How are you managing the Donor Journey?

Published by Tony Elischer on

I spend my life ‘on the road’ visiting many different countries and cultures every year and having the huge privilege of experiencing the constantly changing and evolving fundraising sector at work. Every trip is a journey that needs careful planning to ensure that it works smoothly and maximises my time. We all know that travel is more of a challenge nowadays than it ever was, more people moving, less investment from the people moving us and more and more controls on where and how we go. For every journey I look at the easiest, most efficient transport options, I check paperwork (visas, health risks, etc.), I map out a timetable and finally I prepare to pack; this last challenge is, in my case, now a fine art as I always travel hand luggage even if I’m away for three weeks with massive changes in temperature between countries! So moving around efficiently and effectively is a natural part of my life’s journey.

As I sit here at 39,000 feet looking out at the clouds I wonder if charities ever think of themselves at travel agents, travel advisers, online travel sites or simply executive travel assistants to their supporters? You see for years smart fundraisers have focused on the donor journey:Donor Journey_THINK

This was, and is, a fabulous piece of thinking as it helps charities to see all of their programmes mapped out; how each programme can draw prospects from other programmes, offering donors new propositions, products and gift levels. When I first defined some of this thinking for myself it was a prompt to show me that, no matter where a supporter connected with a charity, there was always somewhere else they could go. A charity should never view support from a donor as ‘static’, keeping them in the same programme; our job is to ‘move donors’, constantly building engagement and hopefully growing the value of that donors support both financially and in terms of their connection to our brand and cause.

The key point we should now accept is that it is only ‘frequent travellers’ who will ever take control of the donor journey and decide how they want to navigate and manage it. Most people need help and guidance to think through where they might want to go, what the options are to get there and how to prepare for the journey. We know that in donor terms the frequent travellers are the top 5% of our supporter base who actively engage, for them we need to assume the role of executive travel assistants. It is the other 95% that we need to try to reach out to and assume the role of travel agents thinking tactically and strategically to help build the most appropriate, inspiring and tailored journey that we can to meet people needs and to enrich their lives. Journeys are not about us they are about them, our supporters and donors.

The most important thing we have to realise about the supporter journey is that it is a useful strategic framework to help us develop a full portfolio of options and opportunities to connect supporters and meet their needs. Donors are not logical and rarely follow the journey as you would want them to; nowadays it is about ‘on my terms, in my time and in my way’, so we need to work harder to assume the different travel support roles I have outlined, helping people make more journeys. We also need constantly to refresh our journey options, using new channels, creative and propositions. Frequent travellers expect and deserve constant innovation, effectiveness and efficiency.

We all know the key message in these difficult economic times is to focus more on the supporters we have, maximising and protecting their relationship and support. Central to this is our focus on helping people make more journeys, longer journeys and more fulfilling journeys. So as you enjoy your holiday this year take the journey time to look out at the clouds and redefine your role as a supporter travel agent/guide for the future.

Tony Elischer

Tony Elischer

Tony has over 30 years hands on experience in the not for profit sector. He has been a consultant for the last fourteen years working at the highest level across a wide range of causes and organisations and is the founder of the leading international consultancy THINK Consulting Solutions. He is an internationally regarded expert on fundraising and marketing, having extensive experience of helping charities worldwide with strategy, fundraising, management and troubleshooting. In the last 12 months he has worked in over 20 countries.


Brian Saber · August 8, 2013 at 15:10

Hi Tony,

Love this piece and the concept of the journey.

Looking forward to having you on the Asking Matters Fundraising Masters series next month!


Bryan Vadas · August 9, 2013 at 08:25

Hi Tony

Great piece – thanks for your insights

As cofounder of iPledg, we help fundraising through crowd funding (check us out at http://ipledg.com/)

I really would welcome an article on how you see crowd funding working with this sector

Keep up the great blogging


Jolene Retallick · August 15, 2013 at 23:04


As a relative newcomer to fundraising, can I ask what a trydonor is?

Thanks very much,


Gary L.Bukowski CFRE · April 7, 2015 at 14:10

Thanks for your insight,having worked with donors over 30+ years I appreciate the insight that you have articulated in your thoughtful post..The donors journey has incredible potential for the donor and the non-profit that is willing to take that journey with the donor.

away travel guide · September 19, 2018 at 06:31

I read this piece of writing fully regarding the comparison of hottest and previous technologies,
it’s awesome article.

How are you managing the donor journey? | Think Consulting Solutions · August 8, 2013 at 16:15

[…] Tony looks at the fundraiser’s role in managing the donor’s journey – check it out on 101 Fundraising […]

[Headlines] Hope is Not a Strategy | · August 13, 2013 at 16:02

[…] How are you managing the Donor Journey? A charity should never view support from a donor as ‘static’. Our job is to ‘move donors’, constantly building engagement and hopefully growing the value of that donors support both financially and in terms of their connection to our brand and cause. by Tony Elischer […]

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