Invest in the supporter experience.

Optimising each and every interaction a supporter has with you to increase loyalty, advocacy and ultimately income.

Most of us that are of working age know, and are familiar with the term ‘customer experience’ (CX). It’s a given, we expect a certain level of experience when making an online purchase or visiting a shop / restaurant. And when we feel like the company we are giving our money to hasn’t considered how all the touchpoints make us feel and what it’s like if it’s broken, we’re not happy. Maybe we complain or give them a bad review. We even make decisions about where to spend our money on the reported experiences of others without ever trying for ourselves. This ubiquity in expectations is as a direct result of years of investment and a laser sharp focus on CX. Why? Because you can’t argue with the return on investment it brings:

  • Customer-centric companies are 60% more profitable than companies that don’t focus on customers.
  • Brands with superior customer experience bring in 5.7 times more revenue than competitors that lag in customer experience.
  • 84% of companies that work to improve their customer experience report an increase in their revenue. 
  • Two in five consumers would consider switching to another brand after two bad experiences.

With such strong, and measurable benefits being displayed time and time again by our cousins in the commercial sector, why is it that so many charities have yet to even consider how they can harness this thinking for themselves? Especially as, in my opinion, the experience that a supporter has with a charity is more important than one they have with a brand. After all, charities aren’t really selling a product or a service, they’re selling a feeling. An emotion. The chance for the supporter to feel good about their actions. They’re selling the experience.  

A recent study found that 93% of charities say supporter experience (SX) is important. However a staggering 75% said, when looking specifically at their own organisations, supporter experience was of average importance, or less. Why is this? The report highlighted 3 main barriers:

  • Lack or budget to invest in the tools and skills needed.
  • Lack of understanding about what SX is.
  • No one is championing SX within the organisation.

If all of the above describes your organisation, then I’m hoping that I can give you a few pointers to how you can get your organisation thinking about SX.

Charity supporters happy to be finishing a running event.

Supporter experience is the way a supporter thinks and feels about your organisation across every interaction and touchpoint.



Because optimising each and every interaction a supporter has with you will increase loyalty, advocacy and ultimately income.


The below assumes that you have some way of categorising your supporters into key groups e.g. corporate supporters, community fundraisers, volunteers etc. If you’re not currently capturing this data at all, you’ll need to start there first. 



There are different journeys our supporters go on depending on whether they are just finding out about you, are supporting you, or are leaving. Defining what those stages are is the first step. For example, the acquisition journey stages usually look something like this:



A touchpoint is every type of interaction a supporter has with the organisation in each stage. This could be a facebook advert, through to a piece of direct mail, a telephone call or letter or email they receive. 

The size of this task can vary greatly depending on the size of your team and organisation. If you are the only one that communicates with supporters, then you’ll find this easy, but if you have different departments looking after different comms, this could take longer. Stick with it though, as this step will really help in the future – and it’s a great exercise to look for efficiencies, are you duplicating things? 



Time to bring how our supporters engage into the mix. Map the typical journey our supporter types go on through the different stages. What touchpoints do they have, what are they asked to do, and most importantly, how do they feel about it? This may seem daunting, and there are lots of flashy examples out there of highly designed supporter journey maps, however, you don’t need to do that unless you have the skills and time. This works just as well in a spreadsheet.



You’ve got this far with your own wealth of knowledge, but now it’s time to make sure what you’ve documented is right, and to validate how we think our supporters feel. Reach out to some of your different supporter types to see if they will be happy to discuss their experience. Aim for supporters that are at different stages i.e. one that has just signed up for regular giving, one that has been a long time supporter, one who volunteers etc. and ask them to tell you about what the sign up process, or support is like. Have they created workarounds or is there one part of the journey that made it amazing for them?



Once you’ve validated what your supporters are actually doing, and how they feel about it, you should easily be able to spot where things need to change, and where they need to stay the same. This should form the basis of your plan. Use the baseline you have documented to set yourself realistic objectives for improving the SX over a set time, 12 months for example.

Then prioritise, are there simple quick wins that are low cost and low effort that you can implement that will have a huge impact on how supporters feel? Or have you identified a duplication in effort and spend that supporters have told you they don’t need / like that could save your organisation money? It’s these things that will help you get your board behind the value of SX and, hopefully, allow you to invest time and money in optimising it. 



Arguably the most important part, you need to keep track of how the changes you have made have impacted both the supporter, and the organisation. Ensuring the data you are tracking is clean and accurate is essential here, and will vary depending on what part of the journey you are focussing on. 

For example, if you have identified that your website isn’t clear and supporters are finding it hard to donate online, often calling up, frustrated that they couldn’t make the form work, you can track a number of things to monitor this. Calls, completed online donations, bounce rate on the donation page etc. The key thing to remember here is that the team around you need to be aware of the measures you’re taking and the importance of logging data that will contribute to this metric i.e. have you got a system to log calls from supporters? 

One final piece of advice, especially if you’re the only one in your organisation who currently sees the value in this activity – start small. Pick one small area to work on and test and learn so that you have a solid foundation to build a case for getting more investment in optimising the supporter experience and increasing your revenue.

Finger pointing to a donate button on a mobile phone.

Built on the combined experience of our founders, Creativity Unbound brings over 30 years of knowledge from across different industries to support VCSE’s of all sizes.

We’d love to bring our experience, creativity and passion to help realise the true potential of your audiences.

