Invest­ing in sup­port­er loy­al­ty improves reten­tion and grows income – and now it’s quantifiable

This is a first for our sec­tor – an inves­ti­ga­tion into donor loy­al­ty involv­ing thou­sands of donors from a dozen char­i­ties. Check out the find­ings in this arti­cle and down­load your copy of the free report.

Written by
Roger Lawson
July 20, 2022
‘The Holy Grail that all those of us invested in supporter experience have been waiting for – a tangible link between improving the experience and an increase in income.’
Carla Lord, senior experience manager, RNLI
Is this report the Holy Grail you’ve been waiting for?

In June 2022 About Loyalty unveiled the results of a decade of research, providing for the first time irrefutable evidence that improving the supporter experience and growing supporter loyalty leads directly to increased donor retention and increased income.

You may think ‘well, of course it does!’, but through the first ever measure of supporter loyalty, we can now quantify it. And when you can measure something, you can then plan and take action – such as changing your messaging or the style of your communications – in order to grow it.

As a result, this discovery could fundamentally change fundraising practice. 

It provides fundraisers with the definitive case for growing supporter loyalty, and the evidence they need to build a case for investing in the supporter experience.

To prove it, About Loyalty undertook the largest ever piece of research into the key drivers of supporter loyalty, taking in a decade of study that culminated in a new three-year research project into almost 50,000 donors from 12 well-known UK charities. 

A first for the sector

As a result, for the first time, we are able to measure the relationship between supporter loyalty and giving and quantify the impact of increased loyalty on future giving, donor retention and legacy intention.

The results prove that an increase of one point in supporter loyalty leads to:

  • 20 per cent more income over three years
  • 15 per cent more retained donors over three years, and
  • nine per cent more people intending to leave a legacy

Putting this into context, for a supporter base of 70,000 donors giving an average gift value over three years, the charity could receive an additional £1million, without even accounting for the legacy uplift. If this is just one point, can you imagine how increasing your supporters’ loyalty by several points could impact your charity? 

At the launch event on 13 June, the Chartered Institute of Fundraising (CIOF)’s director of policy, Dan Fluskey, called it the kind of research that takes us all forward, as individual organisations and as fundraisers, but also ­as a sector in terms of fundraising practice’.

The summary report has been keenly received by some of the UK’s biggest charities. RSPCA director of engagement and income generation Tracey Pritchard says the research provides ‘a breakthrough in understanding how to increase supporters’ loyalty through developing their commitment, satisfaction and trust.’

She adds: ‘Everyone responsible for creating fundraising strategy and assigning budget needs to understand that an investment in growing the loyalty of existing supporters is as important as their investment into acquiring new ones.’

So how did we do it?

Over ten years of study, we identified and examined more than 20 drivers of supporter loyalty, and from these, identifying the top ten. A three-year research project then saw us focus on these ten drivers to quantify the impact they have on actual supporter giving. This work identified the three drivers of emotional loyalty that are the most important for building behavioural loyalty across all causes and forms of charitable giving – commitment, closely followed by satisfaction and trust.

Based on this, we developed an overall measure – a loyalty score – for every individual donor in the study. For the first time, we showed that it is possible to measure supporter loyalty and therefore to proactively grow loyalty, and ultimately grow income.

In our report, we also revealed how charities including The Woodland Trust, Barnardo’s and Cancer Research UK have measured and taken action to grow supporter loyalty, demonstrating just how these insights can be translated into practical action and results.  

Encouraging donor loyalty is a key factor in ensuring future giving.

What does this mean for charities?

We’ve all known for many years that the way we make supporters feel directly impacts whether they’ll go on to support us again. But until now we’ve never been able to prove the relationship with future giving, or which emotions are the most powerful. 

For charities that want to grow supporter loyalty and long-term income, we’ve uncovered essential insights that can and should be applied at the very heart of every supporter development programme.

The research really does make the definitive case for prioritising the growth of supporter loyalty through tangible evidence that growing loyalty grows giving. To read about it in full, along with our recommendations for how you can grow your own supporter loyalty, you can download our report here

About the author: Roger Lawson

Roger Lawson (he/him) helps charities create and implement supporter experience strategies that excite and inspire donors to give… and keep giving!

Roger’s approach is based on his passion for understanding the personal motivations why donors give to the charities they do. He’s as happy as a pig in muck when he’s speaking to donors to understand and measure the emotional connection they have with the charities they support; building segmentation models to help charities understand their different audience needs; developing propositions that inspire giving and legacies; or designing supporter experiences that grow long-term loyalty and value.

Roger has held senior fundraising positions at Feed the Children and WWF, been strategy director of Cascaid and GOOD Agency (two of the UK's most innovative and successful fundraising agencies) and now enjoys working directly with charities and universities.

He’s on the steering groups for the IOF’s Supporter Experience and Insight in Fundraising groups, is an IOF Convention board member and is a judge of the Donor Experience Award at the National Fundraising Awards.

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