Breaking Down Your Data: How to Set Your Own Benchmarks

Whaaat?

Do you track any data regarding your email open rates? What about your click-through or response rates?

The eNonprofit Benchmarks Study by M+R Strategic Services and NTEN found a  27% decline in click-through rates for fundraising emails. Is that in line with what your organization is seeing? While reports like these are important for spotting overall trends and establishing a jumping-off point for measuring metrics, your organization could be experiencing completely different results.

But you won’t know if you don’t dig into the numbers – your numbers. But where to start?

During the Nonprofit Technology Conference, I was able to attend Not More than You Can Chew: Bite-Sized Tactics to Make Sense of Your Metrics by Joanna Miles from Food & Water Watch.

During this breakout session, Joanna showed us how to break down data into bite-sized chunks and find simple, effective ways to analyze the most valuable metrics, weed out the unnecessary stuff, and use data to make better decisions.

One of the things she focused on was creating your own benchmarks so you know how you are doing by your own standards and can better understand why you are above or below the industry average when these reports come out.

She suggests beginning with email performance by creating a report on all of your emails from the past year. Gather these numbers:

  1. Number delivered
  2. Number of opens
  3. Number of clicks
  4. Number of actions/donations
  5. Number of unsubscribes

Then calculate the average rates for all messages. If you want to know your average open rate, take how many opened emails you had and then divide them by the total of all emails delivered.

For example:

You delivered 10,000 emails
2400 were opened
2400 divided by 10,000 is 0.24
Your open rate would be 24%

This would be your benchmark open rate. Then do the same for your other metrics – click-through, actions, etc.

If you feel comfortable with that, you could dive deeper into the numbers and breakdown your messages based on fundraising or advocacy. National or local. Different program’s messages, etc.

After you have your benchmarks, compare each new email you send against your benchmark rates and update your numbers periodically.

But Joanna warns against drawing careless conclusions. Numbers can tell you what is happening, but they can’t tell you why it’s happening. She says to make sure you are comparing apples to apples when looking at email performance. An email to a segmented audience may have a higher open rate than one to your entire list, but that doesn’t mean the segmented email was a better email.

She also discussed why you should analyze your numbers to begin with, and knowing what to track and how, so take a look at the slides from her full presentation.

Kristina Leroux is Nonprofit Marketing Guide’s Community Engagement Manager. 



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Author: Kristina Leroux, Community Engagement Manager

I am the Community Engagement Manager at Nonprofit Marketing Guide.com.

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