Friday, April 01, 2011

The Convio Online Marketing Benchmark Index– Highlights and My Two Cents

There are two new large scale study reports on Nonprofits and technology just released in March 2011 that have quite a bit of noteworthy information in them. I am again writing two companion pieces on this topic:
You can check out my report on The Third Nonprofit Social Network Benchmark Report published by NTEN, Common Knowledge, and Blackbaud at the Nonprofit Capacity Blog at
This article has highlights – along with my commentary - from the Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index™ Study. The report uses data from nearly 600 nonprofit organizations that use the Convio Online Marketing platform.

I am often asked in my workshops about what are reasonable expectations for online engagement. This type of large scale study provides some reasonable benchmarks that can be used as goals. Keep in mind that all of these organizations are all at least somewhat established – many are at expert level. If you are just starting out you will need to work to reach these levels.

Here are some highlights:

Online is the fastest growing fundraising channel for nonprofits. In 2010, Convio’s clients raised more than $1.3 billion online, up 40 percent from 2009. Wow! Now that’s a big number!

Online giving is growing fastest for small organizations – 26% in 2010

Median donation size increased from $83.44 in 2009 to $91.94 in 2010

Website visit growth rate was only 2% and website registration rates declined. So don’t feel bad if your web traffic does not seem to be growing by leaps and bounds. The report speculates that some of this is due to emails and social media providing better communication and thereby having less traffic to websites to keep up to date. My opinion – we are all on web overload and trying to pare down anything that is not necessary.
The total number of email addresses grew by 22% in 2010. The number of email addresses on file has a direct impact on your organization’s ability to communicate, cultivate, and drive actions from constituents. However, the quality of your relationships and how email addresses were acquired are both important and a large email file alone will not guarantee your online success. Organizations that are growing their online results are proactive in collecting email addresses at events and at their facilities –with people they already have a good relationship with.

The open rate for email newsletters was 19% this year. Organizations need to continue to refine their subject lines, content, and use of segmentation to resonate with subscribers. There is a strong differentiation between those who do this well and those who don’t. The 3.06% click-through rate for email newsletters was down slightly from 2009 (3.3%) but remains almost double that of email fundraising appeals.

The Convio platform saw an increase of 19% in the number of online advocacy actions in 2010. There is a great disparity in the types of nonprofits using their email lists for advocacy. A big mystery to me is why 27% of animal welfare organizations are using online advocacy and only 2 ½% of human services organizatios did. Are animals worth spending more time advocating for than people? I do hope that more human services nonprofits will begin look past program delivery and to think about the power of advocacy. An interesting fact and nudge - 6.42 percent of online activists also supported the same organization financially online. Encouraging advocacy can be profitable on multiple fronts and I predict it will be a growth area for nonprofits using their online presence.

Convio concludes their report with this list of common attributes of organizations that have had the most success online:

• Success in driving traffic to their websites by optimizing search engine visibility, using paid search/advertising, offering compelling content, and promoting their site via other media including mail, DRTV and social media

• Effective content and incentives to convert website traffic into registered users who can then be cultivated into supporters

• Proven ability to build large email files via online registration programs, list uploads, and viral campaigns

• Effective email communication through compelling content, segmentation, and personalization to sustain interest in their programs

• Engaging online members through online advocacy and developing strategies to engage new audiences through social networking websites

• Timely delivery of critical/urgent fundraising or advocacy appeals which resonate with constituents

• Proactively test methods aimed at optimizing donation form conversion rates.

• Develop strategies for segmenting email audience and developing dynamic ask-strings that go beyond current Recency, Frequency, Monetary models.

• Engaging and converting offline members/donors through online communications

• A high response rate for online appeals, generated by having an effective case for supporting their organization, segmenting and personalizing their appeals, and testing elements of each email, such as the subject line, frequency, and delivery timing

To see the full detailed report with information by segments, click here


Cheryl said...

Thanks for the blog post. One other trend we're seeing is that engaging supporters through multiple channels improves retention. I think one great example of that is how much more advocates give. That extra level of engagement makes them more committed to the cause and more likely to open the wallets. Anecdotally, I know I am more inclined to give to the organizations I also volunteer with and I greatly appreciate communication in a few ways (though email is my fav). It's nice to meet and actually talk to ther person behind the email a few times a year.

-Cheryl, Convio

Marion Conway said...


Thanks for this extra comment about advocates giving and thanks to Convio for this comprehensive report.

I think using their online presence for advocacy is going to be a major next step for nonprofits and I hope to write more about it this year.


Anonymous said...

It is important to remember to be patient with this. You can't really expect to attract that much attention overnight. These things take time. Cheryl also brings up a very good point about engagement. The more you reach out, the more people get to know you, which in turn, raises retention.

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