best for these groups.


The latest M&R Benchmarks Study shows that nonprofit organizations experienced an 11% boost in the size of their emails lists last year. Despite the growth in the names on the email lists, nonprofits averaged email open rates of about 16 percent. That open rate didn’t change much from the year before, but the CTRs have declined.

The CTR drop was especially noticeable in the fundraising category, which comprises most of the nonprofit email marketing activity. That CTR now stands at 0.42 percent.

In total, email remains a huge driver of online revenue for most nonprofit organizations: about 28 percent. For each 1,000 in fundraising emails sent, nonprofit organizations can expect about $42 in revenue.

Other Digital

The declining CTR rate for email has driven nonprofit organizations to explore marketing through other digital formats. The M&R Benchmarks Study looked at these formats, too. One of the most intriguing top-level statistics for nonprofit organizations is that they spend $.05 on marketing for every dollar of online revenue they receive. Overall, nonprofits boosted digital ad spending by 24% in 2017 and will likely boost their investment in digital again this year.

By ad intent, online spending for the typical nonprofit group broke out as follows last year:

  • Branding 10%
  • Lead generation 25%
  • Direct fundraising 63%
  • Other 2%

By channel, nonprofits allocate their digital ad budgets in these categories:

  • Display 25%
  • Search 28%
  • Social media 44%
  • Other 3%

The average cost per digital lead was $1.46. When looking at return on ad spending (ROAS), search delivers the best bet. Every dollar spent on search marketing results in $3.81 coming into the organization. By comparison, social media marketing is about a break-even proposition at $0.97.

The M&R Benchmarks report contains great information about marketing activities by type of nonprofit organization. You can combine that data with what you’ll find about target audiences in the AudienceSCAN profiles at AdMall from SalesFuel. Use all of these great statistics to help nonprofit organizations in your area improved their marketing and the great work they’re doing.

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice President of Research for SalesFuel. She holds a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Vermont and oversees a staff of researchers, writers and content providers for SalesFuel. Previously, she was co-owner of several small businesses in the health care services sector.

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