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What supporting Reading FC has taught me about donor loyalty

Updated: May 10, 2023

Many of you know that I support Reading Football Club. Some of you will also know that we’ve had a dreadful second half of the season, culminating in getting relegated this weekend.

To be honest, it’s been coming. Massive financial mismanagement has meant we have been docked six points both the last two seasons… a succession of average (at best) managers… bad advice from agents... We’ve been lucky not to have gone down before now.

So why is it that we, as fans, will keep going back – even when the entertainment is so poor and the results worse? Sure, there are a lot of complaints on the forums, but I know most will be back next season.

As a Reading fan, it’s a true test of loyalty. But it really demonstrates the importance of commitment.

We know that loyalty is a factor of commitment, satisfaction and trust. All three are important, but to be honest, my satisfaction is currently very low and my trust not much better. But my commitment hasn’t wavered. I still care passionately about the club (my club) and it’s still a relationship I’m committed to.

Commitment is caused by many factors, and they vary by cause. A personal connection can create commitment, although not always. Causes that fit with a supporter’s identity will have higher commitment levels. For some charities a supporter’s faith will be a driver of their commitment. And for others it will be their psychological values.

I can see two important ones for me. I have so many personal experiences of supporting Reading. My dad started taking me to see Reading play in the old 4th Division when I was about 6 or 7 and I cherish those memories. 50 years later, I still think back to those experiences – especially having lost him last year. I now take my kids and the shared experience is important to us all.

It’s also part of my identity. I describe myself as a ‘Reading fan’. At parkrun on Saturday, I deliberately chose to wear a Reading shirt as a statement that I still care, I still belong. Look at the way I use the word ‘we’ throughout the first two paragraphs above.

The true importance of loyalty is seen when things go wrong. And things can go wrong both in your charities and in your donors’ lives. Perhaps the most relevant example for us as fundraisers is the current Cost-of-living-crisis. As the cost of everyday items relentlessly go up, it is the loyalty that donors feel towards our charities that will make the difference for many between cancellation and continued support.

That’s why we will continue to advocate that every charity should be measuring the impact of their communications on their supporters’ commitment, satisfaction and trust (because all are important). Every charity should be striving to understand what creates commitment, satisfaction and trust for their supporters. And every charity should be testing ways to grow commitment, satisfaction and trust.

But for now, I’ll leave you with a rallying cry for next season… Come on URZ!


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