The Power of Supporter Journeys: Benefits and Challenges
At Sequoia, we have invested time and effort in creating our Engagement Scorecard, a simple and easy way to understand how well-engaged your supporters are. This is a great way to measure and track this metric, but how can you affect or change this score?
Just as engagement scoring is a key focus for charities, so are supporter journeys – which can range from a simple welcome journey, through to a highly-engineered communication plan for each supporter. These tailored experiences are there to nurture relationships with donors and are frequently a strategic aim for charities, offering a multitude of benefits that extend beyond traditional fundraising efforts.
The ultimate aim for any enhanced supporter experience is obviously to ensure they are receiving the right message at the right time – increasing the relevance rather than the frequency of each communication. On the face of it, building supporter journeys seems like a logical step for every charity. However, there are significant challenges associated with making this a/ possible and b/ manageable. There’s a real danger that supporters can receive the wrong communication at the wrong time, resulting in a less than optimal experience!
First though, let’s look at the BENEFITS:
Improve Tenure and Build Lasting Relationships
Supporter journeys can help to create meaningful connections between organisations and their donors. By providing a personalised and relevant journey, charities can move beyond transactional interactions and build lasting relationships. Understanding the donor’s values, motivations, and interests enables charities to tailor communication and engagement strategies, building a sense of loyalty and commitment. About Loyalty are experts in this area and can help track this through their excellent programme.
Increased Supporter Retention
As a key measure within the Engagement Scorecard, a big factor in improving the score lies in retaining existing donors. Supporter journeys play a crucial role in this by keeping supporters engaged over the long term. Regular updates, personalised messages, and acknowledgment of past contributions create a sense of continuity and can help to reduce donor attrition rates. The journey becomes a narrative of shared achievements and goals, making donors feel like valued partners in the charity’s mission, thereby improving responses and even lifetime value.
Enhanced Fundraising Frequency and Effectiveness
A well-crafted supporter journey can significantly boost fundraising efforts. By strategically guiding donors through different stages of engagement, charities can identify opportunities to request additional support. For example, after an initial donation, a well-timed and personalised request for a recurring donation or participation in a specific campaign can be very effective. The journey acts as a strategic framework to maximize the potential for financial contributions and can be built on throughout defined periods of a supporter’s time with the charity. The journey is not about sending more communications, but the right ones.
Improved Supporter Understanding
Understanding donor behaviour is key for charities hoping to improve the diversity of support of donors, that is to say to increase the number of products that they interact with – whether financial or otherwise. Supporter journeys provide valuable insights into how donors interact with the organisation and can highlight cohorts of supporters that follow similar patterns of activity and uncover additional pots of supporters to engage with. Analysing data on engagement levels, preferred communication channels, and areas of interest allows charities to adapt and tailor their approach. This data-driven approach ensures that future interactions are more relevant and resonate with the donor’s preferences.
Continuously Adapting to External Factors
Things are constantly evolving, including the preferences and expectations of donors. Supporter journeys provide charities with the flexibility to adapt their strategies in response to changing trends and circumstances. Whether it’s incorporating new digital channels, addressing emerging social issues, or adjusting communication styles and frequency, supporter journeys allow charities to stay agile and responsive.
We hope that the benefits of supporter journeys are clear and obvious. Far from being a mere fundraising fad, they can help to fundamentally change the way that organisations engage with their supporters. By prioritising personalised journeys, understanding donor motivations and leveraging data-driven insights, charities can build on the engagement of supporters to improve the overall fundraising programme and supporter experience.
The benefits can be huge, as described above, so what is stopping charities from implementing these journeys and engaging with their supporters in a more personalised and appropriate manner? Undeniably it requires care and planning, but implementing supporter journeys might be simpler than you imagine.
There are often seen to be three key blockers that can prevent an organisation’s ability to manage and maintain these on-going journeys:
Resource and Budget Constraints
First of all, there is never infinite resource or budget available – sadly. If that was the case, we could skip to the end of the blog with little concern!
It is no secret that charities are often operating on tight budgets, making it challenging to allocate resources for the development and implementation of supporter journeys. The creation and management of personalised supporter journeys is likely to require dedicated staff, time, and expertise, which some organisations may struggle to afford or fit in with the current business as usual. However, organisations do not need to implement the large scale CRMs in order to achieve their goals – there are other options available that can make the process a viable option.
Data Management and Integration
Secondly, “our data isn’t good enough!” Maintaining accurate and up-to-date supporter data is essential for successful (and compliant) supporter journeys. Charities may face challenges related to data quality – including incomplete or outdated information – depending on the speed and accuracy with which data is processed and loaded. This can be compounded if organisations use multiple platforms for fundraising, such as web forms, retail outlets, campaigning platforms etc. Integrating these systems to create a seamless supporter journey can be complex, requiring specific technical expertise. So identifying and fixing potential data issues at source can resolve any impact on supporters in the downstream processes. Data quality is also key in the move towards achieving automation. Furthermore, charities must navigate data protection regulations, such as GDPR and supporter preferences, which all add complexity to supporter journey management and require ongoing diligence – not only to remain compliant but also to maintain trust with supporters.
And finally it comes down to technology. Some charities, especially smaller ones, may lack the necessary technological infrastructure to implement and manage sophisticated supporter journeys. All too often we hear of teams trying to manage multiple journeys using spreadsheets and static flags on the database. Even where they have the technology there are potential barriers preventing the charity from reaping the full benefit of its capabilities, perhaps related to data setup and management as described above, or simply requiring training which results in greater confidence in using the options available.
Overcoming these challenges calls for a strategic and collaborative approach. Charities can benefit from investing in technology, providing training for staff and continuously evaluating and refining the strategies. And it can be easier than you think.
Platforms such as Apteco Marketing Suite not only enable automated supporter journeys to be set up and managed without constant manual checks, but also have the capability to manage what the best next communication in the journey should be.
We would advocate getting support in key areas in order to make sure the implementation and ongoing activity is as successful as possible. Contact us to discuss how we can support with making supporter journeys an achievable and successful option for you.