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Nonprofits’ Online Fundraising Grew 21% in 2012

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Online and email programs continued their upward trend for nonprofits of every size and in all issue areas in 2012, according to a new study.

Research released last week by M+R Strategic Services and Nonprofit Technology Network showed that email list sizes were up by 15% compared with 2012 totals, and online revenue grew by 21%, with only the international sector showing a decrease.

The 2013 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study said these numbers suggested that online programs were attracting a bigger audience and were bringing in more donations than ever before; monthly online giving increased by 43%.

Moreover, nonprofits kept attracting social media users. The number of Twitter followers grew by 264% over the past year, while the number of Facebook fans expanded by 46%.

Still, email lists continue to dominate in size, the report said. For every 1,000 email subscribers, groups in the study had 149 Facebook fans and 53 Twitter followers.

The report collected data about email messaging, email list size, fundraising, online advocacy, Facebook, Twitter and mobile programs from 55 U.S.-based national nonprofits.

The results were not all positive. Email response rates declined by 21% last year.

Click-through rates fell by 27%, resulting in a 21% drop in fundraising response rates. Advocacy response rates fell by 8%, hitting rights and international groups hardest.

The report said real-world events outside the control of any organization’s email program could account for the decreased in response rates.

“Aggressive electoral campaigns, a relative shortage of major legislative battles compared to 2011, and the lack of a major international humanitarian crisis in the news may have hurt responsiveness for some organizations,” it said.

The report noted that lower response rates were also part of a long-term trend in the study in which fundraising response rates have never increased from year to year. It said this might be driven in part by the practice of continuing to send fundraising messages to unresponsive email addresses over long periods.