Fact. Fantastic Supporter Experience = Positive ROI

Published by Rachel Hunnybun on

There’s been a lot of discussion about supporter experience recently, and as a massive advocate of long term relationship fundraising, I’ve been asked several times about KPI’s and ROI’s on supporter experience. It’s not an area that’s often measured, but I’d like to tell you a story of what happened at my organisation, Practical Action, last year…

Picture the scene. Every Individual Giving manager’s nightmare – the first two campaigns of the year don’t quite hit target. Panic sets in amongst senior managers and recovery strategies are furiously produced. This was where I was at Practical Action last year. Panic papers written, we agreed that, amongst other measures, we would throw everything at the next appeal and take it down a more emotional route with a hard hitting story and an in-house approach. To my relief, it worked.

Rachel 1The supporter feedback was phenomenal and the figures even better! It broke all records and turned out after a bit of analysis that over 24% of donors gave their largest ever donation to Practical Action in response to the appeal. Fantastic! The opportunity was there to really engage and to connect with these supporters who had taken the decision to give to us at a higher level than ever before.

Together with our insight team, we identified a group of people who had given a gift that was at least double their previous gift and was at least the same if not more than their highest ever donation. For some this was a jump from say, £20 to £100, for others it was £100 to £500 and others even higher.

The level of gift was a crucial factor. I really wanted to do something that would make these supporters know that we’d recognised the increase rather than the monetary value of the donation

We both knew that what they had given was larger than normal – I could see the figures on a report and they had written the cheque, so what would recognising this do to future giving behaviour? It wasn’t an exercise in the special thanking of higher level gifts, which is something we’ve done before, it was recognising a step change in behaviour and seeing if that recognition resulted in the supporter maintaining – or even increasing their support in the future.

Rachel 2Working collaboratively with our supporter care team, we found a box of cards that were branded and had a really positive image of beneficiaries, there were only enough for just under half of the group, so a small experiment was hatched that would help us track what happened to giving behaviour*.

Supporter care really embraced the idea and suggested we set up a ‘thank-a thon’ involving sweets, cakes and goodies and invited the whole organisation to join us in the canteen to write thank you cards to these donors. It was a lovely thing to watch, people from all departments came to help – even IT joined in! Within an hour, all the cards were written and personally signed and ready to go in the post.

The copy wasn’t rocket science, the message was very simple. ‘Thank you for your particularly generous gift’. We didn’t mention the gift amount, and everyone signed the cards from themselves.

A year later, we’ve tracked the results of the behaviour of these supporters following receiving the card and the year proceeding the donation to the original appeal.

This is what happened:

IncreasedDoubled (or more!)MaintainedDecreased
No Card33%16%17%34%


In fairness, there was no difference in the amount of supporters that decreased or stopped giving, and there was very little difference in the number that increased giving – the real difference came by the amount that people increased their following year’s support by double or more.

The results show that the people who received a card and have subsequently increased their giving, have behaved in a far more positive way that the people who didn’t. And those people have had a big impact when comparing the total amount of donations that these groups gave in the following year…

Whilst the group who didn’t receive a card increased their giving and gave 115% more in the year following their donation to the September appeal…the group who did receive a card gave 174% more.

The sweets, cakes and postage cost vs the income means that even taking into account the natural increase in income of the group that didn’t get the card, this exercise has resulted in an ROI of 155 to 1 in just 12 months.

So being nice to people pays off. It’s official. It doesn’t have to cost a fortune, but it takes time, thought and effort. We have all the information at our fingertips and the recognition of any kind of behaviour change tells our supporters we’re listening to them and that we care about them as an individual. Unfortunately all too often we’re flat out trying to hit targets and deadlines for this financial year to spend time on the things that are seen as non-essential, but with donors who deserve to be valued and cared for, and a year one return of 155 to 1, how ‘non-essential’ is investment into fantastic supporter experience?

*It’s important to note that this was a small experiment rather than a large A/B test so I’ve been told by my insight team to issue a disclaimer that the results are indicative

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Rachel Hunnybun

Rachel Hunnybun is a Fundraising Consultant at Blakely Inc. She has worked at a senior level in individual giving at a number of charities in the UK, is a commissioner on the Commission for Donor Experience and often can be found speaking at national and international fundraising conferences.


Charlotte · September 17, 2015 at 15:31

Hi Rachel, this is brilliant! Well done again :-) Can I ask, how many thank you cards did you send? And what sort of time scale did you plan the hour? eg. xx amount of days after the appeal landed

    Rachel Hunnybun · September 19, 2015 at 11:10

    Hi Charlotte, thanks for your comment. It was a really small sample set of under 100 cards but they went about 4 weeks after the appeal landed, everyone had received their official thank you letter so the recipients would have received the card between 1 and 3 weeks after their donation (this variation didn’t seem to have any impact on results).

Kurstin · September 22, 2015 at 13:49

This was really interesting and helpful. Can I ask if you think it’s sustainable? And if not, how are you thinking about operationalising in the future?

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