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Top 5 tips to grow loyalty from CIOF Fundraising Convention 2023

Kay Harrison, Loyalty Action Planner, About Loyalty
Kay Harrison, Loyalty Action Planner

We were so pleased to see some of you for a catch-up at last week’s CIOF Fundraising Convention (#CIOFFC). As always, it was a fantastic few days of collaborating and learning across the sector, and we had the chance to share not one, but two sessions on growing and measuring supporter loyalty. A huge thank you to all of our guests who joined us for these!

Here, I share our top 5 tips of key actions you can take away to start growing loyalty across your organisation. Each of these will help improve commitment, satisfaction or trust, and you can add it to your to-do list straight away.

1. Review how you thank your supporters.

Thanking is in our DNA as fundraisers. But how recently did you sit down and review exactly how and when you say “thank you” to each of your supporters? And who did you involve in this process?

Next week, see if you can gather a small group of people together with every thank you letter and email that goes to your supporters right now. If possible, see if you can get the signatories in the room, particularly for those long-standing letter templates – when is the last time they saw these?

Read through each one, putting yourself in your supporters’ shoes. Are they reassuring the supporter that you’re doing what they expected with their donation? Are they inspiring and nurturing pride in your cause? And most importantly - are they expressing genuine gratitude? Asking questions like these will help to kick off your thanking review and increase your supporter satisfaction.

2. Surprise and delight, create some magic!

We all remember times when, as customers, we've been blown away by amazing service – when someone has gone the extra mile.

It could be a hand-written note after a phone call to a supporter, it could be the recognition of a fundraising challenge in your supporter magazine or a gift that shows they’ve been remembered. It could even be, in the right circumstances, a sincere and authentic apology when something hasn’t gone to plan.

A fantastic example of this approach can be found at cruelty-free cosmetics brand Lush, where staff are not only allowed but encouraged to surprise their customers with a random act of kindness at the checkout. It’s spontaneous, it’s genuine, it builds a connection with the customer – and it feels pretty special to be on the receiving end of a free gift.

Whilst bath bombs are probably not going to change the world, you can think about how to create special, memorable experiences like this which deeply builds supporter satisfaction.

Starting this week, think about how often your supporters experience this surprise and delight with you. What do you do that brings out this feeling for your supporters? What could you do more of? How could it be more special?

3. Start a ‘voice of the supporter’ initiative.

Many organisations will already cover elements of this tip: listening to what your supporters are telling you. Perhaps your supporter care team captures email or postal correspondence on a CRM, or you have a free-text feedback form on your website. But that’s only the first part of a truly supporter-centred initiative:

  • Are you going one step further and using this insight to shape your activity?

  • Are you taking time to dig into what this correspondence is telling you in a meaningful way?

  • Do you use what you learn to inform how you communicate with supporters?

For example: if you hold a telethon event, such as a Thankathon, where you get a chance to speak to supporters on the phone, can you take advantage of that moment to gain a deeper understanding of why they support you – and can that information be used to tailor that individual’s future correspondence?

When you know and understand what your supporters need and why they support you, and you can reflect this in your communications, you are well on the way to growing commitment. So when you’re creating your next appeal, or equivalent, consider where you can introduce the voice of the supporter in a way that supporters will be able to recognise.

4. Show how you are changing the world together.

At About Loyalty, we run workshops in which we help charities unpack how they show impact to supporters. The most important part of this process is the supporter’s action – the thing they did. They gave some money, volunteered their time or their skills, or if you’re a campaigning organisation perhaps they took part in some local activism and lobbied on your behalf.

It’s their action that could change the course of history and bring about a better future. When you make that connection between personal action and visible change in the world – that’s when you grow trust.

Harking back to tip number 2), when you're setting up that review of your thanking, consider how you can review your impact communications in a similar way. How and when do you take the time to remind supporters of their connection to the change you’re making in the world?

Our advice: keep it honest, keep it simple, and keep the supporter at the centre of the story you’re telling about how you are changing the world together.

5. If you want to improve something or change something, you have to measure it.

If you’ve ever been responsible for planning an event, you’ll have heard the mantra ‘start at the end’. When you’ve actioned all four of these tips, ask yourself – in 12 months’ time, how will I know things have changed? How will I know that this is working?

As our founder and director Roger Lawson will always remind us: “Only when you measure something can you begin to change it – and it changes you.”

So, our final tip for you is to start at the end, and make sure you have concrete plans in place for measuring the impact of your actions on growing supporter loyalty.

Read a round-up of our Loyalty Lightning Talks here.

Would you like to learn more about what we do and how we can support your charity? Get in touch! We look forward to speaking with you.

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