Supporter Journey – Myth or Reality?

Hopefully everyone now has the message that the future of donor support is focused on retention and anything we can do to engage donors, build conversations and to create a sense of belonging so that we become part of their lives and an expression of their values. The world around us has never changed so rapidly or so dramatically and individuals are now more demanding than ever before in relation to any transaction they undertake at any level. While the commercial sector can invest to embrace and drive this, charities have to be more creative and imaginative to even come close to keeping up with what people might want or expect.

The corporate sector have developed 24/7 multiplatform communications which integrates multiple personalised channels into a seamless customer relationships and experience.  So where does that leave us? Quite simply falling back on ‘brain power, not budget power’. For the last twenty years we have talked about the legendary ‘supporter journey’, a clear route map that allows charities and their supporters to navigate to a point of optimum support and relationship, but we have almost become complacent about such a structure and its power, why?

Some practitioners believe that the ‘journey’ is real and that donors could, should and do navigate through the different programmes we create to engage them and enhance their relationship with our brand. The reality is that the ‘journey’ is a conceptual framework that every charity needs to put into place to fully embrace the needs of individual donors, but they will never follow a set path, our expectations or the logic of what we place before them. 2015 and beyond is about my terms, my style, my needs and in my time. A solid supporter journey is a essential strategic framework that helps us think through all the possible touch points of someone’s life when they may want to connect with us.

So after twenty years what is the new thinking that allows us to enhance our approach to creating fresh supporter journeys, where the needs of the charity and the supporter are in balance?

Think strategic tool

The Supporter Journey framework is a sophisticated approach to help us manage and steer our supporters to match the best practice in the commercial sector.  This tool will change the whole way you plan, develop and deliver your fundraising programme to deepen supporter satisfaction, commitment and engagement resulting in more money, time and voice being donated by more supporters for longer. But remember donors are unpredictable and any relationship is on their terms.

Which way is up?

The fundamental building block of the Supporter Journey is a 360 degree lifetime value analysis of every engagement ask you promote now or plan to promote in the future.  This is the framework for the Supporter Journey approach, ranking of every potential engagement ask (money, time, goods, voice, influence and lifestyle change) that could be offered to a supporter.  This will show ‘which way is up’, which additional engagement opportunities will increase support.

Avoiding the supporter feedback imbalance

The Supporter Journey approach makes sure that supporters’ needs are met.  It is easy for a charity to focus too much on asking for support, and too little on communicating with supporters about their importance and impact.  This constant cycle of feedback enhances the supporter’s motivation to give again and ensures that the charity and supporter needs are in balance.

Changing the fundraising mindset

To implement the Supporter Journey approach is to change the mindset of your entire fundraising team.  Every fundraiser’s primary goal is upgraded to encouraging supporters to the higher level as a Lifetime Value supporter.  Recruitment and retention are important, but journeying to the Lifetime Value group is paramount, which of course is the central thinking of retention.  This changes the way the team is motivated and the targets you set.

Rethinking innovation priorities

We need to do more for the mass and middle value audiences where we do not have direct one to one contact.  We should converse with every supporter on a regular basis about evolving their support to their comfortable maximum without the supporter feeling pressured.  Conventional approaches barely reach 10% of supporters.  Mailings and emails don’t work, telephone campaigns lack reach.  We need to innovate our conversations with our supporters to help develop their journeys with us.

Choice and expectations

The channels available for this conversation are ever multiplying – raising expectations of a personalised 24/7 service.  Charities must walk a tightrope to meet these expectations while retaining their personal recognisable face as a charity.

Communicating with supporters can no longer be the sole responsibility of a dedicated department.  An organisation-wide culture needs to be nurtured and this requires commitment, training and investment championed at the highest levels.

Seamless Support Across Multiple Channels

The trend is towards seamless support via multiple channels and particularly via devices.  We must ensure the message is unified and equally well-informed across all touchpoints.

Many individuals want to “do it themselves” to access information without direct contact through text, knowledge banks and online.  Particularly with digital and mobile channels, expectations are extremely high that resolution will move fast – this can be just as important as the response.

Valuing of the individual

A personal touch gives the highest satisfaction ratings.  Charities can capitalise on this because their stories connect and are told by passionate people.  Video can be a perfect way to make a thank you feel personal while efficiently reaching large numbers, but a simple hand written note cuts through the sea of digital communication.


A seamless approach requires investment at an organisation-wide level.  Key Performance Indicators enable monitoring of supporter satisfaction.  This requires listening to supporters to pinpoint the weak areas and build on strengths.  Central to this is understanding how interactions with your charity make people feel.  Call recording and surveys provide valuable tools for this and mystery shopping ( can also play an important role.

Only by developing our ability to communicate with and listen to our supporters through every new platform can we ensure that the Supporter Journey through our charities meets both their needs and ours.

Supporter Journeys are and will be the continual ‘quest’ of marketers who dedicate their professional lives and skills to our Sector; they may only be a conceptual framework, but they require constant attention, revision, testing and evolution.


The THINK Consulting Solutions Team 2015