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Blackbaud Data Highlights Online Giving Trends for the Future

Today we released the annual Blackbaud Luminate Online® Benchmark Report 2020, which includes insight into online giving trends based on 2020 data, as well as our predictions of which trends are most likely to continue throughout this year and beyond. Data in the report comes from more than 900 social good organizations who collectively raised over $1.8 billion online, handled over 24 million transactions, and sent more than 3.9 billion emails in 2020. 

Key findings from 2020 showed us that one-time online giving skyrocketed by more than 15%, revenue growth from recurring donations outpaced one-time gifts for the ninth consecutive year, and nonprofits increased their revenue and engagement using email fundraising. 

“While much of what we saw in 2020 was directly related to the pandemic, our Blackbaud Luminate Online data reveals some very positive trends in online fundraising that I think we will continue to see,” noted Steve MacLaughlin, Blackbaud vice president of product management. “The spike in email fundraising revenue shows there continues to be significant potential in this channel, and the organizations who have focused on their data and sender reputation will thrive. There is still incredible opportunity for growing revenue through sustainers, who have a stronger retention rate and long-term value. I’m pleased to see how well our customers are positioned.”

With technology already in place, Blackbaud Luminate Online customers were able to quickly pivot their fundraising to a completely virtual environment in early 2020, giving them a clear advantage and offering unique fundraising opportunities.  

  • Direct Relief experienced unprecedented giving as COVID-19 unfolded. With Blackbaud Luminate Online, they created landing pages for several celebrities, including executive rapper Diddy, who put on a 12-hour Team Love Dance-A-Thon on Instagram that raised $3.7 million. 
  • The Los Angeles Regional Food Bank used Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® and Blackbaud Luminate Online to communicate effectively, capture donations, and convert more volunteers to donors than ever before. In 2020, their online donations were up more than $20 million. 
  • The Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose used Blackbaud Luminate Online to successfully reopen in a contactless environment after a 13-month closure. Online registration increased the number of usable email addresses by nearly 9%, and their automated Welcome Series boasts a 9.7% clickthrough rate to the visitor experience survey, which is instrumental in helping them understand why visitors are returning.  

Looking Ahead 
The biggest question that remains for nonprofit organizations: which trends and opportunities will continue through 2022? Blackbaud experts offer their thoughts in the new guide, Looking Ahead: Find Your Next Big Online Fundraising Opportunity. These are a few trends we predict will continue: 

  • Online fundraising is here to stay. Successful organizations will expand opportunities for major donors to give online (we recommend a customized Blackbaud Luminate Online donation form and Blackbaud Merchant Services processing). Successful organizations will also adopt tactics beyond email fundraising such as text-to-give, digital ads, and direct response TV. 
  • As nonprofits use email to make up for lost revenue sources, such as in-person events, the reliance on email—and the success organizations are seeing—is likely to remain high at least through 2022. 
  • New privacy changes implemented by Apple will make email conversions and clicks far more important in determining campaign effectiveness (learn more about next steps for Blackbaud Luminate Online here). 
  • Since revenue growth from recurring monthly donors has outpaced one-time giving in our past nine Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Reports, we see this as very likely to continue. 

Summary of 2020 Key Findings 
Below is a summary of the key findings from this year’s report. For more information, view the full report for free here. Data is available in comparison by sector as well as organization size. 

Online Giving Trends: Sector Highlights 

  • Food Banks led all sectors in the percent of contacts on their email list who donated (30.6%), revenue per usable email ($95.59), email list growth (23.7%), and fundraising email conversion rate (1.22%). So, it is no surprise that this sector also led in online revenue growth, reporting an increase of 453%.  
  • Support for COVID-19 efforts fueled an increase in first-time average gift amount for the Hospital Foundations and Hospitals sector (19.02%), second only to the Food Bank sector.
  • Online revenue in the faith sector increased by 32.3%, far higher than the industry average of 14.2%.
  • Despite being closed to visitors most of 2020, arts and cultural organizations succeeded in driving the highest number of email clicks (1.85%) out of all sectors studied.
  • Canadian online revenue growth (30.8%) increased by twice as much as U.S. online revenue growth (15.83%). 

Sustainer and Recurring Donation Trends 

  • 1 in 40 online donors is a recurring monthly donor 
  • One-time revenue notched a significant increase in 2020 but recurring giving still grew by more–at 17.87% year over year.  
  • While one-time giving spiked and plummeted throughout the year (with the highest increases in May/June and November/December), recurring giving, also known as monthly or sustained giving, grew by 14-20% every month.  
  • Social good organizations capitalizing on recurring donations already have the right technology in place. This includes auto-responders, an online portal for donors to update their contact and payment information, and customization of online donation forms. 

Email Engagement Trends 

  • Nonprofits sent nearly 14% more emails in 2020 than in 2019 
  • The email conversion rate increased by 17.9%, and the unsubscribe rate decreased by nearly 10%.  
  • In 2020, Blackbaud Luminate Online customers increased total email click-throughs by 29% year over year and increased conversion rate by 17.9%. 


About the Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Report 2020 
This Report includes aggregate data from January 1, 2018–December 31, 2020, from 908 mature Blackbaud Luminate Online customers—all with at least three years of consecutive usage data. Collectively over the last fiscal year, these organizations raised over $1.8 billion dollars online, handled over 24 million transactions, and sent more than 3.9 billion emails. This large data sample comes directly from the Blackbaud Luminate Online cloud-based platform, offering a direct and unique view of online engagement across the nonprofit industry. Data from other Blackbaud online fundraising tools was not included in this analysis. Year-over-year measurement is based on a consistent set of organizations in each metric. Metrics found in this Report cannot be compared with the same metrics found in prior Reports as the specific organizations included will differ.