Donor experience: what are fundraisers thinking and doing?

Donor experience: what are fundraisers thinking and doing?

Lizzie Ellis | 14 July 2018

Wishing a ‘happy anniversary’ appears to be in order. One year on from the Donor Experience Commission’s projects being published, the IoF wanted to find out what charities and fundraisers have been doing in their work on improving their own donors’ experience.

We conducted a survey to see how fundraisers are thinking about the concept, what actions they’ve taken, what plans they have in place, and what challenges they face in implementing change. Fundraisers told us they clearly see the importance of working on improving donor experience  – 74% of respondents said that 'building great donor experiences with the aim of satisfying donors' was the bedrock of their fundraising and communications.


Interestingly, there were some differences when we looked at the results by size of charities. In particular, a higher proportion of smaller charities agreed with the statement ‘we go out of our way to meet the needs of our supporters’. This might be partly explained by the variation we saw where the ownership of donor experience sits within the organisation. For smaller and medium-sized organisations, responsibility for donor experience is more likely to sit at a senior level (CEO and Trustee Board), whereas for larger charities it is more likely to be a shared responsibility across teams and departments.


So what are fundraisers actually doing on the donor experience? The most common practice is to recognise and showcase donors (in an Annual Report for example). We would certainly like to see the number of organisations that regularly report on the donor experience to their Board rise from 28% in the future.


Other actions that organisations have implemented or considered include:

  • Sharing feedback from supporters with staff


  • Asking donors which areas of work or cause they are particularly interested in


  • Offering training to all staff on what they need to do to give donors a great experience


  • Using a donor panel that advises on fundraising and communications


  • Reporting information on complaints


  • Seeking input and feedback from key supporters to share their views on their experience


Interestingly, just under a third of respondents (30%) felt they needed to be convinced that specifically investing in the donor experience will raise more money, which gives food for thought for potential future research.


The Commission on the Donor Experience had an ambitious aim of achieving 'nothing less than a culture change  among fundraisers and within the organisations that employ them'. Our survey results show that change is already underway and charities of every size are making it a priority to put the donor at the heart of fundraising activities. Of course more work needs to be done, but showing donors that they are valued and specifically working to improve their experience of giving reflects just how important supporters are.


Lizzie Ellis, Policy and Information Officer at the IoF 


Read the new report by the Donor Experience Project, just launched at Fundraising Convention. The report offers new insights into how donor experience is being used, which were gathered with support from 


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