Online charity benchmark 2016 – compare your website

Published by Victor van der Veen on

Ever wondered how your online fundraising is doing? And how that compares to other organizations? Do you need numbers that can help you to set your goals? This online marketing charity benchmark tool will kickstart that process. We have analysed close to 12 million sessions, looked at more than 40.000 donations and checked out 148.000 micro conversions of Dutch charities. This post will show you what’s happening online; where traffic is coming from and which channels bring in conversions. And, even better, I will also show you how to find the right figures in your online data and how you can compare them to this benchmark.

But first, the 2016 trends…

Trends 2016

This is the second year we are conducting the online marketing charity benchmark.

1. Focus on owned media

We see a growth of 9% in owned media. Direct, SEO and email traffic combined was below 50% in 2015. This year it climbed to 57%. This shows that many charities have put a lot of effort in improving their websites. The focus on creating clear content (for SEO and visitors) makes serious traffic growth possible without push marketing activities.

2. Charities are failing email

Email has the largest conversion rate of all channels: 1,5%. One would expect this channel to prosper. Sadly this is not the case. We saw a decline in traffic from 9% to 3%! Charities need to professionalise their email strategy. There is still so much potential in their subscribers list.

3. Earned media (social and referral) is down

Earned media took care of around 23% conversion last year. In the past 12 months this has dropped to 14%. That’s a 9% decrease. More and more traffic now comes through Google. Further research needs to be done to clarify the decline of this traffic source. Social traffic is around the same as last year. As charities are growing in their social efforts one would expect a rise in people coming from Facebook and likes. However, this was not the case in 2016. While social strategies are having more and more impact on a charity’s communication we should not forget that our website is where conversions happen.

These are the first quick findings of the online marketing charity benchmark 2016. We will publish a follow up articlevery soon to share more insights.

Time to collect your data

Now it’s time you start collecting your own data. To check out how you are doing compared to the benchmark. So, start crunching that data :-) In the rest of this arcile you will learn more about these subjects:

Online channels:

  1. Direct traffic
  2. Organic search(SEO)
  3. Paid search (SEA)
  4. Email
  5. Social
  6. Referral
  7. Display

Website conversions:

  1. Macro conversion (donations – one off and monthly direct debit)
  2. Micro conversion (leads, email, downloads etc.)

Maybe you are wondering how culturally relevant this data is, because you are working in another market.  Don’t worry. Why not fill in these numbers and take a look at the results. It does show you which of your channels are strong and which ones need extra work.

If you find it hard to compare your numbers with the Dutch data, please let me know. I will have a look. Or you could do even better – get together with some other charities in your country and compare notes! We would love to hear from charities all over the world!

But first, let’s get to work.

Create your own online marketing charity benchmark

The online marketing charity  benchmark is constructed of anonymized data of many Dutch charities.

Comparing performances

How do you get a beautiful overview like the one above? Very simple. You can find the necessary data in Google Analytics. In a few steps, I will show you how to get the data you need.

Select your account and scroll down in the menu on the left. Click ‘acquisition’ and ‘all traffic’. Below that you can see channels.

Here you will find an overview like this one:

Isn’t that beautiful? Performance per channel in one great overview…. In this example, you see that organic search provides the most traffic. It is also the channel that provides the best conversion rate.

You will use sessions and e-commerce conversion rate for your own benchmark. As the standard overview only shows the macro conversions, you must first change a few settings. Go to the drop-down ‘E commerce’ (with the beautiful green circle around it). If your analytics is set up right, you will also see some other types of micro conversions. A very important one is email leads (like newsletter sign ups), make sure you use this one. Of course you can also select other micro conversions, but this is the best option.

If you choose ‘newsletter’ you will see the following numbers.

Now you have all the right data in front of you. Please check this excel sheet! Then take your session numbers per channel, your macro and micro conversions per channel and enter them into the sheet…  Once you have entered all numbers, you will see exactly where to focus on. Does your conversion rate need to go up? Are you not getting in enough email leads? This sheet will give you a good starting point. Any questions about the online marketing charity benchmark? Please leave a comment below.

Victor van der Veen

Senior Consultant @ RaisingResults, the digital agency voor social good. He has a passion for online marketing and creating new online campaigns, with a focus on measuring online results. Victor is always looking for new online marketing possibilities.


Sharon Edge Kane · March 10, 2017 at 00:06

Hey Victor, great to see you following your true passion in the world of online! Measurement and benchmarking is sorely lacking across the sector so your insight helps. Hope all is good with you.

wordle 2 · October 23, 2023 at 04:28

The study compared each sample’s accuracy on 28 benchmark variables drawn from high-quality government data sources.

Fundraising Friday | December 16, 2016 | Pamela Grow · December 16, 2016 at 13:23

[…] is your online fundraising doing? In Online charity benchmark 2016 – compare your own website, Victor van der Veen notes that charities are failing at the email game. With a new social media […]

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