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Donor experience a focus for most but balancing income targets presents challenge, IoF report shows

Almost three quarters of charities say that building a great donor experience is the bedrock of their fundraising and communications but balancing short-term income targets against longer-term donor experience activities is a challenge, according to IoF research on the donor experience.
One year on from the launch of the Commission on the Donor Experience’s reports, the Improving the Donor Experience report released at the Fundraising Convention on 4 July by the Institute of Fundraising (IoF) and supported by Salesforce.org looks at the actions and plans fundraisers are putting in place to improve and review their donor experience.
The findings are based on feedback from over 300 fundraisers across the UK, on who is responsible within charities for improving the donor experience, the specific actions that organisations had adopted, as well as snapshot case studies from three organisations, Action Aid, Meningitis Research Foundation and Innovista, about what they had done over the year to improve the experience of their supporters.
It shows that change is beginning to take place across charities of all sizes, with 85% of small charities and 56% of larger charities (69% overall) stating that they go out of their way to meet the needs of their supporters. 74% of respondents also said that building great donor experiences with the aim of satisfying donors is ‘the bedrock’ of their fundraising and communications.
Smaller charities were the most likely to agree with the statement that ‘they go out of their way to meet the needs of our supporters’ with 85% saying they agree or strongly agree with the statement, compared with 72% of medium-sized organisations, and 56% of larger organisations.
88% of respondents said that someone had responsibility for reviewing the donor experience and instigating change within their organisation, with 40% of indicating that the responsibility was shared across teams and departments, and almost a quarter (23%) saying that the Fundraising Director has the main responsibility for this. Within larger charities, responsibility is more likely to be shared across teams, while in smaller charities it’s most likely to be the Fundraising Director’s task. However, only 28% of respondents said they include information on their donor experience as a regular part of their reporting to the Board of Trustees.


Looking at some of the challenges, 20% of respondents say that their organisation is resistant to change and they don’t know where to start. The report also shows that 47% of charities said the pressure to achieve income targets does not allow them to review their donor experience, with 68% overall believing that money raised is the primary concern for their fundraising team. 53% say that the short-term objectives of the organisation always take precedence over embedding longer-term changes, while just under a third of respondents (30%) felt that they need to be convinced that specifically investing in the donor experience will raise more money.
Many charities are actively looking for help to improve however:

Amanda Bringans, Chair of IoF said:


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“Fundraisers are committed to understanding and improving the experience of their supporters so that we can continue to develop long-term relationships with our donors. I’m encouraged by the findings, which show that fundraisers and charities are doing specific work on this area and look forward to the IoF continuing to promote and support our members as they strive to do continually improve the experience of our donors.”

Rob Acker, CEO, Salesforce.org added:

“Today, we see the Donor Experience Project evolving from a set of best practices into a conversation within the sector, and a movement in its own right. Change is already underway and can be attributed to the sector, its supporters and its industry partners. This report is the continuation of a journey for the sector, one that Salesforce.org is proud to support.”