How to get from good intentions to a great supporter experience

The Commission on the Donor Experience (CDE) officially launched last week. Its premise is give supporters a great experience and they will give more and for longer. So:

1. Do we believe that?
2. Aren’t we already giving supporters great experiences?
3. What makes a great experience?

Does a great experience equate to better performance, value and retention?



Before you even consider the overwhelming evidence, consider the absurdity of the counter-argument.

Is anyone seriously making the case that giving supporters a deliberately crappy experience is a successful strategy? Every sector has its fringe lunatics. But it’s a safe bet ours aren’t reading this (because they surely don’t read at all).

But note “deliberately” is italicized. Many believe they give supporters a great experience. But they’re as much to blame for our sector’s mess as those who knowingly don’t.

Why? Read on…

Aren’t we already giving supporters great experiences?



Or, to be generous, if it ever happened it was by accident not design. Our sector has no best practises, only bad habits. The worst of which is ignoring, or presuming to have answers for, two fundamental questions:

1. Why do people support?
2. Why do they stop?

Regardless of cause/channel/product etc. we habitually respond with a simplistic formula that addresses neither question “…people give because they’re asked”. Meanwhile acquisition gets harder and more expensive, whilst we lose support faster than we find it. So clearly we’re missing something.

That “something” is an empirical and applied answer to what separates those who say yes from those who say no. Not to mention maybe there’s more than one reason for saying yes, requiring more than one journey.

This is where we come unstuck. Because, with a handful of shining exceptions, there isn’t a charity on the face of the Earth that has an answer that’s worked. Instead we perpetuate another bad habit – endlessly analysing who did what, when and how, as if any of those could ever give us the answer that mattered: Why?

If you go down that road, as many have or are about to, you’ll inevitably find two things:

1. A whole host of apparent differences (i.e. demographics, behaviour, tenure etc.) from which to create shiny new segments.
2. Zero evidence on which to create new journeys for these segments. Because the seeming differences are irrelevant; they don’t cause behaviour, they’re just statistical noise.

Unless we break these bad habits, our sector will grow increasingly irrelevant to those from whom it asks support, and ineffective to those it exists to support.

Why? Read on…

What makes a great experience?


Uncovering and acting on three pieces of data that don’t exist on your CRM:

1. Supporter commitment (knowing exactly the strength of their relationship and what causes it)
2. Supporter identity (knowing exactly why someone supports your cause)
3. Supporter experience (knowing exactly what is going on, in the moment, for your supporters, and acting on it to improve their experience)

The challenge with these headings is it’s very easy to read them and feel confident you’re doing them. Jargon that seemingly pertains to these has pervaded, and been practised, for decades. But so have low to no net growth and high supporter attrition.

Clearly, success depends on more than simplistic, generic soundbites about “emotion”, “engagement”, “insert another empty conference platitude here”, etc. If it was that easy everyone would be engaged, we wouldn’t be in such a mess, and the CDE would never have needed to be created.

That said a number of charities have proved beyond all doubt that getting an empirical and applied answer on supporter Commitment, Identity and Experience is the foundation stone of a radically different supporter journey yielding radical increases in performance, value and retention. And that journey is going in a very different direction than the one the rest of the sector is on.

Why? Read on…

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