Nonprofit lobbying fell with economy

Lobbying by nonprofits fell slightly with the economic downturn that began in September 2008, a new study says.

Total spending by 80 big nonprofits that reported lobbying activity in Washington this year in the fields of human services, arts and culture, health and the environmental, total spending fell 3.3 percent from 2007 to 2011, says the study by First Street.

Annual spending during period peaked in 2008, with many groups spending most of their lobbying budget before the economy collapsed.

Spending on lobbying grew at 35 of the groups, or 45 percent, and fell at 38 groups, or 48 percent.

The study excluded “lobby powerhouse” AARP because “its spending is so high that its year-to-year shifts can obscure underlying patterns,” First Street says, as well as nonprofits that were political advocates, religious organizations, trade groups, professional associations, colleges and health systems.

Fundraising, advocacy grow online

Nonprofits posted big gains online in 2011 in revenue from fundraising and in advocacy response rates, although fundraising response rates were nearly flat, a new study says.

Overall online fundraising revenue grew 19 percent from 2010, with the number of gifts growing 20 percent, while the typical gift size fell 2 percent, says the 2012 eNonprofit Benchmarks Study from M&R Strategic Services and NTEN.

The study, based on analysis of aggregate data from 44 nonprofits, also found advocacy response rates grew to 2.8 percent, up 28 percent from 2010.

And nonprofit email-driven donations forms had a median completion rate of 17 percent.

“Email has developed for nonprofits as a marketing tool,” the study says. “More groups are using best practices online to optimize their programs for better open rates, response rates and revenue.”

While one-time gifts remained the largest source of online revenue for participants, 92 percent, the study says, monthly giving grew at a faster rate, 35 percent compared to 23 percent for one-time gifts, but accounted for only 8 percent of total online revenue, up from 5 percent in 2010.

Direct email appeals accounted for 35 percent of online revenue, on average, with the remaining 65 percent from other sources such as unsolicited web giving and peer referrals.

The overall pace of “churn” in email lists totaled 19 percent, including 9 percent lost as a result of supporters who unsubscribed and 10 percent lost as a result of email addresses that became undeliverable.

The average nonprofit Facebook fan page had 31,473 users, or people who “Like” a fan page, and the average nonprofit increased its Facebook fan base by 70 percent.

For every 1,000 members of an email list, the average nonprofit had 103 Facebook fans, 29 Twitter followers, and 12 mobile subscribers.