Case Studies and Best Practice

Commission on the Donor Experience project 1: The Use and Misuse of Language, Andrea Macrae

Most charity communications are written with care, mindful of the wealth of advice that suggests things like ‘tell a story’ and ‘use emotion’. But how do you know whose stories your supporters most want to hear? How do you know that you’re telling your supporters the details in those stories that they want to know? How do you know that the people your supporters are hearing from are the people that they most want to hear from, whether it be a survivor, or a CEO, etc.? There is a lot of general advice about how to reach, engage and appeal to supporters, from all sorts of sources, but how do you know which, out of all of those strategies and tips, will work best for your particular charity and your supporters?

The best way to find out is to ask! Asking groups of supporters to give detailed feedback on some of your letters, emails, and more, can give you invaluable insights into how your messages are ‘landing’ – how they feel for your supporters, and what your supporters like and dislike about them. Focus groups and supporter panels are a key part of continually changing a dynamic of ‘talking at’ to one of ‘talking with’, and further, to ‘listening to’ and ‘learning from’. These kinds of insights can really help you shift, tweak and edit your way to happier, more engaged supporters.

Read more about ‘The use and misuse of language’, including how UNICEF are asking for and acting on supporter panels’ views on their communications, with great results.

Andrea MacraeDr. Andrea Macrae is a researcher and communications consultant who specialises in the language of charity communications. She is based at Oxford Brookes University and can be reached at 




Commission on the Donor Experience project 18: Supporters as Champions for your mission, Richard Turner

We can all see fundraising is no longer working the way it used to.

Rather than react to the symptoms, news headlines, fall in response rates and complaints, stop for a moment to consider why. The answer? The rules of communication have changed. In a world where everyone is now a ‘channel’, we are bombarded with information. Interrupt style marketing is no longer effective because our attention is now scarce. We feel we are drowning, and in the noise what do we do? We filter – increasingly relying only on our trusted sources.

In this increasingly connected world, your supporters have great networks. They can be trusted sources of your message, and can spread the word and get the attention of others. A donor can open the door to a foundation or corporate. Moreover, your story is stronger coming to their network from them. This is about changing a mind-set from ‘how can we get more money out of people?’ to ‘how can we inspire people to share our story?’.

To can inspire others to spread your story to their networks, all you need is a great donor experience and a consistent story to spread. A great donor experience is strategic as it inspires people to talk about you and recommend you to others. A consistent story is readily available – you’ll find it in your mission or purpose.

Want to see proof that this works? For five years SolarAid applied this approach to its fundraising, building a sustainable base of income. To find out more about this, and for further examples from Charity: Water, Anthony Nolan and the Alzheimer’s Society, go to ‘Supporters as Champions of your Mission’.

Richard TurnerRichard Turner has over 25 years experience as a fundraiser, including over 16 years at Fundraising Director level. Before setting up as a consultant Richard was Chief Fundraiser for SolarAid where he applied a different approach to their fundraising. His awards include IoF Fundraiser of the Year in 2001. He is also an associate consultant with Alan Clayton Associates and blogs and tweets as @ifundraiser



Commission on the Donor Experience project 9: Major Donors, Angela Cluff

This week, a friend, the CEO of a medium sized charity called me. He wanted some advice. He hired a new (excellent) major donor fundraiser 6 months ago, but now he’s worried – the new fundraiser is placing significant demands on other staff in the organisation rather than ‘just bringing in the money’.

But here’s the challenge – major donor fundraising isn’t just about the major donor fundraiser, it’s about the whole organisation, because major donors have and want to have relationships with people in different parts of the organisation. Who, exactly, will vary from donor to donor, dependent on their specific interests and approach to their philanthropy. But whether you’re the CEO, you’re the finance director, you work in frontline programme or project delivery or you’re on the Board there will be major donors who will want to talk to you.

Major donors don’t fund your work; they are – and want to feel they are - partners in your mission and on the inside track of your plans and progress. To deliver an outstanding donor experience in this context you will need two things: first, to be completely aligned on direction, strategy and your organisational priorities; and second, for those involved in any donor relationship to invest time alongside the major donor fundraiser to plan and plot out their specific role in delivering the donor experience.

Read more about the choices your organisation will need to make to succeed in major donor fundraising and how to deliver an exceptional major donor experience here

Angela CluffAngela Cluff is an independent fundraising consultant and a partner consultant with The Management Centre. She is a Trustee of Oxfam GB and passionate about the potential of philanthropy to change the world. She can be reached at or on +44 7870 652015




Commission on the Donor Experience Project 11: Communication with Individual Donors, Craig Linton

Discover how Save the Children abandoned single issue telephone scripts and improved the donor experience.

The individual giving project for the Commission of the Donor Experience comprises of six reports. There is a lot to read! Yet, the fundraiser who does read them will be rewarded with many nuggets of invaluable information that they can use the to improve their supporter experience.

One example that I’ve used in my work is on page 15 of the CDE project 11e on telephone fundraising. It is fascinating to read how Save the Children has reshaped its approach to telephone fundraising with impressive results.

In particular, the shift from a tight script on a pre-defined theme to guidelines with 11 different creative themes is  better for the fundraiser and donor. If, on the call, the supporter showed no topic preference, then fundraisers were encouraged to talk about a subject they felt passionately about.

A definite win/win, as the results and feedback show. Complaints were down and financial results broadly the same (some up, some down). Additionally, there are likely to be longer term impacts from the approach as better quality calling should raise the loyalty and commitment of donors.

The telephone should be used to engage with supporters to build true relationships and not solely used as a fundraising channel in isolation.

Read more about ‘How the phone can be used to create amazing experiences.’

Craig LintonCraig Linton runs Fundraising Detective, an agency and consultancy that helps charities raise more income from individuals. He is passionate about improving the donor experience and helped collate the individual giving reports.



More resources:

What’s the first step to engaging people for longer? Mind your language…

How thanking helped SolarAid

Spotlight on Thank you and Welcome