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2023 Q1 rescue mission benchmarks: Revenue stabilizes as donor values rise

Our full-year benchmarks revealed that rescue missions saw strong revenue numbers in 2022, despite a softening in donor volume. Has anything changed after the first quarter of 2023?  

RKD’s Q1 2023 benchmark report reveals that the story is much the same: Rescue missions are still seeing strong revenue growth, which is being driven primarily by gift size and frequency. 

Before we dive into the details of the report, let’s discuss a few housekeeping items to help you understand our key findings.  

About the report 

We analyzed full-file data from nine RKD rescue mission clients across the U.S. from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2023. Trends are based on all donors and all gift types, excluding gifts of $10,000 or more.  

Each metric is indexed. We set 2019 as the baseline value of 100. Results in the following years are compared against 2019 and then averaged across clients, explaining the relative change in result for each benchmark over time.  

Values over 100 indicate an increase over the value in 2019. Values below 100 indicate a decrease vs. the value in 2019. For example, an active donor value of 200 would represent a doubling in the number of active donors. 

3 key learnings from Q1 

1. Post-COVID revenue tapers but remains strong. 

Revenue peaked in 2021 thanks to continued support throughout the pandemic. But 2022 and 2023 saw only a mild slowing of growth—with annualized revenue stabilizing at a strong rate of 30% higher than that of pre-COVID levels.  



2. High first gift values dominate new donor volumes. 

After the surge of newly acquired donors from 2020, new donor volumes had slowed down by Q1 2023, sitting 23% lower than pre-COVID levels. 


Despite this decline, missions are acquiring new donors at higher first gift values than ever before. The average first gift amount improved by 13% thanks to an increase in the number of donors giving $50 or more at the time of acquisition.  



3. Increases in gift size and frequency are driving growth.  

In addition to new donors, active donor counts also saw a decline as we moved into 2023. But the quality and makeup of these donors is driving a fundamental shift in the value of all active donors. Average gift size across all active donors is sitting 9% higher than pre-COVID levels. 


In addition to increases in average gift, gift frequency was also on the rise in Q1 2023, improving by 8% over Q1 2019. 


In summary, rescue missions are starting to see revenue trends stabilize after record-breaking giving during the pandemic. This new normal is being driven primarily by increases in donor value. As we mentioned in our full-year benchmarks, 2023 will be a critical year for rescue missions as they navigate their new normal.  

A few areas we’re focusing on for our clients include:  

  • Increasing digital investment to drive acquisition 
  • Testing story-driven creative across all channels 
  • Leaning into retention efforts 
  • Developing omnichannel donor journeys 

You can read more about each of these efforts here. 

Heidi Riehl

Heidi has provided strategic fundraising counsel to rescue missions across the U.S. for more than two decades. As Vice President at RKD Group, she works closely with client partners to create integrated marketing plans that increase donations, attract new donors and heighten brand awareness. Also an accomplished executive in the nonprofit industry, Riehl worked at Olive Crest as the National Director of Marketing and Public Relations, leading strategic fundraising and marketing initiatives. Her experience in both agency and organization settings provides a valuable perspective for clients.

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