Among Nonprofits, Christian Groups Lead Site Traffic

Nonprofit organizations typically lag behind commercial operations when it comes to marketing innovation, but a study from software provider Convio indicates animal welfare groups, health and disease-oriented charities, and religious organizations are learning the ropes of online outreach. In its annual benchmark report, Convio found Christian organizations led the way in site traffic, while environmental and public affairs groups led in e-mail house file size and animal welfare nonprofits garnered the most online donations.

Through its annual “Convio Online Marketing (eCRM) Nonprofit Benchmark Index Study,” released earlier this year, the firm aims to help its nonprofit clients by determining the overall online health of their organizations compared to similar groups. The report compiles data tracked between July 2005 and June 2006 from 30 of its clients, which include American Red Cross, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Thirteen/WNET New York.

“We’re just trying to establish that these are the things important to measure,” said Brian Hauf, VP client success services at Convio, who noted most nonprofits are still unsure how to put to use all the data they collect.

Between July 2005 and June 2006, the company found sites run by Christian churches, ministries and other Christian groups drove the most traffic to their Web sites, and boosted unique visitors far more than any other nonprofit category measured. These organizations, propelled by broadcast promotion to their sites and promises of daily prayer devotionals and Web-only content, attracted a median of nearly 65,000 visitors each month, compared to a 26,481 monthly unique visitor median among all nonprofits measured.

While the median growth of all groups measured was 30 percent, the median increase among Christian groups was 107 percent. Animal welfare and public affairs organizations came in second and third place in median monthly site traffic, hitting 51,299 and 39,558, respectively.

Christian groups were also most blessed in their ability to convert site visitors to registrants. Compared to a 2.8 percent median conversion rate among all nonprofits measured, Christian organizations converted a median of 12.5 percent of visitors. Environmental groups, at 4.7 percent, came in at a distant second.

Public affairs and environmental operations fared best in terms of actual house file size. Compared to a median of 70,141 records among all groups measured, public affairs groups, or those devoted to legislative and issue advocacy, boasted a median of 97,098 records. Such organizations tend to inspire people to visit their sites and sign up for e-mail alerts in conjunction with a cause or timely issue. Environmental groups, which also attract action-oriented constituents, had a median of over 89,000 records.

Animal welfare groups, however, had more luck than the others at boosting e-mail house file sizes, growing them by about 98 percent. Convio chalks up this increase to the huge donor response to animal caretaker groups following Hurricane Katrina, which hit in August 2005.

During the year measured, animal welfare organizations were able to parlay e-mail file growth into more money per record than any other vertical, a median donation of $12.35 per e-mail address. That translated into a median of $976,082 in online donations collected by animal welfare groups, compared to the $362,485 median of all groups tracked. Median growth of online donations for animal welfare organizations in the year measured also skyrocketed 76 percent, compared to the overall median of 27 percent.

Public broadcasters and Christian nonprofits also did well in the online fundraising department, gathering medians of $666,234 and $508,778, respectively. Median online donations rose 20 percent for public broadcast entities and 55 percent for Christian groups.

Despite the value of such metrics to nonprofits, significant intangibles like volunteerism can’t be factored into the total value of each particular constituent, making e-mail file sizes and Web donations mere pieces of the pie. “It’s the softer benefits that are much tougher to quantify,” said Hauf.

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