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Online Giving Still Fastest Growing Fundraising Channel with Almost 16 Percent Increase in 2011

(April 10, 2012) Americans and Canadians like to engage nonprofits online. The Convio Online Marketing Nonprofit Benchmark Index™ Study shows that online engagement continues to rise in importance for nonprofit organizations, with 2011 data highlighting that online fundraising jumped at a 15.8 percent median growth, with 73.4 percent of all organizations raising more money than they did in 2010.

Small organizations, those with files containing 10,000 or fewer email addresses, experienced even stronger momentum with the median online giving growth rate measuring in at 26.7 percent. Hospitals and food banks also significantly outpaced the median rate at 45.1 percent and 24.2 percent, respectively. Other growth areas are online legislative advocates at 17 percent, email files at 17 percent and web traffic at 11 percent. The full study is available at

“At a macro-level, online engagement is continuing to grow at a healthy clip. In fact, the past six years of data illustrates that online fundraising is mirroring the growth rate of retail e-commerce, which is good news for nonprofits,” said Vinay Bhagat, founder and chief strategy officer for Convio. “I am particularly encouraged to see strong acceleration in monthly giving – a new metric we added to the study this year – as it points to donors being more financially secure in support of a rebounding economy.”

Key Findings

  • Online fundraising continues to grow robustly: The median online revenue growth rate in 2011 was 15.8 percent, compared to 20 percent in 2010. The primary drags in growth are attributed to the reduction in funds raised by the Disaster & International Relief segment after a very strong response to Haiti in 2010, and a slowing in the pace of special event fundraising.
  • Online represents a strong donor acquisition channel: First time online gifts represented 37 percent of total median online revenue.
  • Online giving continues to grow fastest for small organizations: Organizations with 10,000 or fewer email addresses grew median revenue by 26.7 percent, compared to those with email files greater than 250,000 that grew at only half that rate.
  • Sustainer (monthly giving) programs are growing very strongly: The median growth in online revenue from sustainer programs was 38.7 percent. Sustainer programs represented 6.9 percent of total online giving and 18.8 percent of all online gifts. Verticals with significant recurring giving programs include Association & Membership, Canadian Organization, Food Bank and Public Broadcasting Stations.
  • Advocacy continues to play key role in online engagement: Online legislative advocate counts grew a median of 17 percent. Advocates represented 12 percent of total email files.
  • Cross-over between fundraising and advocacy is increasing: The median number of online donors also advocating grew 14.6 percent. Advocates that donate online increased by 24.6 percent, a nearly fourfold increase from 2010.

Canadian Results

For the first time, Canadian nonprofits are included in the study. Canadian organizations experienced tremendous growth in online engagement, including a 77 percent increase in online advocates and a 7.4 percent median increase in average monthly gift. Future studies will continue to track Canadian organizations to provide the most complete picture of online engagement in North America.

Online Fundraising and Retail E-Commerce
For the last six years, since 2006, online fundraising growth rates have mirrored the growth rates in retail e-commerce:

Online Fundraising Growth Rates

Retail E-Commerce Growth Rates
(based on data from eMarketer)

2006 – 27 percent

2006 – 23.5 percent

2007 – 26 percent

2007 – 20.8 percent

2008 – 14 percent

2008 – 18.6 percent

2009 – 14 percent

2009 – 17.2 percent

2010 – 20 percent

2010 – 16.0 percent

2011 – 16 percent

2011 – 15.0 percent

This year’s study analyzes data compiled from more than 700 nonprofit organizations in the U.S. and Canada that have at least 24 months of online usage data, and who collectively raised more than $1.22 billion online in 2011. The study aggregates results into benchmarks that nonprofit organizations can compare against their peer group and the industry as a whole. In addition the study provides separate benchmarks for 19 nonprofit industry sub-groups, or verticals.

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