We’d love to hear from you.
Call us on 01603 628 638 or email

We’d love to hear from you. Call or email us.


Quant or Qual?

Understanding each research methodology.

The age old question, should I use quant or qual research? Well, for me, the most important thing is you’re doing research. Yes, we’ll try and unpick which research methodology is best a little later on, but for now, I applaud that you are taking time to speak to your audiences at all. Whether this is your first time, or you’re working hard to integrate research into your process as often as you can, taking the time to understand real thoughts, needs, pain points and moments of joy will pretty much guarantee that you’ll make better decisions with whatever you’re creating, than if you didn’t speak to anyone at all.

Before we delve into how we choose a research methodology, let’s create a shared understanding of each one.

Hands holding an ipad, looking at an online survey.


Quantitative research focuses on gathering data, most often numerical through indirect sources, such as surveys or by using analytics tools. It can be perfect for understanding ‘what’ people are doing and answering questions like how many and how much.

Examples are; surveys, analytics reviews, A/B testing.

A group of people talking and sitting in a circle.


Qualitative research focuses on generating data about behaviours or attitudes based on hearing them directly from your current or potential audience. This method is much better at uncovering ‘why’ people are doing certain things and figuring out how to fix a problem. 

Examples are; 1:1 sessions, focus groups, diary studies.

So now we have that down, this is the bit where I tell you which one, right? Well, no, because more often than not, it’s actually both. Bear with me, it’s not as complicated as it sounds.

Choosing your research methodology is heavily dependent on the research question you’re trying to answer. And this should always be your starting point.


Creating a clear statement of what you are trying to achieve at the start of your project will not only help you shape how you are going to achieve that objective, it will also give you a really useful tool to share with stakeholders. Here’s a simple structure to follow:

We want to better understand how our audience [think about / make decisions on / interact with] [subject of research / product] in order to [create / improve] [product / website / service].

Example – We want to better understand what our existing supporters think about the experience of volunteering with us, in order to create a compelling and successful volunteer recruitment campaign. 

Nailed it, now what? Now we break that down into our individual research goals.


Our research goals should cover the different aspects of the overall objective that we need to understand. I’d suggest limiting yourself to 3 goals to ensure you can cover everything. Taking our volunteering scenario above, here are some research goals we may want to consider:

Now we’re getting closer.


Taking a quick glance back to our definitions, we can see that as the majority of our research goals focus on answering questions like ‘why’ our audience do something and how they ‘feel’ about it, qualitative research should be our primary methodology. 

The most popular qualitative research method is 1:1 interviews. Where you sit down with one of your supporters and have a conversation about the topic in a 1:1 situation. This is the method I’d choose to answer most of our research goals. This is driven by the fact that we are looking to hear personal experiences and uncover thoughts and emotions about a topic, therefore creating a safe space for participants to share this without others is vital. 

But why can’t I ask people how they feel about something in a survey, I hear you ask. Well you can, but there are a couple of reasons why it’s not quite as good as human interaction:

  • Humans have an automatic mental model when approaching a survey, it is expected to be quick, easy to complete and have a range of potential answers laid out for us to select from. This means we tend not to fully engage our brains to think beyond a surface level response. And we’re scanning at speed.
  • If we want to ask a qualitative question in a survey, like ‘how do you feel about volunteering?’ We are relying on the respondent to type a detailed response into the answer field that, if spoken, would probably be quite long, thus placing additional cognitive load on the respondent when their brain hasn’t prepared them for this (see note above).  This often results in more surface level responses, for example – ‘it makes me feel good’ or ‘I find it rewarding’. Both valid responses, but we now have no opportunity to ask the all important follow up question that will delve much further into the motivations and values that drive behaviour – ‘why?’

I said at the start, we usually need both quantitative and qualitative methods, so how would we use quantitative research to answer our goals?

Our 1:1 interviews will more than cover research goal 1 and 2. And, if you’re using an insight first approach to creating campaigns like we do, you will use all of the data gathered about how it feels to volunteer and what drives our supporters to give up their time, to create a range of campaign materials. You would then use quantitative research as the secondary methodology to answer goal number 3.

Here, you have a couple of options.


You could run a round of creative testing using a survey. Displaying messaging, creative and imagery separately, getting feedback on each element. And then showing everything together (like a finished advert, for example) to gather consensus on which ones resonate the most.

A/B testing

Alternatively, you could run some A/B testing once the campaign was live. This involves showing slightly different variations of your campaign materials to different sets of people to see which one performs best. It is important to note, if you do choose this route, when running an A/B test be sure to only change one thing on each test i.e. run two adverts that are identical apart from the headline. That way you will be able to isolate exactly which headline performs best. This approach takes slightly longer as you are just changing one thing at a time, but you should quickly see what’s working.


If you’ve read this far through the article, I’m hoping you feel like you have a structure you can use to help you plan your research and choose which method to use. I’ve given a couple of examples here of both qualitative and quantitative methods but there are lots more to explore *makes mental note for next article*.

But my main piece of advice is – give it a go. Start small, test what works and what doesn’t. You’ll be amazed at how much you learn when you have the confidence to ask.

Built on the combined experience of our founders, Creativity Unbound brings over 30 years of knowledge from across different industries to support VCSE’s of all sizes.

We’d love to bring our experience, creativity and passion to help realise the true potential of your audiences.

We’d love to hear from you.
Call us on 01603 628 638 or email

We’d love to hear from you. Call or email us.