Non-Profits Upped Their Email Volume in 2016

May 8, 2017

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Email | Non-Profit | Social Media

Non-profits sent 10% more emails in 2016 than in 2015, averaging 69 messages per subscriber through the year, according to the latest annual M+R Benchmarks Study. The greatest increase in email volume came in the form of fundraising emails, up 27% year-over-year to an average of 2 per subscriber per month. That’s more than any other type of email sent, with advocacy messages (20 per subscriber for the year) next.

This past year, Environmental groups sent out the most emails, with an average of 86 messages per subscriber, followed by Rights groups, with 82 messages per person. The largest share (~40%) of these messages were for fundraising purposes. Health organizations, meanwhile, sent the fewest emails with only 47 total messages per subscriber.

Email Lists

Even though email lists didn’t grow as much as in the previous 2 years, most sectors analyzed did experience list growth. Small companies saw the biggest jump in their lists, with a 17% increase (down from a 23% increase in 2015), while medium-sized organizations fared the worst when sorting by size, gaining only 4% more subscribers. Cultural and Rights agencies each managed to collect 21% more email addresses, a big win especially for Rights organizations, which lost 3% of their base in 2015. Health groups were the only sector that saw shrinking lists this year (-4%).

Each sector maintained a larger number of subscribers to their email lists than followers on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

Fundraising Response Rates

Perhaps as a result of increased volume, response rates fell. The average open rate across message types declined by 7% to 15%, and click-through rates declined for each specified message type.

Public Media and Education groups enjoyed the highest open rates (18% each) for fundraising emails, while International organization emails were only half as likely to be opened (9%). Education (0.57%) and Wildlife/Animal Welfare groups (0.56%) had the highest click-through rates for these types of messages, more than double the rate for their Hunger/Poverty organization counterparts (0.26%).

Smaller non-profits, meanwhile, saw higher fundraising email open and click rates than their larger counterparts.

Online Revenue From Email

On average, 26% of all online revenue for the non-profits sampled came from email. The sectors that gained the most benefit from email sends were Rights and Wildlife/Animal Welfare groups, which received 44% and 42% of online revenue, respectively, from email solicitations. For Health non-profits, email accounted for only 3% of online revenue; however, they also received the greatest return. Specifically, Health organizations made $81 for every 1,000 fundraising emails they delivered. The next highest, at $62 per 1,000 emails, went to Cultural groups. The average non-profit received $36 for every 1,000 emails.

About the Data: The report is based on 133 non-profits who contributed data for the 2016 calendar year. The email data is from an analysis of almost 3.6 billion email messages sent to about 50 million list subscribers. More than $535 million in online donations from 8.3 million online gifts and 7.2 million advocacy actions were also tracked.


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