Dancing, David Brent and Supporter Journeys

David Brent

Guest Bloggers | 25 August 2017

“Supporter Journeys” – it’s a buzzword in the sector at the moment, and rightly so.

It signifies the sectors move from an insular and somewhat self-centred approach, to one that embraces the needs and motivations of our supporters. It allows us to engage with supporters at a deeper level, developing a stronger connection to the cause and the impact they are having, meaning longer term and more efficient support.

The reality is, it’s a complex beast. Here at Woodland Trust, we’ve seen a “buzzword” develop into a project that will not only have a direct and substantial effect on every part of the way we work internally, but will also change what people see from the outside.

Ultimately, the result will be happier, more engaged and more valued supporters who allow us to do more of the great work we’re doing.

Even though we’re early on in the project, we’re seeing some positive results already just from enabling teams to interact more, and taking a step towards a Woodland Trust led experience.

I liken this process to our friend, of “The Office” fame, David Brent.




David Brent dances entirely on his own, enjoying himself in the belief he’s doing it well.

That’s all well and good if it’s just you involved in the dance, but the nature of a supporter’s interaction with any charity means there’s a lot more involved. Imagine having 20 David Brents, dancing in their own unique way – it would be mayhem! When we treat supporter journeys in isolation we end up with a disjointed tangle of flailing arms and legs – a little like my own style.

The aim is to have all of our David Brents in synch, meaning our supporters have a flawless Woodland Trust experience that delivers what they want, but also what they don’t know they want.



It’s by no means an easy route to success, though. Just like dancing, it requires choreography, practice on your own, and practice with the team. The result is a stunning performance that wows anyone who experiences it.

That’s the aim of supporter journeys.

The role of a supporter journey manager is to provide guidance on the choreography, music, and the props to make it incredible. It’s up to the dancers to deliver it. Remember – choreographers often don’t do the dancing!

So, here’s some words of wisdom as you embark on your supporter journey, erm… journey…

1) Practice together

The first, and easiest impact you can make is to get every team talking to each other. Involve them in the planning for supporter journeys and watch as people share resources and ideas.


2) Only teach the parts of the dance you need to know

One of the biggest barriers to supporter journeys is that delivering the perfect journey is actually very complex, but a lot of the complexities are irrelevant to most teams. Keep it simple with analogies, and only go into detail with the people that need to know it.


3) Boos, jeers, applause and silence tell you a lot

“Listen” to what your supporters are doing. If they leave, find out why. When they join, find out why. If they donate, find out why. If they don’t open an email… you guessed it, find out why!

Use that knowledge to deliver more of what your supporters want, and understand why what you gave them in the past didn’t do it for them.


4) If we did this dance, would our audience enjoy it? – don’t be afraid of critical questions

The aim of supporter journeys is to ensure every interaction your supporter has with the charity adds to their experience. You can start this by asking critical questions and putting yourself in the supporters’ shoes, such as:

  • Is this relevant?
  • Does my supporter want this information?
  • Is it too complicated?
  • Is there a better way to do this?


5) Learn new dance moves, slowly but deliberately.

Don’t get too complex, too quickly. The perfect supporter journey needs a single supporter view, detailed data capture, machine learning, next best actions, real-time responsive content, the list goes on!

All of those things cost time and money. Start by embracing a principle and empowering your staff to embrace it too. From there, you can develop everything else you need as you learn more.  



At the Woodland Trust, we’re embarking on an exciting journey to build everything we do around our supporters’ needs and motivations. We want to give them an outstanding, personal, experience and enable them to do more for our precious trees and woods. I’m delighted to be project managing this transition and working across the Trust to embed a supporter centric culture.”


David Reeves, Supporter Journey Manager at Woodland Trust



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