CDE project 17 sec­tion 2.4: your def­i­n­i­tion of success

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 24, 2017

Your definition of success – define and reinforce what success looks like in terms of your supporter’s experience.

Susan Foster, Fundraising Director at National Trust, suggested that leadership is largely about having ‘a clear vision of where you want to get to and inspiring others to work towards achieving that vision’. Fundamentally, the leader must make clear to everybody what we are all trying to accomplish. Martin Edwards, CEO, Julia’s House Charity agreed, saying that all leaders, including the chief executive, need to make clear what success looks like, what standards are expected in terms of how donors are listened to and respected. Importantly, we need to help people understand that the pursuit of this standard is ongoing, rather than a one-off target that will come and go.

What does success look like for the supporter relationship with your charity?

Joe Jenkins explained that while at Friends of the Earth, he and his colleagues decided they needed to put their supporters at the heart of everything they were doing. Rather than focus their energy primarily on strategy or processes, the way to achieve this was to work on culture and mindset. He views his role of leader as encouraging and promoting a mindset and culture that was focussed on supporters at the heart of everything.

‘We were obsessed with the question ‘how do we change the experience that our supporters have of Friends of the Earth, so that we can have more of an impact on the environmental problems people are concerned about?’

Joe advised that you should ‘be clear what that direction of travel is. Not all the detail, not all planned out, and not presenting yourself as having all the answers…it’s about being clear which way you’re trying to head, rooting that in the values of the organisation, and then empowering others to make it happen.’ 

Giles Pegram, former Director of Fundraising at NSPCC, helped his colleagues to focus their attention on the vision of Donor +, which was for supporters to have an experience which was ‘different, better, more rewarding’ than they would receive at any other organisation. This did not languish in a strategy document somewhere; it was used again and again as people discussed their work.

Richard Turner, former Director of Fundraising at Solar Aid, helped his organisation clarify that the means to generate sufficient resources to achieve their Big Hairy Audacious Goal was to ‘inspire people to spread our stories’.

Help your colleagues embrace the vision in terms that make sense to them

Although Dr Feinberg took great care to make his organisation’s goal real in the day-to-day with the tangible, emotive question ‘how would I treat this patient if they were my own mother?’, he understood that this was not enough. He had to first help everyone become truly vested in wanting to make this shift. He helped them feel the uncomfortable truth that the status quo was unacceptable.

Joe Jenkins advised, ‘Firstly, be clear at all times why carrying on with what your organisation has been doing is not going to get the results you need…you have got to have that reference of why we need to do something else, otherwise its human nature that everyone will default to doing the same things’.

Richard Spencer, who led the Growing Support Programme at RSPB, recognised that achieving change in a complex organisation is rarely easy unless there is a sense of urgency. According to Spencer, you have to focus people’s attention on what is absolutely unacceptable, ‘the burning platform’.

He needed to reach consensus on investing in technology that would provide a single view of all the information about each supporter, and like Dr Feinberg, an important tactic was to share stories.

One example he shared was the case of a couple who had cancelled their membership because the husband was no longer physically able to visit RSPB sites. Without the single supporter view, the individual giving team was unaware that the couple were still very generous, active supporters, holding a garden party every year and raising significant income. Given that the couple were still dedicated supporters of RSPB, they had been understandably upset to be approached by the charity and invited to reactivate their membership.

Click on the image below to see project 17 in full - PDF format.

About the author: The Commission on the Donor Experience

The CDE has one simple ideal – to place donors at the heart of fundraising. The aim of the CDE is to support the transformation of fundraising, to change the culture to a truly consistent donor-based approach to raising money. It is based on evidence drawn from first hand insight of best practice. By identifying best practice and capturing examples, we will enable these to be shared and brought into common use.

Related case studies or articles

CDE project 17 summary: leadership

Building on previous learning this project will define what makes great fundraising leaders and what leadership they need from their senior management colleagues and their board if they are to deliver the competent, motivating leadership that will sustain and direct the new style of fundraising that is evolving in Britain.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 1: the approach

In this project we were seeking to answer the question: ‘What kind of leadership have you found increases the chances that a charity will operate in a donor-centred way?’

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.1: introduction

‘It’s about giving and engaging people, it’s this lovely virtuous cycle where you get to give money, and you get to do something yourself that actually makes a difference.’

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.2: ‘Define and champion’ and ‘Help people see’

‘You need to develop that sense of shared consciousness…so we all know what the picture is, what we’re striving collectively to do and we’ve got permission to get on and do it.’

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.3: your organisation’s purpose

Focus attention on why changing the way you work with supporters is something you must do, not just something you should do.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 2.5: relentlessly reinforce the vision and make it visible

Richard Spencer explained that one way he helped put the point of view of the supporter at the forefront of people’s minds was by circulating a weekly results update.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.5: culture

Ideas and activities that will help you create an adaptable, empowered environment

Read more

CDE project 17 section 3.1: people build great relationships

'Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.'

Read more

CDE project 17 section 3.2: inside-out leadership

It is not about changing others – it is about changing yourself first.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 3.3: trust - risk - people

Richard Turner said that one of the most powerful shifts he has ever made as a leader was deciding to spend time every week with the people he manages. 

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.1: culture - create an adaptable, empowered environment

A major turning point for Solar Aid came when their leaders decided to focus their efforts on solving one challenge in particular: the fact that the most common source of light in the evening for many people was the kerosene lamp.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.2: the game is different now

The challenge is that the world in the 21st century is fundamentally different to the 20th century. Changes in technology have had a huge impact on the environment in which charities now operate.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.3: we now need a different kind of leadership

Develop a shared consciousness. Model it. Be consistent.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 4.4: devolve responsibility - growth mind-set

Empower everyone to think for themselves and take action.

Read more

CDE project 17 section 5: conclusion

If our charities are to respond and help supporters solve the problems they care about, leaders need to deliberately cultivate an environment that is adaptable, informed and empowered.

Read more