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Unlocking supporter value with digital data

Unlocking supporter value with digital data

In my experience, the best way to sustain and ultimately increase income from individuals is through strong one-to-one relationships. Donors in particular expect more nowadays – you have to prove and evidence how you are delivering the work you promised, and help donors connect with beneficiaries through richer and more timely content.

Supporters now expect communications to be relevant to them and their interests – but this is easier said than done. It traditionally requires a huge investment in time and resources; luxuries that many charities simply do not have. Fortunately, new technologies mean organisations can now segment their messaging and give low level supporters an experience which traditionally would only be possible for mid or high level donors.


A charity’s most valuable resource is its supporter database. Duplicate and deceased records elimination, data cleansing and updating (particularly in relation to supporter addresses, email addresses and online behaviour such as what supporters click and read online), and validation of goneaways are vital processes and key to increasing the value of the database.

The size of the database dictates the amount these exercises are worth to each individual charity but six figure sums can be generated simply through the identification of new addresses for existing supporters, appending external data for segmentation purposes or analysis of how far multi-channel campaigns can support response rates.

Who and when

Digital marketing and fundraising helps charities create deeper supporter bonds by increasing insight into what donors are interested in through their online behaviour – and crucially, it also reveals what they don’t like and ignore.

We’re all aware of the problem with fundraising perceptions at the moment, but this is often simply the result of a charity’s inability to process supporter preference information across all databases and at the speed the supporter expects. Recording preferences from supporters such as ‘do not phone’ or ‘do not mail’ may still take charities several weeks to process – which many supporters don’t understand, creating further frustrations. New technologies help speed this process and create an environment where all touch-points are governed by central systems which ‘gatekeep’ and protect charities from accidentally including supporters in campaigns they have asked to be excluded from.

How and why

Having joined-up information about supporters that can be shared across the organisation in real-time opens up new ways for charities to add value through integrated cross-channel marketing. Telemarketing, for example, has long been key to charities’ efforts to reach out to their supporter bases. While telemarketing is still an effective fundraising channel, some charities are getting even better results when integrating a campaign with email marketing or text messaging. Many organisations still approach digital marketing as a series of standalone channels, but organisations should improve existing channel performance through integration, and sustain meaningful conversations with supporters so they remain engaged and feel valued.

Preference centres in action

National cancer charity, Marie Curie Care, is a great example of an organisation that has embraced the digital marketing revolution to great effect. It has transformed its supporter experience and driven income by adopting smarter systems and practices.

Marie Curie recently digitised its Great Daffodil Appeal, leveraging marketing automation functionality and a new online supporter sign-up tool, to achieve greater collector engagement and ultimately income from the appeal. The sign-up system enabled supporters to input key personal information including details on the way they wanted to be communicated with. This data along with existing supporter detail is collected and organised so communications can be streamlined and automated according to preference.



Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal had its most successful year yet, through digital acquisition, automation of reminders and using digital channels to increase the amount of collections each fundraiser is encouraged to attend.

New journeys have been split up into highly segmented target audiences, each of which will receive tailored messages. This might be an email update with a link to a popular Facebook campaign page, or it could be a more formal written letter. The emphasis is always on what adds value and is most relevant to the supporter.

As a result of the methods Marie Curie Care employs, it’s seen significant increases in fundraiser acquisition numbers and, while its early days I would expect to see more of them retaining and repeating their fundraising in future appeals, or using this initial experience as a stepping stone to other forms of supporting the charity.

Last year Marie Curie supporters helped to raise over £8m for its Great Daffodil Appeal – a record achievement. I’m very proud to work for an agency that supported Marie Curie Care through part of their incredible digital journey – but the real credit goes to their brilliant and dedicated team.

It’s time more charities get on board with digital marketing and start boosting supporter acquisition, retention and development for greater lifetime value. But doing it well is crucial – get it repeatedly wrong and you turn traditional advocates into detractors, who can choose from an ever increasing list of charities all trying to demonstrate how they value each and every supporter.


Lizi Zipser, former Head of Digital Fundraising at Barnardo’s, is a consultant at digital and data marketing agency, Celerity Information Services. She has over 13 years of digital, direct and data driven marketing experience and now works with charities including the National Trust to enhance supporter engagement and development. 

 Main image: Filing cabinet by billdayone on

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