What Are This Year’s Top Nonprofit Communication Trends?

By eleventy marketing group

Ranking of Communication Channel by Nonprofit

The nonprofit communications cocktail—made up of ingredients like email, social media, newsletters, websites and direct mail—gets shaken and stirred in different ways each year. Based on how well the mix went down last year, and donor response and feedback, there are shifts and adjustments.

So what does the communication cocktail look like for 2016? How will nonprofits speak to donors over the next 12 months? The 2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report from Nonprofit Marketing Guide uses survey data from nonprofits to answer those questions.

In today’s post we’ll share some key findings from this new report, and provide a few takeaways on how nonprofit communications will change this year.

About the 2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report

Data from this report comes from a survey of 1,613 nonprofits from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. 47% of surveyed nonprofits have annual budgets under $1 million and 53% over $1 million. The biggest cohort is organizations in the $1-5 million range.

8 Answers to Questions About Nonprofit Communications in 2016

Here are some findings from the Nonprofit Communications Trends Report on how nonprofits say they will communicate with donors in 2016…

1. What are the top nonprofit communication channels this year?

80% Website
71% Social Media
67% Email Marketing
46% In-Person Events
39% Print Marketing
32% Media Relations/PR

2. What are the top social media networks for nonprofits?

1. Facebook
2. Twitter
3. YouTube
4. LinkedIn
5. Instagram

3. How often will nonprofits post on social networks?


21% multiple times a day
31% once a day
36% a few times a week


29% multiple times a day
19% once a day
27% a few times a week


19% a few times a week
17% a few times a month


21% a few times a month
31% less than once a month


20% a few times a month
60% less than once a month

4. How often will nonprofits send direct mail appeals?

0% Several times a week
1% Weekly
1% Every other week
5% Monthly
7% Every other month
20% Quarterly
33% Twice a year
16% Once a year
5% Don’t know
13% Will not send any direct mail appeals

5. How often will nonprofits send print newsletters?

0% Several times a week
1% Weekly
0% Every other week
5% Monthly
4% Every other month
27% Quarterly
17% Twice a year
9% Once a year
4% Don’t know
33% Will not send a print newsletter

6. How often will nonprofits send email appeals?

1% Several times a week
3% Weekly
3% Every other week
18% Monthly
13% Every other month
25% Quarterly
17% Twice a year
5% Once a year
7% Don’t know
7% Will not send any email appeals

7. How often will nonprofits send email newsletters?

1% Several times a week
8% Weekly
8% Every other week
41% Monthly
9% Every other month
18% Quarterly
4% Twice a year
1% Once a year
4% Don’t know
5% Will not send an e-newsletter

8. How much will nonprofits spend on Facebook ads in 2016?

41% Zero/No Paid Advertising
20% Up to $100
22% Between $100-500
9% Between $501-1,000
6% Between $1,001-5,000
1% Between $5,001-10,000
1% More than $10,000

3 Things to Keep in Mind with You Communications Strategy

Here are some notable takeaways from the findings in the 2016 Nonprofit Communication Trends Report

1. Instagram use by nonprofit organizations is on the rise

You can see from the graphic below that the number of nonprofits using Instagram has sharply risen since 2014. It’s the fastest-growing social network for nonprofit organizations.

Top Social Media Sites for Nonprofits

What’s the reason for the growth? It’s the visual focus of Instagram (a rising trend across the Web). The social network enables nonprofits to tell their stories through images—which can have a big impact on donors. Instagram is one of the social networks you should add this year.

2. Facebook advertising will be leveraged by more nonprofits

59% of nonprofits will pay for Facebook advertising in 2016, with 39% spending over $100. While some nonprofits remain reluctant to die their toes into social/online advertising, more and more organizations are testing it out and reaping the benefits.

Nonprofit Facebook Advertising

With the advanced targeting capabilities of Facebook ads, it’s a great way to reach new and existing donors—and compel donations (especially once new Facebook fundraising capabilities become available to all nonprofits later this year).

3. Donor retention will be a top communication goal this year

A portion of the report details top goals in 2016 for three different positions at nonprofit organizations: communication directors, development directors, and executive directors.

Top Goals for Nonprofit Communications Directors

As the report notes: “The relative ranking of these goals has changed little in the six years we have produced this report, with one exception: Donor Retention has been rising as a goal across the board, but especially among communications directors and executive directors.”

With some recent retention numbers show troubling signs for nonprofits, making an effort to keep donors on board is a key priority across the board for many nonprofits this year.

Find and download the full 2016 Nonprofit Communications Trends Report here.