CDE project 18 sec­tion 3.4: action 5 — get your sup­port­ers to share your sto­ry for you

Written by
The Commission on the Donor Experience
April 17, 2017
‘Your best marketers and your best fundraisers today are not you. Your best marketers and fundraisers are the people - the ecosystem - you create around - the audience you build’

Grant Leboff 

Once you know your overall story, how can you get others to tell it for you? What do you need to do to encourage and empower supporters to talk their network of contacts? Maybe it is just encouraging them with their own story, as Anthony Nolan does so effectively. It could simply be a result of the great work you do that directly impacts someone and provides the inspiration for them to tell their story, as the case examples from the Alzheimer’s Society shows. Maybe it is providing something to show others, as SolarAid has done.

Either way, the key lesson is if your supporters can tell your story for you it can be more powerful coming from them than from you, as the NSPCC Full Stop campaign demonstrates. 

Be especially on the lookout for supporters who come up with creative ways to tell your story (their story) which could take off, as shown by the case examples from JustGiving and charity: water. How can you encourage supporters in the first place and support their initiatives? Your story is more powerful coming from them.

As this is the core of the project, six examples appear below.

Net income from community fundraising by Anthony Nolan grew from £189k in 2011 to £1 million in four years—and growth is expected to continue into the future.

Question to ask: Are all your staff doing all they can to inspire others to tell your story?

This next case example of Simon McDermott shows how your story can be more powerful coming from a champion of your cause than it can be from the charity itself.

When a supporter develops their own means to tell their story (as the example above shows), it can be extremely powerful. This is another inspiring story by an individual as a result of their fundraising.

 Platforms like JustGiving are not only a conduit for someone doing a fundraising activity so they can attract sponsors, but also as a basis for individuals to tell their story with passion about a cause that is close to their heart. The power we feel from these examples is that stories told by people like Caroline and Simon help connect us back to the WHY or purpose of the cause. Such individuals are often close to the emotional heart of your cause. If you are struggling to pin your WHY down (Action 3) and have an inspiring example of such a supporter fundraising for your own cause, consider the story they are telling to help you.

Questions to ask: Are you on the lookout for supporters who tell your story in a creative way? Do you know how to help them the moment it happens? Can you equip such fundraisers to tell your story? Can they help you determine what your story is?

As these previous two examples could be considered as a one-off, or exceptional, the following case examples  show you can be strategic in encouraging supporters to share your story.

Question to ask: What could you offer donors that would help them spread your story?

Giles Pegram, who led the NSPCC Full Stop Appeal, provided the next case example. It illustrates that the principle of ‘supporters as advocates’ is rooted in the foundations of great fundraising and can be extremely powerful. If this worked in 1999, in a world before individuals became even more connected, then in 2107, where everyone is a channel, it is vital.

Question to ask: What measures and targets could you remove and replace with ones to encourage staff/teams to work together to support donors advocating on your behalf?

If using supporters to engage their own networks worked so effectively and powerfully in 1999, think how much more effective it will be now! In fact, every one of your supporters, not just those who you can identify as wealthy, has the potential and capability to spread your story and open doors to other sources of funding. 

In getting supporters to tell your story, can you make it even more powerful by being their story, as shown by this example using birthdays as a way for people to talk about their support for charity: water?

Question to ask: How can you encourage and help supporters tell their story?

Finally, for an inspiring non-charity example, see how the Australian Tourist Board got its ‘supporters’ to tell 60,000 stories in one year, leading to Australia becoming the most talked about holiday destination on Google+, Facebook and Instagram—with just three staff assigned to social media. Although not a fundraiser, it illustrates the impact of enabling others to tell your/their story in a digital world and the benefits of creating a community who continue to advocate on your behalf. Click on the kangaroo to jump to the story! (or Google search ‘Slide share, the World’s biggest social media team’).

Click on the image below to view project 18 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 18 summary: supporters as champions for your mission

This project will look at the basic fundraising model differently, to try to define how supporters in future can be used as channels and networks to spread opportunities, grow income and to provide donors and potential donors with a rich array of rewarding experiences.

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CDE project 18 section 3: action 1 - understand the paradigm shift

Putting the principles & actions into practice.

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CDE project 18 section 3.1: action 2 - adopt the right mindset

Adopting the right mindset is probably the most important action of all. It is what you need in place at the outset and it influences the actions that follow. In time, it will be part of the overall culture within the organisation.

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CDE project 18 section 3.2: action 3 - ask the question ‘WHY do we exist?’

‘With consistency people will see and hear without a shadow of a doubt what you believe.’

Simon Sinek

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CDE project 18 section 3.3: action 4 - tell your mission story

All fundraisers are aware they need to tell stories well so they can convey quickly in a way that engages people. Now it is even more important to spend time to understand how to tell powerful stories

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CDE project 18 section 3.5: action 6 - provide an experience that donors will talk about

An ideal opportunity to inspire supporters to spread your story is simply when people give or choose to fundraise for you. It is when they have taken the emotional decision to support you.

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CDE project 18 section 3.6: action 7 - be ready to react

As your story begins to spread by your supporters, you should get an increase in inbound enquiries or offers of support that are not a result of a direct response communication, i.e. they are a result of people hearing your story from others they know and trust.

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CDE project 18 section 3.7: action 8 - set up new measures

Adopting a mindset of how to inspire people to spread your story rather than target them for money will need new measures away from direct ROI. 

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CDE project 18 section 4: characteristics of applying these principles

Check here to see the characteristics you would expect to see of a charity applying this approach.

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CDE project 18 appendix 1: sources

Sources that informed and influenced this project.

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CDE project 18 appendix 2: Sticky Marketing & Digital Selling

In November 2016, Rory White, founder of Flow Caritas, hosted an event with Grant Leboff, author of ‘Sticky Marketing’ and ‘Digital Selling’. A group of Directors of Fundraising were invited to hear his views on marketing, and how it applies to fundraising. Here is an edited transcript of his key address to the group, reproduced with permission from Grant and Rory. 

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