This post was written in collaboration with Bryan Snyder, Senior Marketing Analyst for Blackbaud.

There are three truths about data: everyone loves it, we can’t get enough, and it only gets better with age at year-end.

If you’re like us as the year winds down, you’ve got a keen eye on the online giving index. The 12-months of continued growth fuels optimism, but we know a nonprofit’s fundraising success is closely tied to their year-end campaign.

To better prepare organizations, we’ve produced tips, guides, and even recipes. These timely resources have hopefully helped your organization craft a masterful, multi-channel plan to raise more money in 2012 (must read: Q&A with the Ocean Conservancy).

But if we take a step back and look at the historic year-end data, we often see the last week of the year as the biggest fundraising days of the season. Shocked? I didn’t think so. Procrastination is in our DNA, and unless gene therapy is underway to release additional dopamine, our donors will continue putting off today what they can do tomorrow.

That being said, it’s all too clear the significance of the last week of the year to nonprofits. However, our interactive analytics team wanted to know just how much procrastination has impacted overall email performance. The findings might just surprise you.

Our Idea

The goal was to observe email performance trends for organizations sending fundraising email messages at the end of the calendar year.

What We Did

First, we examined Luminate™ Online fundraising email messages between December 26th  and December 31st. Then, to understand change in the success of email, we 1) “ignored” results for organizations implementing source codes (donation tracking is not accurate for these appeals) and 2) compared 2011 to the 2009 and the 2010 reported results.

What We Learned

The overall findings reveal that despite an increase in the volume of emails delivered year-over-year, subsequent donation performance has not been sacrificed. In fact, just the opposite as the additional emails have helped increase the total number of transactions without compromising open rates.

The high level results include* –

  • Total number of organizations sending at least one email message is up 26.98%.
  • Total number of individual messages delivered is up almost 42%.
  • Open rates were up by 8.9% for all messages sent the last week the year.
  • Clickthrough rates and average donation were both down slightly.
  • Total number of transactions up by more than 37%.

What Does This Mean For You?

Though the results shown are calculated using every fundraising message sent, and not messages sent to a specific donor audiences, the data provides a baseline of email activity to complement your organization’s year-end communication strategy.

We’ve learned that additional emails have helped increase the total number of transactions without compromising open rates so naturally one immediate take-away may be: send more emails. However, is it as simple as sending more emails during the last week of the year?

Over the next few weeks, we’ll look to answer that question while providing you with ideas to increase your year-end fundraising efforts. Stay tuned for next week’s post, “It’s not too late! Make your year-end communication plan impactful”.

* This blog post – and subsequent posts in series – refers to the Analytics Team report, End Of Year Email Performance Analysis. To view the full report, and learn more about how we can conduct a comprehensive review of your email performance, please contact Andrew Shoaff, Interactive Strategy Manager.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chas  Offutt is a senior fundraising and marketing professional with more than 10 years experience in the nonprofit sector. He joined Convio, now Blackbaud, in 2008 and has worked with more than 75 clients across all verticals to develop and implement acquisition campaigns, fundraising strategies, and integrated marketing programs. Prior to his current position, Chas was the Director of Internet Strategy at American Rivers where he was responsible for the management and execution of all online programs.

Chas has spoken at the Association for Fundraising Professionals (Greater Atlanta Chapter), Convio Customer Summit, NTEN, Blackbaud Conference, Forum One Communication’s Web Executive Seminar, and other public speaking engagements on a variety of topics including mobile fundraising, generational giving, and online marketing strategies.

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