I discovered the 2016 M+R Benchmarks Study last week. It looks at a broad range of marketing data from participating nonprofits, such as email messaging, email list size, fundraising, online advocacy, web traffic, Facebook, Twitter, and mobile programs.

The findings of this study are fascinating. It’s concise and easy-to-understand (you can download it for free here), and offers great insight on what today’s nonprofits are doing when it comes to digital marketing.

My favorite section is when it transitions from discussing average benchmarks and explores the exceptional. What are the best of the best doing to drive fundraising and engagement through their marketing?

For the purposes of this analysis, they look at the 25 organizations with the largest year-over-year growth in total dollars raised online and assessed what makes their marketing strategy so effective. Let’s dig in…

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They prioritize email marketing

More than a third of all online revenue (34%) for leading nonprofits can be tracked directly to an email appeal. The average is 27%.

Revenue from email marketing, in fact, grew faster over the last year than overall online revenue. If you’re not doing email marketing, you should be.

They're not afraid to ask for help

The top 25 revenue growers averaged 27 fundraising appeals per subscriber last year, while the average was just 16. Leading nonprofit marketers ask their subscribers for help at least twice per month – how do you compare?

They're willing to invest

I recently spoke about one of the most underrated skills in using marketing to scale impact being the willingness to invest.

There’s proof again of that here. In proportion to revenue, top-performing groups are spending about six time as much as other groups on advertising.

Marketing is not a spend, it’s an investment. Don’t be shy.

They spend strategically

While they’re more than happy to invest dollars in their marketing, they closely align it to their strategic goals. Digital advertising budgets are largely devoted to identifying, acquiring, and converting new donors, with lead generation and new donor acquisition together accounting for 69% of total investments.

They don't know something that you don't

Utimately, there was no evidence in the data that the leading nonprofits were implementing particularly contrasting strategies to their less-successful peers.

Simply, they’re implementing strategies a little more effectively – spending more and spending more wisely, prioritizing certain acquisition channels, and ensuring they collect data to ensure they’re making data-driven decisions.

If you have a few extra minutes to spare, take a look at the full report here. It’s full of useful data and ideas you can take back to your organization.

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