• Read time: 6 minutes

The annual M+R Benchmarks Study provides comprehensive and reliable benchmark metrics for a vast array of nonprofit digital data—and it all comes down to the wonderful, kind, generous nonprofit participants who provide the data grist for our Benchmarks mill. 

The window to sign up as a Benchmarks participant is open NOW—and it closes December 13th. Don’t be fooled—this isn’t one of those “when a window closes, a door will open” situations. Save yourself from Benchmarks FOMO and sign up now!

Not sure if participating in our 2020 Benchmarks Study is for you? We’ve put together a handy Q&A to help you decide: 


Q: Should I participate in the M+R Benchmarks Study?
A: Yes. Sign up here. 

Q: Oh wow. Okay then, that was pretty straightforward. Anything else I should know?
A: Probably it would be good to find out what Benchmarks is.

Q: Yeah, what is the 2020 M+R Benchmarks Study?
A: The M+R Benchmarks Study is our annual look at nonprofit digital programs. We collect data on fundraising, advocacy, marketing, digital ads, social media, SMS, and more from dozens of nonprofits. Then we provide averages, analysis, and insights to help guide your digital strategy. All the findings are made freely available.

Q: Can I participate even if I’m a small nonprofit?
A: Yes, nonprofits of all sizes are welcome and encouraged to participate! The larger and more diverse our participant pool is, the more reliable the numbers we report are. We typically break out our metrics so you can find your peers among Small, Medium, and Large nonprofits (determined by your annual online revenue). 

Q: Wouldn’t it be cool if, in addition to finding my peer group by revenue, I could also look specifically at other nonprofits in my issue area?
A: No, that is not cool. It is extremely cool, and it is also exactly how we do things. Benchmarks includes data breakdowns by sector, so you can see how averages among peer nonprofits working in your issue area compare to your own results. But here’s the thing: we can only report that detailed data if we have enough participants in a given sector. So the best way to improve your Benchmarks experience is to participate and help make sure we have a large enough sample size to deliver reliable results. 

Q: Are there any sectors in particular you are looking to recruit?
A: We especially encourage participants from Public Media, Cultural, and Hunger and Poverty to join the 2020 M+R Benchmarks Study

Q: All right, let’s say I decide to sign up. What happens then?
A: We’ll send you templates and instructions and everything you need to make things as simple as possible. You’ll pull your data in January, and then we’ll take it from there. 

Q: January you say? That’s a busy time of year for me. About how long will this take?
A: The data we pull is extensive but pretty standard: list size and social media presence, online giving numbers, email metrics, that sort of thing. The whole thing can take 8+ hours, and we do our best to make this as easy and straightforward as possible.

Q: What if I run into problems or have questions, should I just give up and not participate?
A: No, that’s a terrible attitude! We will host a participant kickoff call to walk you through the process and answer any questions, plus you’ll be invited to a participants-only Slack channel where you can ask questions and share amusing gifs. 

Q: Will you protect my data?
A: We’ve gotten a little silly a couple times during this Q&A, but there will be no jokes here: we take the privacy and integrity of your data absolutely seriously. We take measures at every step of the process to make sure your organization’s data is confidential and non-identifiable. 

Q: Wait hold on I forgot to ask: what’s in it for me?
A: Well, you’ll get an advance copy of the study digitally, in addition to hard copies once the study is released. You’ll also receive an individualized analysis comparing the data you submitted for your organization to other organizations of your size and type. Participants often end up with a much deeper understanding of their own metrics, and identify opportunities and challenges within their own programs. Plus, you get an invite to our study release party and we’re going to send you some little gifts. 

Q: Are there any reasons not to participate in the 2020 M+R Benchmarks Study?
A: For-profit companies can’t participate, so for example if you are the robotics and defense company Cyberdyne Systems, you are not allowed. Also, if you are Cyberdyne, please do not activate Skynet even if it seems like it will turn out well because it very much will not. Other people who should not participate: people who hate knowing things, people who hate other people knowing things, people who track all their donation data in a big old-timey Bob Cratchit ledger because we actually use computers and stuff for most of this. 

Q: These answers have been very clear and mostly convincing and mildly entertaining—what should I do if I have more questions not covered here?
A: Reach out to benchmarks@mrss.com.

Q: One last question: should I participate in the 2020 M+R Benchmarks Study?
A: Yes, sign up here!


Need to get your boss’s permission to sign up? Use this template email (just the highlights)!


I just found out M+R is recruiting participants for their 2020 Benchmarks Study. I think [OUR ORG NAME] should sign up! Here’s why:

  1. We’ll get a personalized report that summarizes all the fundraising, email, social media, and advertising data we give them in useful KPIs. The report will have sleek charts that compare us to other organizations of our size and our issue. This would be great to present [TO OUR HIGHER-UPS / AT AN UPCOMING MEETING] to show where our program is thriving, and where we need more investment.
  2. They’re going to have a Slack instance for all the nonprofits participating, and I think this will be a great opportunity to network with other organizations and learn what is working for them, potentially improving our program without the need to test everything.
  3. [IF APPLICABLE] This report hasn’t had our sector in the past because not enough organizations like us participate. I would like for us to be a leader in the [OUR NONPROFIT SECTOR] and encourage other organizations like us to join.
  4. Plus, we rely on this study to understand where our metrics fall. I think it’s time to give back to the nonprofit community and participate this year. 

Important note: M+R takes great care to make sure our numbers are confidential and not shared with any other organization, and they don’t ask for any personally identifiable data on our donors. 

In order to participate, we just have to fill in a survey before December 13th. Then in January, [MY TEAM] will pull the raw data and send it in. Have any questions? Feel free to ask me or consult M+R’s FAQ on participating in the Benchmarks Study


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