Six common pitfalls of supporter journey planning.

23 May 2019

The world of supporter journeys is fraught with myths, legend and folly.

Many big charities have invested significant amounts into planning their journeys, but haven’t reckoned on the inevitable roadblocks that arise when their plans meet reality.

In my experience, these issues arise during the planning stages. And there is the danger that that mistakes made at this critical stage this could turn your donors’ hard-earned cash into a dead duck.

So let’s look at some of the most common pitfalls of supporter journeys (plus a few ways to avoid them).

1. Not agreeing what ‘supporter journey’ means

I’ve been in a room with four senior fundraisers, talking about supporter journeys.

And each person in the room had a different interpretation of what a ‘journey’ means. From journeys driven by segments, to product journeys.

It’s hard to make progress without a clear starting point or common definition.

2. Banking on future support

With so many charities and brands trying to take their customers on a “journey”, you can’t take future support for granted.

You also shouldn’t assume that supporters even know who you are. Almost 50% of donors forget the last charity they supported, according to a recent survey.

You have to win people over AND earn their support every time you communicate with them.

3. Expecting everything to go to plan, first time

Even in the best-planned journeys, there are usually opportunities to make significant improvements.

Which is why it simply doesn’t make sense to invest in creative and production for a whole journey at the outset.

Why not start small, learn something and iterate from there?

4. Assuming people’s behaviour can be easily changed

Any good fundraiser will tell you how hard influencing behaviour can be.

It’s all very well for a planner or agency to say “and we’ll cross-sell Product X at month 6”. Like you’ve not been trying this for the last 10 years!

In the task of planning lengthy journeys, the craft of fundraising (borne out through powerful creative execution) can easily be overlooked.

5. Expecting that what works today will work tomorrow

It won’t. Even if your new supporter journey is making a noticeable impact, it doesn’t mean it will be future proof.

Charities that don’t bring new insight to drive their work will quickly lose relevance.

It can be tempting to try to lock down an “ideal” process at the initial planning stage, but fundraisers need to continually evolve the channels they use and the content they provide.

6. Missing out on quick wins

I don’t want to wait a year to see the results of my efforts.

And most charities I speak with don’t want to wait that long either.

The world will be completely different in a year’s time. Why not focus initially on outcomes that can be measured within 6-8 weeks?

A new approach is needed

So how can charities avoid these pitfalls? Below are three key principles that will help:

1. Focus on key moments, not the journey

Understanding which moments matter most to audiences, and how to improve them, is crucial for better experience design.

2. Prioritise based on real supporter data

This helps you identify and prioritise which moments in the journey matter most when it comes to results.

3. Test, learn and optimise (as quick as you can)

This helps you focus in on what is and isn’t working creatively, and rapidly make changes that will have a real effect – reducing costs and risk.

You might be thinking that applying these principles is easier said than done. The good news is that it we’ve developed a fun, collaborative process that helps charities make a bigger impact in the moments that matter most to their audiences.

To find out more, including how we’re helping the British Heart Foundation make faster progress with their supporter journeys, download a copy of our free whitepaper.

Mark Dibden

Senior Planner at Signal

(formerly Head of Supporter Experience at World Vision)

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