5 Key Takeaways from the 2023 M+R Benchmarks Report UK

Everyone loves a benchmark. They help us easily understand our results and assess performance, but what we really want to know is how everyone else is doing! It’s encouraging when we find we come out better, but it’s also useful to know where we’re falling short.

So we’re very excited that thanks to our friends at Rally the UK version of the M+R Benchmarks Study is back after a year’s break. The study is an in depth look at the world of digital mobilisation and fundraising in the UK, covering nearly 50 charities and areas such as email, social media, website and online advertising.

The full report has just been released, and it contains A LOT of information, enough graphs to make your head spin and more references to delicious food than you would expect from a benchmarking report. But if you don’t have time to go through it all in detail right now, don’t worry, we’ve had our data experts go through it all and pick out the best bits. And, more importantly, what you should be doing about them.

Here are our top five takeaways:

1. Regular giving is king – even on digital

The numbers

Increase in online revenue was modest this year, just 5%, but while cash income stayed almost the same (and effectively decreased when you take inflation into account), regular giving income was up by 14% on 2021.

What you should do

Traditionally, charities have always relied on regular gifts – a sustainable, predictable source of income. But increasingly this appears to be the case for digital channels as well, with regular giving contributing 41% of online income, up from 37% the year before.

While cash gifts are an ‘easy’ win, particularly in times of big emergencies like the war in Ukraine, it is worth finding ways to recruit more regular givers as retention rates and lifetime value are much better than for their cash-giving friends.

We worked with Greenpeace to build a successful regular giving programme from start to end, beginning with creating an email journey that moves more people to donate, trialling different tactics, before reviewing their donation pages to optimise them for conversion rates. Regular givers are in it for the long haul, and you need to be too to inspire more of these vital gifts.

2. We should STILL be sending more emails

The numbers

Although the average email message volume for UK non profits increased by a whopping 49% last year, we’re still not sending anywhere near as much as our US cousins. Where we send 27 emails per subscriber per year, they send 61 – more than one a week!

What you should do                                                           

Send more emails! Not willy-nilly of course, but make sure your supporters are hearing from you in a strategic way with emails offering them different ways to engage.

A welcome journey for new sign-ups is an obvious one, but what about when they’ve just taken their third action, or made their first donation. Refuge are a well-oiled machine when it comes to sending engaging emails all year round. We’ve worked with them to generate ideas (that’s the hard part!), create content plans and write weekly emails responding to key dates and headlines to remain relevant and engaging in people’s inboxes. Don’t be afraid of ‘bombarding’ your supporters with email – if the message is right, people will want to hear it.

3. Ads are a fruitful source of new leads

The numbers

While 71% of all ad spending in 2022 was on direct fundraising asks, online advertising is also super important for list growth. The average non-profit increased their list by 24% thanks to online advertising last year – that is, for every 100k supporters they had at the beginning of the year, they added 24k more through lead-generation ads. And lead generation is much more cost-effective than fundraising when it comes to advertising – not only do they have an average cost per lead of £3.17, compared to a cost per donation of £247, but coupled with powerful emails (as mentioned above) and a strategic conversion programme, they can ultimately become donors and lead to a lower cost per donation too.

What you should do

Handraisers are a great way to use social media to get new supporters to engage with you and join your email list. Offer people a simple sign-up mechanism and a compelling call to action which allows people to find the values they agree with, and watch the new supporters roll in (ok, it might be a bit more complicated than that – you’ll need to test different messages and creatives on different channels – but we can help you with all that).

You can even get new donors as well, if you daisy-chain actions by putting a donation ask on the thank you page for your handraiser.

Handraisers helped us not only grow Freedom From Torture’s community by 46,000 new email supporters, with a cost per acquisition of just £0.58, they also helped build a truly powerful and passionate opposition movement in response to the government’s cruel Rwanda plan that’s ready to keep challenging anti-refugee policy into the future.

4. Diversify or die (or at least not grow very fast)

The numbers

90% of ad spend last year was concentrated in two channels – search and Meta (Facebook and Instagram). For small charities it was even less diverse – 97% of spending for these organisations was with Meta. Although nearly all charities have a presence on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, only 30% use TikTok, which has more users than Twitter.

What you should do

The world of social media is unpredictable. In recent times we’ve seen the rise of TikTtok, the predicted death (several times) of Twitter, a whole new platform (albeit still one controlled by Meta) in the form of Threads, and Apple making privacy changes which make Facebook advertising a whole lot harder.

It can be hard to keep up, but that’s why we have to keep trying new things. If there are platforms that you’re not currently advertising on, give them a go. And it’s not just about adverts – UK non-profits using TikTtok are mostly working with influencers to reach new audiences, with those charities using paid partnerships on average having relationships with 2.5 influencers each. At Forward Action, our ad management delivers strong benchmarks across the whole sector, and we can work with you to deliver your goals through ads on any platform.

5. Websites are getting easier to use – but there’s still room for improvement

The numbers

The average conversion rate for a main donation form (the one you get to when you hit the big donate button on the homepage) was 21%. This is an improvement from the previous report, but still means nearly 4 in 5 people who click donate aren’t making that donation. That’s a huge number of donors that we’re missing out on.

What you should do

Invest in UX – look at your donation pages, work out where the journey could be made easier and where people are dropping off. A/B test different elements, particularly when you’re likely to have high traffic to your page. And make sure you get familiar with the new Google Analytics 4 and set up events and custom reports so you know exactly what’s going on.

We’re constantly testing and optimising partner’s pages to help maximise conversions, as well as improving our very own Blueprint sign up pages, that many organisations use, which have an average opt-in rate of 66% (one we’re always looking to see if we can beat!).

We hope you enjoyed both the M+R Report, and our takeaways from it, and we want to take this opportunity to say a huge ‘Thank You’ to everyone involved in bringing this vital resource together – and all the organisations who brought their data dishes to the table. If these key takeaways have inspired you to take action, we’d love to help you get stuck in – get in touch to start a conversation.