Blackbaud Newsroom

Blackbaud’s Annual Luminate Online® Benchmark Report Provides Actionable Insights for Nonprofits

Report Provides Insight Into Nonprofit Fundraising, Email and Sector Trends  

Blackbaud has just released its annual Blackbaud Luminate Online® Benchmark Report, which includes insight into online giving trends based on 2021 data. Data in the report comes from more than 770 social good organizations that collectively raised over $1.8 billion online, handled over 23 million transactions, and sent more than 3.3 billion emails.  This data offers insights into organizational performance and provides an opportunity for nonprofits to compare online fundraising results to peers of similar verticals and sizes. 

Leveraging data from 2021 , the report shows that online fundraising revenue increased, even on top of the surge in online giving in 2020, and the number of online transactions has continued to trend upward.  And, for the 10th report in a row, sustained giving revenue and donors making recurring gifts increased for every sector included in the study. 

“Looking at the last 15 years of Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Report data, we see that online fundraising continues to grow in importance for nonprofits in every sector,” said Graeme Port, senior director of product management, Blackbaud. “While that is not surprising, it is notable that traditional ways of email engagement are shifting. The most successful organizations continue to innovate and reach out through the digital space to meet donors where they are. I’m delighted that Blackbaud technology facilitates that success.” 

As more digital marketing channels become available, Blackbaud Luminate Online customers have been able to segment their audiences and create targeted online fundraising campaigns to engage donors. Recent success stories include: 

  • The Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation used Blackbaud Raiser’s Edge NXT® and Blackbaud Luminate Online to communicate effectively and capture donations for their inaugural Day of Giving Campaign—tied to International Guide Dog Day—and exceeded their revenue goals by 68%.  
  • Western University is exceeding its fundraising goals by using Blackbaud Luminate Online—sending over 8 million tailored outreach emails and holding 300 events in the last year—using over 650,000 alumni and donor records captured and stored in Blackbaud CRM.  
  • Saint Peter’s Prep Founders’ Day Challenge was a success, with more than $275,000 donated to the Annual Fund by over 400 alumni, parents, and friends, with Blackbaud Luminate Online powering its digital marketing efforts.   

Looking Ahead  
In our 2020 report, we saw online giving increase as nonprofits were forced to pivot to digital strategies when the COVID-19 pandemic curtailed other revenue streams. Would the digital growth and trends we saw in 2020 remain in 2021? Here’s what we found: 

  • The digital channel continues to increase in importance, and the number of available marketing channels continues to grow. Nonprofits should invest in tools to help customize their messaging and stand out from the noise. 
  • While email fundraising is still a critical piece of online marketing, organizations can’t rely on it for their entire digital fundraising program as responsiveness declines and barriers to inbox delivery increase. 
  • Revenue growth from recurring and sustaining donors will likely continue to outpace one-time and event-driven giving. 

Summary of  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:  

  • In 2021, 12% of all fundraising came from online giving. The significance of online marketing is only growing regardless of vertical or organizational size. 
  • Online fundraising revenue increased by 5.17%, even on top of the surge in online giving in 2020. 
  • Until 2020, the number of online transactions had steadily declined. While we anticipated that there would be growth in online transactions in 2020, it was interesting to see that trend continue through 2021. 
  • The count of first-time online donors decreased while the number of repeat and sustainer donations increased. 
  • Emergency giving and channel disruption drove email metrics and donations in 2020. That trend did not continue in 2021. Overall, all email engagement metrics—except open rates, which can no longer be viewed as accurate (see below)—are down as they returned to pre-pandemic levels. 
  • For the 10th report in a row, sustained giving revenue and donors making recurring gifts have increased for every sector included in the study. 

Notable Trends by Sector: 

  • Among the most notable trends by sector for 2021 was the increase in the share of recurring gifts for the Food Bank sector, rising from 8% to 23%. Revenue from recurring giving increased from 2020 to 2021 by 71% for food banks. 
  • The Environment and Wildlife sector saw a significant increase (15.37%) in online revenue compared to the rest of the industry (5.17%). This sector also had a 15.13% increase in online gifts compared to the industry increase of 2.50%. 
  • Six sectors had greater than 20% sustaining revenue as a share of all online revenue in 2021: Animal Welfare, Environment and Wildlife, Faith, Food Banks, International Relief, and Public Broadcasting. 
  • Three sectors saw an increase in the share of recurring donors among all online donors: Environment and Wildlife, Food Banks, and Health Sciences and Research. 

Sustaining Donor Trends: 

  • Revenue from sustaining gifts increased at the median by 21.1%, rising to $94,107. 
  • Sustaining gift counts increased at the median by over 21%. 
  • The median number of sustaining donors in 2020 was 331, up by more than 11% year-over-year. 
  • The median share of all online donors making a sustaining gift declined in 2021 from 2.6% to 2.4%, likely related to increased emergency giving of one-time gifts. 

Email Engagement Trends:  

  • Email open rates artificially increased when Apple launched Mail Privacy Protection, which automatically marks emails as opened if the recipient uses an iPhone, iPad, or MacBook with that feature activated. Any open rate statistics measured after September 2021 are artificially inflated. 
  • Organizations sent fewer emails in 2021 than in 2020, decreasing by 5.97%. 
  • Fundraising email revenue decreased by 14.52%, and organizations sent 3.06% fewer fundraising emails in 2021.  
  • However, total revenue was up by 5.17%, primarily driven by a 21.2% increase in revenue from sustainers. Many organizations omit sustainers from repeated email appeals. 
  • 14.19% of usable email lists were donors, up 4.39% from 2020. 

About the Blackbaud Luminate Online Benchmark Report 2021  
This report includes aggregate data from January 1, 2020, to December 31, 2021, from 773 mature Blackbaud Luminate Online® customers—all with at least three years of consecutive usage. Over the last calendar year, these organizations collectively raised over $1.8 billion online, handled over 23 million transactions, and sent more than 3.3 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 were 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.