Why supporter loyalty matters
Roger Lawson and Richard Spencer from About Loyalty explain the research they've undertaken to understand what makes some donors feel loyal towards the charities they support, while others feel less loyal.
It’s official, investing in delivering exceptional supporter experiences isn’t just about making you (and your CEO and trustees) feel good. It’s essential for growing long term donors and even legacies.
Our research with over 20,000 UK donors in the autumn of 2018 shows that those donors who feel the highest levels of loyalty towards a charity are three times more likely to want to continue supporting you, nine times more likely to consider upgrading their support and five time more likely to leave you a gift in their will.
But what do we mean by loyalty? We define it as: The feeling of support or allegiance to a cause or charity. It’s about how they feel.
The research has proven that there are three fundamental drivers of loyalty: commitment, satisfaction and trust.
Commitment is the passion that a donor feels for the cause or goal of the charity. To score highly on this they have to know what your goal is, they need to be emotionally connected to it and it needs to be a goal that’s important to them.
Satisfaction is the way of measuring how they feel that you treat them as a donor. Do you thank them well, do you speak in a tone of voice that makes them feel valued and do you understand why they give and communicate accordingly?
Trust is their belief that you behave in the way that they would expect you to. In particular, it asks whether they trust you to spend their money well.
It is by growing each of these that overall loyalty grows – and so will your income.
In The Chase Index, charity members measure the loyalty (commitment, satisfaction and trust) of all their donors and benchmark their scores against those of other charities. But measuring it is just the start – it’s then important to do something with the analysis.
That’s why we have created a community where all Chase Index members collaborate in developing their plans for growing commitment, satisfaction and trust.
Growing Commitment. At the core of high commitment is an organisational brand that brings to life the very reason you exist and why donors should give to you. If you have a goal of beating cancer, stopping child abuse or saving the Arctic then your commitment score will probably be quite high. But even if it isn’t there is a lot you can do by clearly demonstrating your goals and successes to your donors through your communications.
Growing Satisfaction is more within your immediate control. You can change the tone of voice of your donor communications tomorrow, you can change your supporter newsletter and you can improve your thanking of donors.
We love Crisis’ ‘Donor in the room’ concept – where every meeting is run as though there is a donor sitting listening to what is being discussed and decided – if it’s not right for the ‘donor in the room’ then it’s probably not right for all donors.
We also love the review of thanking donors that many charities are undertaking. And would love to point everyone towards Lisa Sargeant’s excellent exhibit on thanking donors on SOFII.
And we love Innovista’s 1,242 Thank Yous campaign that won the first ‘Best Donor Experience’ award of the 2018 Institute of Fundraising awards. You can hear Robin Peake (who led this work at Innovista) speak about how small charities can also grow donor satisfaction at the Institute of Fundraising Convention in July.
Growing Trust is a different matter altogether. It can takes years to grow trust and may only need a few seconds to destroy it.
But you can influence this. Keep your promises, getting the small things right is important – mistakes and typos will make a donor question whether you are competent in other areas of the work – and above all else, demonstrate how you spend your donors’ money and the impact it has for your beneficiaries. After all, that’s the only way to reassure them that they made the right decision.
It’s not easy. It takes dedication and a long-term view on donors relationships. And you need to be prepared to invest. But done right, you’ll see the happiness of your donors increase and your bottom line too.
gives charities the ability to measure the loyalty of their donors and benchmark the scores against other charities. Institute of Fundraising members get a 10% discount with About Loyalty to take part in the Chase Index in the autumn of 2019.