Online Benchmark Reveals Key Insights for Nonprofits in 2017

January 11, 2017 Danielle Johnson-Vermenton

This article was originally published on npENGAGE.

It’s a new year and that means a new, comprehensive benchmark report on the performance of nonprofits using Luminate Online. Just between us, I’ve grown to love analytics. After working in digital fundraising and marketing for over 8 years, I’ve learned the power of numbers. Unfortunately, I’ve also seen too few folks not use those numbers to drive decisions and improve results.

While fundraising involves a lot of common sense and experience, data should be the points on the map that guide our decisions.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think strategy should ONLY be about numbers (because that would be boring), but it is a necessary and REQUIRED component of our development, communications, marketing, and programmatic efforts. Data is more than the annual goal, it’s the incremental statistic that shows us if we’re making progress. Data showcases impact and lets us know how far off/on track we are. Data is also the irrefutable evidence we need to get approval for a new tactic, employee, or technology.

The new Luminate Online Benchmark Report is a powerful asset that studies over 500 organizations and their online marketing and fundraising efforts. And, these organizations aren’t beginners. We include organizations that have been on the solution for a minimum of 3 years because we know it takes time to build a more mature fundraising program. It also takes time to see growth and movement.

So, let’s get down to business! 

3 Benchmark Insights for Nonprofits in 2017:

Note: Any industry benchmark report should be used for comparison, but it’s only one of many data points you should consider. The ultimate benchmark, the one that really matters, is YOUR performance.

1. If data isn’t part of your nonprofit culture, make that a big goal this year! And not just your goal, but a goal for the entire organization, from the CEO to the Volunteer Coordinator. Get stakeholders together and spend 30 mins talking about the following: how can data help and inform programs, where is data already being used, where should it be used, what are the roadblocks, and how will stakeholders create the data culture. Don’t skip this step, really, don’t. You can’t be the only one that sees value in data, everyone needs to understand and embrace it.

2. Before you pull any data, have a plan. At bbcon 2016, Steve MacLaughlin said, “Data without application is useless.” Every nonprofit and every business has data. The data lives in different places. Some of it lives in your CRM, and some data lives in your online marketing solution. So, before you begin pulling data, it is vital for a decision to be made about what you want to find out. Do you need proof to back up an investment in stewardship activities? Do you want to include examples of giving impact in a sustainer campaign? Or, do you want to create a benchmark report of your online fundraising effort? Once you know why you need the data, you can begin to figure out where to pull it from to solve for your goal.

3. Get help when you need it. There are webinars, books, blogs and articles on the topic of nonprofit analytics. If that doesn’t do it, consider hiring a consultant to help you. And before you add any new data into your CRM, have a plan for what you’ll do with it. Again, data without application is useless. It may be tempting to buy data, but what will you DO with that data to make it a smart investment?

In February, Blackbaud will host a series of webinars to cover the Luminate Online Benchmark Report. I am excited to present on the topic of retention, repeat gifts, and stewardship. In the meantime, if you have questions or want advice on what data I look at with my clients, please feel free to reach out on Twitter or Facebook.

Here are a few resources to get you started:


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