Think Email’s Dead? Online Benchmark Metrics Disagree | npENGAGE

Think Email’s Dead? Metrics from the Online Benchmark Report Disagree

By on Oct 28, 2014


Email isn't dead

Blackbaud’s annual Online Benchmark report was released earlier this month at #bbcon and the results speak largely to a positive outlook for nonprofit fundraising. 

Total online fundraising is up 8% YOY, with double digit growth in both repeat and sustained giving.

Great news here but nothing particularly revelatory as most of us would have predicted strong growth for online fundraising in general and continued success of sustained giving campaigns.

What is surprising, however, are the results seen around email:

  • There was a 60% increase in the total volume of emails delivered. 
  • The total number of email recipients was up 72%.

Email has been around a long time now, and frankly such a massive increase in a fairly mature channel took me a bit off guard. But the question those metrics beg is how the increase in volume is impacting email performance. With so many more emails hitting our inboxes are we diluting the value of email?  Here again, the numbers surprised me somewhat.  For the most part email continues to perform very well, despite such a huge increase in volume.

Here are a few key highlights from the report that pertain to email performance:

1. Usable email file size is up 8%

Every one of the 20 cohorts measured in the report experienced positive growth in usable email file size.  So even though we are getting way more email these days people are still willing to provide email addresses to nonprofits.  That’s important as we know there is a direct correlation between email file size and an organization’s capacity to raise money online.  The larger the email file, the more money you are likely to raise.

2. Open rates are flat

For last several years we’ve seen a precipitous drop in email open rate.  Frankly, they’ve been falling off a cliff.  With a 60% increase in email volume sent I would have expected that trend to continue.  But it didn’t.  Email open rates are actually up slightly across all four email categories – donation, enews, advocacy and other (please see the report for a definition of email categories).   Flat open rates represent a very big change from the recent past.  While a variety of factors are likely contributing to this trend, I’d suggest that organizations are doing a better job of segmentation and differentiated messaging such that constituents are getting emails tailored to their interested and needs.  The better organizations do this, the more likely people become to open those emails.

3. Percentage of email housefile that donates is up 15%

Engagement is key and organizations seem to be doing a better job of encouraging more of their file to donate.  That means that the people who are giving their email address (which is up) are also getting motivated to act.  They are opening emails and getting inspired to contribute financially to those missions.

What we know:

Nonprofits continue to send a huge amount of email.  And while there are some areas of weakness, email continues to be a primary driver of online fundraising success.

For more info on the Benchmark’s email findings tune in today for our webinar “Why You Shouldn’t Stop Sending Email


This is a guest post by Andrew Shoaff. Andrew manages Blackbaud’s Essentials with Go!™ program, a group consulting service that helps nonprofit organizations deepen constituent engagement and accelerate online fundraising. Prior to Blackbaud he was the acting CFO/COO of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington DC.


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