2024 Animal Welfare Benchmark Report

Introduction

As we noted in our end-of-year recap for animal welfare, 2023 was a challenging year for the nonprofit sector as a whole. Animal welfare organizations, in particular, were hit on multiple fronts by inflation: 

  • More people surrendering their pets to shelters 
  • Fewer animal adoptions from shelters 
  • Increasing costs to care for these animals 

Economic conditions began to stabilize in the second half of 2023, leaving some uncertainty about how the year-end giving season would play out. Now, we have the data from 86 animal welfare clients to share the results for the full year.

 

Here is a look at our top three takeaways: 

1. Animal welfare organizations remain in a strong position

Unlike the peaks and valleys seen by humanitarian nonprofits, animal welfare organizations saw steady revenue growth from FY19 to FY22. In FY23, the challenges of inflation led to a flattening of revenue. 

The latest report from the Fundraising Effectiveness Project shows revenue declined -2.8% across the nonprofit sector. The animal welfare organizations we measured saw a drop of less than 1%. With revenue up 20% over FY19, these organizations remain in a strong position. 

2. Donor value hits a new high

The average donor value at animal welfare organizations reached $215 in FY23—the highest point in history. That figure is 22% higher than it was in FY19. 

This can be attributed largely to increases in both gift frequency (up 9% over FY19 and 4% over FY22) and average gift (up 12% over FY19 and 3% over FY22). 

3. Soft response rates hampered new donor acquisition

Animal welfare organizations saw the number of new donors drop -14.8% year over year. Active donor files likewise dropped -8.0% as this subsector was not able to escape industrywide challenges in acquiring new donors. 

 

Based on this benchmark data, RKD’s strategy and decision science experts developed three recommendations for animal welfare programs going forward:

1. Continue to focus on retention

After three years of stable retention rates from FY20 to FY22, donor retention dipped -2.5% in FY23. Combine that with the industrywide challenges in acquiring new donors, and animal welfare organizations did not bring in enough new donors to offset those lost to attrition.  

This makes improving retention a key focus going forward.

2. Adopt a recapture-first mindset

Due to the softness of acquisition, animal welfare organizations must consider investing more in recapturing lapsed donors. This approach paid off in FY22 and FY23 with the two highest years of recapture revenue.  

There is a greater opportunity of reactivating a large group of “warm” prospects who have previously given compared to “cold” prospects in acquisition. 

3. Keep improving donor value

Donor value broke through its performance ceiling in FY23 thanks to lifts in average gift and gift frequency. This growth was seen in every facet of the programs—from acquisition (+9.7%) to cultivation (+4.4%) to recapture (+3.4%).  

Embrace an always-on approach to improve the conversion of high-value donors to mid-level or major supporters. A focus on growing sustainer programs is another way animal welfare organizations can continue to incrementally improve donor value.

 

In the following sections, we’ll review the data from 2023. 

About the Report

What we measured 

The 2024 Animal Welfare Benchmark Report contains full-file data from 86 RKD animal welfare clients across the United States from Jan. 1, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2023. The data includes overall program metrics, like total revenue, active donors, new donors, retention rate, average gift size, donor value and gift frequency.  

Trends are based on all donors and all gift types. Donors with a gift of $10,000 or more were excluded. 

Revenue Growth

Total Revenue

 

From FY19 to FY22, animal welfare revenue increased +21.1%—growing steadily year over year. In FY23, that growth stalled, and revenue was flat (-0.6%) from FY22.  

Nevertheless, animal welfare revenue is in a much stronger position today than yesterday (FY19).  

 

Cultivation

 

Much of the revenue growth since FY19 can be attributed to cultivation programs. In FY23, cultivation accounted for 77% of animal welfare revenue.  

Cultivation is up $22 million since FY19, and it increased $1.4 million (+1.3%) year over year in FY23 despite the -2.5% drop in overall retention.  

 

Acquisition

 

New donors accounted for $27.6 million in FY23—18% of gross revenue. That’s $732,000 more than FY19 but $1.8 million less than FY22 due to soft response rates. 

 

Recapture

 

Recaptured donors accounted for $7.5 million in FY23—5% of gross revenue. That’s $2.8 million more than FY19 but a slight drop-off from the five-year high of $8.1 million in FY22. 

Donor Growth

Active Donors

 

Active donors are down 8% year over year, reaching their lowest level since FY19. The decline in FY23 is primarily due to challenges in both acquisition and retention in the animal welfare space. 

 

Retention

 

After holding steady for three years, donor retention rate dropped -2.5% in FY23. Even the rate of 38.5% from FY20 to FY22 was not strong enough to offset the attrition rates of donors moving out of core. 

 

 

This chart breaks down the retention rates by donor lifecycle. Core retention is down -0.6%, transition retention is down -5.5% and recently lapsed retention is down -15%. 

In order to balance attrition, retention must be improved across each of these audiences, with a focus on first-year Core retention, which declined 6%.

 

Average Gift

 

Average gift size increased $3.64 per gift (+4%) year over year. An average gift of $92 in FY23 marks a +12% increase over FY19. 

 

 

Looking again at our different donor lifecycles, we see that all gift amounts are an increase over the previous year. These are new high marks across acquisition, cultivation and recapture.  

 

Gift Frequency

 

As animal welfare organizations have focused more on their sustainer programs, gift frequency reached a new height of 2.33 in FY23. That’s a +4% lift over FY22 and a +9% jump since FY19.  

 

 

Breaking this down by lifecycle, cultivation gift frequency is up +2% year over year and has increased +11% since FY19.  

Gift frequency at acquisition has remained flat since FY19 (+1%). Recapture gift frequency has also remained steady since FY19 (-2%). 

 

 

Donor Value

 

Driven by gift frequency and average gift, donor value also reached its highest point in history. The donor value of $215 in FY23 is a $16 (+8%) increase over FY22 and a $39 (22.2%) lift over FY19. 

 

 
All lifecycles showed strength in donor value, contributing to a new ceiling for each in FY23. 
About RKD Group

RKD Group is North America's leading fundraising and marketing solutions provider to hundreds of growth-focused nonprofit organizations. With five decades of experience, RKD leverages technology, advanced data science and award-winning strategic and creative leadership to accelerate net revenue growth, build long-term donor relationships and drive the best return on investment.