Our 3 top takeaways from the 2024 M+R Benchmarks Study

May 1, 2024 • 3 minute read

The holy grail of nonprofit trends reporting has arrived! M+R’s 2024 study has landed, and it’s packed — as always — with the latest fundraising trends nonprofits need to know. At over 10,000 words long, this fundraising report is full of helpful insights, but we know most fundraisers won’t have the time to delve into the data themselves. So we’ve done the hard work for you, sifting through the charts to lift out the key advertising trends every charity in the U.S. should know as they move through 2024.

While email’s had a tough year, SMS is on the rise — and it’s securing stronger average gifts than email, making SMS a priority for any nonprofit.

Across the board, email metrics performed at a much lower rate in 2023 than 2022, and it was, on the whole, a fairly poor year, with email revenue declining by 7% compared to the previous year. This didn’t stop nonprofits from growing their email lists, largely through paid social advocacy activities. However, even advocacy campaigns struggled to hold their own, as donors became ever more fatigued by hand raisers and petitions. 

On the flipside, there was a shining light at the end of the tunnel, with the resurgence of SMS activity taking the spotlight in this year’s report. Mobile subscriber lists surged by 5%, with the Rights sector in particular leading the way with 485 mobile subscribers per 1,000 email subscribers. This spike shows a move toward more mobile-first approaches, and it’s paying off — income generated from SMS increased, generating $92 in revenue for every 1,000 messages sent, compared to just $76 for email. 

For charities who are looking for tips and tricks on how they might make their email programs work harder than ever in light of this news — check out our Fundraising resources for key guidance.

While digital advertising ROI has fallen slightly, this is likely due to an increased investment in connected TV, with upper-funnel spend increasing to 25% of the overall advertising share.

Advertising spend surged this year by 13%, despite an overall dip in ROI. This was driven in large part by increases in notoriously post-view channels, such as Connected TV and digital video, for which spend surged by 50% and 33% respectively. As a result, nonprofits saw their upper-funnel spend share increase to 25% of their overall program.

While it’s reassuring to see nonprofits leaning into platform diversification, we hope that as they continue to test upper-funnel activities, they’re crafting impactful measurement frameworks. This is key to quantifying the efficacy of above-brand approaches, which are notoriously difficult to track through last-click or data-driven frameworks.  

Luckily, this is an area we’re experts in, having shaped custom pressure tests for many of our clients to quantify the impact of above-brand activity. If you’d like to hear more about how we can help you shape a method that works for you, get in touch!

In the face of slowing web traffic growth and conversion, nonprofits are implementing diversified payment methods to meet donors where they are.

Web traffic growth slowed this year, declining from 2022’s 20% growth to just 15%. For the donors who did make it to the site, conversion was lower than last year — dropping from 12% in 2022 to just 10%. The takeaway? Charities must work harder than ever to convert the users who land on their site.

While this doesn’t paint the most positive picture, it’s reassuring to see nonprofits are innovating checkout options — expanding their use of alternative payment methods to give donors easy-to-use checkout options. Notably, PayPal was the most used option (67%), followed by Apple Pay (38%) and Google Pay (30%).

All of this underlines the importance of going the extra mile to convert site visitors. Not only does this include mixed checkout options, it means engaging users as effectively as possible to nurture intent and increase conversion from a slowly depreciating pool.

Our closing thoughts

As we reflect on the ebbs and flows of 2023, one thing’s abundantly clear — the nonprofit marketing landscape is ever-changing and unpredictable. There’s testing and diversification taking place at scale, all of which is changing the face of fundraising.

With cookie depreciation on the horizon in Q3 of this year, we have no doubt the story’s only just beginning, and that next year’s M+R Benchmarks study will leverage even more insight. But until then, we’ll continue to guide our clients through the landscape.

If you’re in need of strategic guidance as you use this advertising report to diversify your fundraising program, reach out — there’s nothing that means more to us than helping good organizations do good things.

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