Supporter journey thinking

Published by Jens Hooiveld on

In many occasions fundraisers manage stand-alone direct mail campaigns, telemarketing campaigns or any other channel-campaigns. With hardly any idea whether the timing and proposition are suitable to the supporter, but just because they fit general selection criteria or their own planning. This is how we’re all used to work and what has brought us success so far. But this won’t be successful in the future. Supporter journey thinking can be your starting point for a supporter-oriented fundraising program.

Supporters in actionSupporters can add value to your organization in many more ways than just donating money. Like sharing social content, signing petitions, doing voluntary work, buying merchandise, etc. And it’s great that they are willing to give you their support in these ways, and not just with their Euros, Dollars or Yen. When your organization is able to bring all these forms of engagement and support together, then you can start supporter journey thinking.

For me, supporter journey thinking has three important aspects:

  1. Balancing asking for value and offering value to the supporter in order to work on a sustainable relationship
  2. Collect data through all the touchpoints and use this knowledge to build better supporter profiles
  3. Automate your marketing process

1.) Many fundraisers love to ask for money (and they should!). But for some supporter segments it’s sometimes better to ask for something else, or simply to ask nothing and give value instead. A question… do you know what the value is for your supporters that motivates them? What do they get out of supporting your organization? Find out what this is for each supporter segment and make sure you integrate this into your message.

2.) Generate a single customer view with all the data you have. Apart from the obvious contact details and transactional data, also (non-) response data from all channels, online data and survey data will help you to build better profiles of your supporters. Based on these data you can decide which proposition might be best to offer, via which channel and most important, WHEN. Based on what people do or don’t do, you need to learn when they are most likely to be ready for your next message. It’s not up to you when to communicate, it’s up to the supporter!

3.) Start drawing a supporter flow that represents the supporter journey. Do this together with all people responsible for specific supporter segments. And to remind you, this is not only fundraising… Yes, this makes the process harder, but it will make you all grow stronger. Drawing the flow forces you to structure to all the specific contact moments with your supporter. This also makes it possible to automate the flow! Some of your digital communication might already be automated, like your thank-you e-mail. But now you can automate even more, including the direct mail and telemarketing campaigns. Imagine how much time you save for monitoring and optimizing your fundraising!

In a next blog I will talk more about how to develop a supporter journey and important reminders for this.

Jens Hooiveld

Jens Hooiveld has been working as a fundraiser for more then 10 years now. Learned the drills and skills at the Dutch Burns Foundations. Then he joined Greenpeace Netherlands where he worked for many years including a secondment to the regional office in southeast Asia. Loves to cook Asian and Italian food and drink matching wines. He currently works for Growing Minds as a consultant in supporter contact strategy and supporter journeys.


Mike Zywina · November 18, 2014 at 10:56

Hi Jens, thanks very much for a great read.

I specialise in supporting small charities and this is one of the areas where I focus the most, for a couple of reasons: (1) small charities can really struggle to build up a dedicated supporter base with so many organisations out there, so thinking in these terms can really help; and (2) there are a few things that small charities can do reasonably quickly which make a big difference.

I call this my ‘donor journey’ exercise but perhaps ‘supporter journey’ is a better term because, like you, I think that it is about harnessing other types of support beyond donations.

My top tips based on years of working for and in charities are:

1) Plan communications in advance – it gives you a much higher chance of sticking to deadlines and means you can structure messages around key opportunities rather than just being reactive.

2) Tell stories and share messages, don’t just ask for money – you need to inspire and engage your supporters to have a chance of securing their active support. Sounds obvious but many charities don’t plan out their communications with this approach.

3) Segment your audience and target them appropriately – your approaches shouldn’t be a blunt instrument. It is counter-productive to ask all your supporters to donate £5 per month, participate in a fun run etc if they are capable of giving more. This can ‘spoil’ the bigger asks so needs to be planned strategically.

4) Monitor performance – these days a lot can be learned by looking at open and clickthrough rates, spikes in website traffic etc. Analysing this over time builds a picture of what your supporters are interested in and what they react to best.

5) Don’t be afraid to learn by trial and error – some charities worry about getting the approach right and don’t put their messages out there as a result. However you don’t need to get the approach right first time as long as you learn – and asking your supporters to help by giving feedback can be a great engagement tool.

Looking forward to reading your next blog and hearing more about your approach – it’s such an important area and if charities get it right then it makes a big difference!

Henry Larry · February 20, 2024 at 06:38

Understanding supporter motivations and automating the supporter journey could revolutionize fundraising strategies. Building comprehensive supporter profiles with data from various touchpoints is a game changer.
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