Non-Profits Sent More Emails Last Year, but Email-Driven Revenues Declined

May 23, 2023

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Email | Industries | Non-Profit

Email campaigns didn’t quite pack the same punch last year as they have in the past for non-profits, per the latest annual M+R Benchmarks report. The volume of emails sent by non-profits was up by 15% to an average of 60 emails per subscriber, according to the report, with fundraising emails accounting for about half of the volume. However, non-profits reported a 4% decline in email revenues from 2021.

Disaster/International Aid organizations were the highest-volume senders in 2022, as they were in 2021, with a median average of 98 messages per subscriber, while Hunger/Poverty non-profits sent out the fewest emails per subscriber, at less than half as many (43).

Continuing a historical trend, Fundraising emails accounted for the largest share of emails sent by non-profits last year, with a median average of 29 fundraising emails sent to each subscriber over the course of the year (or about 2.5 per month).

Email List Sizes Contract

Following increases in list sizes in both 2020 (+9%) and 2021 (+8%), non-profits’ email subscriber counts shrunk slightly last year, by 2%. In fact, 6 of the 8 non-profit sectors analyzed suffered a decline in email list sizes, with Wildlife/Animal Welfare (-6%) the most heavily affected. By contrast, Cultural non-profits enjoyed an increase in list size of 17%, marking the third consecutive year of double-digit increases.

Overall, list churn was more impacted by unsubscribes than by bounces.

In a new metric included in this year’s study, M+R notes that the radio of ad-acquired leads to email list size was 0.09, meaning that “a non-profit that began 2022 with an email list of 100,000 addresses acquired 9,000 new leads via ads over the course of the year.”

Fundraising Response Rates, Revenues Fall

The average response rate for fundraising emails last year declined by 18% y-o-y to 0.09%. In this case, response rate is calculated as the percentage of email recipients who completed a gift. This response rate means that the average non-profit would need to send emails to more than 1,000 recipients to generate a single donation.

Fundraising email click-through rates also dropped, by 15%, with click-through rates for Advocacy (-10%) and Newsletter (-9%) emails also declining.

Overall, non-profits derived 15% less in email revenue per 1,000 fundraising emails sent in 2022 than in 2021. While this decline was felt by each of the sectors analyzed, it was most acute among Hunger/Poverty (-20%) organizations, and least problematic for Disaster/International Aid (-3%) organizations, likely in response to the war in Ukraine.

Email-Driven Revenue Drops

On average, revenue-per-email saw a slight decline last year, with the $90 generated for every 1,000 fundraising emails sent representing a 4% decline from 2021. Hunger/Poverty non-profits generated $202 in revenue per 1,000 messages, while on the other end of the scale, Cultural groups generated the lowest return of $34 per 1,000 messages.

Overall, non-profits’ email revenue declined by 4% last year, though this metric saw a large gap between the best-performing (Disaster/International Aid: +24%) and the worst-performing (Public Media: -34%).

Still, despite all these trends, email accounted for 14% of all of non-profits’ online revenues.

About the Data: The report is based on a survey of 215 non-profits who contributed data for the 2022 calendar year, and includes an analysis of 5.4 billion email and SMS messages.


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