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December is for two things: cooking great big extravagant feasts, and using every tool at our disposal to raise money. And the thing is, both of these activities expose our fundamental impatience — whether we’re sneaking a quick taste of pre-baked cookie dough or frantically hitting refresh on our fundraising results.
We’re carrying that energy into 2022. As always, we’re compiling and collating a mountain of data generated from last month’s fundraising efforts, but who wants to wait until that’s fully cooked? We’re hungry for data now.
So here it is: a first pass at the trends and top-line findings from about 30 of the nonprofits we work with. It’s not the full meal — that’ll come later this month. Think of it more as a quick stolen bite, the kind you scarf down secretly while standing at the stove as the cooking continues.
- Up. And down. And up. And down. Kinda like…2021. Overall, groups were split on whether they raised more or less overall digital revenue than end-of-year 2020 — in fact, our sample was split exactly 50/50! This includes all online revenue — ads, email, sms, etc. You might begin to believe there is no normal anymore. In 2020, maybe your results fell (because COVID) or rose (because COVID). And then in 2021 — wait, do you compare it with the strange 2020 results or… what?
- Some things never change. In 2020, some sectors — like hunger and poverty — experienced huge spikes in giving. Others, not so much. In 2021, same. We continued to see groups whose issues were in the news in the final months of the year experience spikes in fundraising — whether they worked on disaster response to midwest tornados or responding to news coming out of the Supreme Court. And those who weren’t in the news… didn’t do as well, generally speaking.
- Fewer gifts, higher averages! However, one trend that did come through loud and clear was that the majority of groups received fewer gifts, but a higher average gift compared to last year.
- Email is alive and well! In email fundraising, a slight majority of groups experienced an uptick in overall revenue. The trend of fewer gifts and a larger average gift continued through this channel, though it was less pronounced than in the overall sample, and it appears that groups grew email revenue by sending more email.
- Hello, SEARCH! Paid search advertising — paying to place a direct link at the top of Google or Bing search results — was a success story this year, with many groups reporting this as the top performing channel, driving exceptional performance year over year. This contributed to the increase in average gift, as search has historically driven stronger average gifts than other ads channels.
- Hmmm, social! Paid social performance (Facebook/Instagram) was down year over year for many groups, likely due to limitations with targeting and reporting coming out of the iOS update earlier in the year. Groups also dealt with higher costs on social, leading to less efficient donations. And if the fact that one of the most accessible platforms to reach donors didn’t perform all that great this year isn’t giving you pause… well, it should be.
How about you? Were you up, down, or all over for EOY? As we dig deeper into the data, we’re tackling some important questions and issues:
- Is Giving Tuesday having a greater impact on year-end giving trends?
- We know that IOS and cookie changes are already changing what we know about how donors interact with ads and email. How are organizations mitigating this new reality, and what are they trying, testing, and innovating?
- SMS is rapidly evolving — including its contribution to fundraising revenue. We’re looking forward to sharing the newest results, and what organizations did to achieve them.
- Many organizations are getting less and less out of Facebook Ads. If so, where are they shifting their budgets and efforts?
- Who gave more and who gave less? Were there certain audiences/donors who gave fewer gifts and certain audiences/donors who made larger gifts?
- What was the impact of the plethora of external factors like the Omicron variant, end of child tax credit, inflation, etc.?
- For nonprofits whose digital results were down, did they successfully retain those donors via other channels?
- How did the “COVID donors” retain compared to more institutional donors?
- What’s a “normal” year for most organizations? Is 2019 the baseline, or 2020? Or is there no such thing as a baseline anymore? If that’s true, what should we be using for projections?
- Also, related, is there ever a normal again? For, well, anything?
Have more questions of your own? Let us know at EOYquestions@mrss.com. See you soon!
Kristen is a Vice President at M+R. Her passions outside of developing ads strategies and digging into revenue trends include exploring hiking trails across New England and fine-tuning her yoga practice. You can reach her at email@example.com.
Rachael is a Vice President at M+R. When she’s not planning fundraising campaigns or mobilizing advocates, you can find her trail running in the Marin Headlands and baking her top-secret chocolate chip cookie recipe. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.