Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a single recipe for nonprofit success? All the ingredients listed in precise proportions, the techniques and methods laid out just so. Follow the steps, one by one, then set it and forget it and… presto! A growing audience, impactful advocacy, and rising revenue, easy as pie.
Well, the annual M+R Benchmarks Study is… not that. The reality, difficult to swallow though it may be, is that our work and our world are much too complex to allow for such a prescriptive approach.
The methods for cooking up a successful digital program are as individual and varied as the methods to make curry, or pho, or chili. So, no recipe to follow, sorry (unless you want to know how to make some food, that's here). Instead we have a cornucopia of tables and charts, we have toplines and trends, we have insights to tantalize your senses and amuse your bouche. And honestly, it’s all a lot more exciting — and a lot more useful — than any set of simplified instructions.
This year, Benchmarks is informed by the complicated, diverse, sometimes messy experiences of 215 nonprofits. Our wonderful participants shared the details of almost 5.4 billion email and SMS messages, 681 million website visits, 374 thousand social media posts, and so much more.
The findings in this year’s Benchmarks represent the creativity and craft of nonprofit staff who strive every day to reach and expand audiences. They also reflect the core values and changing tastes of millions of supporters who react, click, share, take action, and donate to causes of all types. They reveal the ongoing evolution of digital channels that are increasingly the centerpiece of marketing, advocacy, and fundraising for nonprofits.
There’s a lot here, and if you take the time to taste everything, you are sure to find some delicious new insight and inspiration. We certainly have.
We are grateful, as always, for the generosity of our nonprofit participants. We give thanks to everyone who submitted data, coded messages, and answered questions to help this year’s Benchmarks come together. You are delightful people, we were pleased as punch to work with you this year, and we look forward to welcoming you back again next time.
In addition to the heaping helping of findings in each year’s Benchmarks, we often like to choose a theme. Mostly, this is to make things a bit more fun for us and for you (yes, we know, it’s a tall order to make an in-depth discussion of nonprofit data even more fun, but a tasteful garnish can improve even the most delicious meal). If we have been too subtle so far: our theme this year is food — and we chose it for reasons beyond the ready availability of delectable puns.
Food is more than sustenance. It is culture and community, a way to come together and find connection. Preparing food for others can be a profound expression of care and love. Food is also labor, work that is often hidden from consumers — from farmworkers in the fields to packing plant assembly lines to the bussers, dishwashers, and line cooks in the back of your favorite restaurant.
The collages throughout this year’s Benchmarks are intended to recognize and celebrate the variety of what food means: love, work, and shared experience. We’re also excited to share some favorite recipes from the M+R staff who have contributed to this year’s Benchmarks. We hope you enjoy them.
Now, the table is set, and it’s time to dig in. Bon appétit!
There’s so much more to a meal than what you see on the plate. The labor of people who grow, harvest, pack, and prepare the food. The interconnected foodways and traditions that create ever-evolving cuisines. The experiences, training, and perspective of the chef.
Benchmarks is no different. We strive to present the most comprehensive, clear, informative collection of data we can — but there’s a lot going on beneath the surface. Here are a few things you should know to help you better understand our findings and put them to use.
Wherever possible, we have broken out the findings by sector. Each of our participants self-identified the appropriate sector (or, in some cases, fell outside of our defined sectors and selected “Other”). If you are not sure which sector represents your peer group, review the full list of participants to find where you belong.
We also sort our participants by size. For our study, “Small” refers to nonprofits with annual online revenue in 2022 below $500,000; “Medium” is those nonprofits with annual online revenue between $500,000 and $3,000,000; and “Large” covers all those with annual online revenue greater than $3,000,000.
The averages displayed in each chart and discussed throughout Benchmarks represent the median figure for a given metric for all participants who reported data. Not all participants were able to provide data for every metric. If a chart does not include data for a certain sector or size, it’s because we were not able to collect enough results to report a reliable average.
We use median rather than mean to minimize the risk of a single participant with unusual results having an outsize impact on the overall findings. You will also see some charts that include a range showing the 25th percentile to the 75th percentile. Half of all reported values fell within this range, which can be considered “normal” results for participants in our study.
Some of the most useful and interesting data in Benchmarks relies on year-over-year comparisons. Wherever we include this type of finding, we are including long-term data from this year’s participants — an apples-to-apples comparison. We do not compare this year’s findings to what was reported in previous editions of Benchmarks, because the participant pool changes from year to year. That would be more of an apples-to-oranges situation at best. At worst, it would be more like apples-to-pineapples or grapes-to-grapefruits, where a superficial similarity hides a massive underlying difference.
If you have any more questions about how we cooked up Benchmarks this year, please reach out to @mrcampaigns or email firstname.lastname@example.org.