Why is it key for fundraisers to understand supporter loyalty?

In the first article in a new series on donor loyalty, friend of SOFII Roger Lawson explains what loyalty is and why it matters to your fundraising.

Written by
Roger Lawson
Added
May 27, 2021

What is loyalty?  Take a second, just pause to think about this… loyalty? It’s a word we all use. But what do we mean by it?

Firstly, we need to consider what loyalty isn’t. Loyalty isn’t retention. Loyalty isn’t repeat giving. It’s not upgrades, nor is it even gifts in wills. These things are all important, but they are behaviours. They might be the overall goals of a charity’s ‘loyalty programme’, but they aren’t loyalty. 

Think for a second of an organisation that matters to you. Perhaps it’s a particular brand of coffee, a clothing label, or a car, or it could be a sports team, a political party, or a charity. 

What makes you loyal to that organisation is how you feel about it. And how loyal you are affects how you behave.

I’m a loyal supporter of Reading Football Club. I give it my time and my money. It’s the only reason I’ll dress up in blue and white hoops. When we’re top of the league (as we were at the start of the season) I feel optimistic (and surprised, if I’m honest!) but my wife will tell you what mood I’m in if we lose on a cold Tuesday evening. Notice I say ‘we’ – I’m that invested in it.

Will Roger’s beloved Reading repay his loyalty one day?

I can guarantee that most people reading this will have a different definition of what loyalty means. And for a sector that in recent years has experienced a major fundraising crisis, regulatory reform, the introduction of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and now the impact of coronavirus on both us and our supporters, this is a problem. It’s time to realise just how fundamental loyalty is to our fundraising and to grow our understanding of it – which means knowing what loyalty is.

Loyalty is how your donors feel about you. True loyalty is full of love and excitement and commitment and desire. It’s based on sharing your values and your goals. It’s the feeling that makes you prefer one over another, and which makes you want to help when there is need. Loyalty is the passion a supporter feels for you and your cause, which means they want to support you long into the future. 

In the commercial world, big brands work hard to win loyalty – for increased and repeat sales and lifetime value, and for brand ambassadors who share positive stories, reviews and recommendations that influence others. As charities, shouldn’t we be looking at this too? 

Loyalty is emotional. It’s irrational. And, when you get it right, it’s irresistible. Loyalty is what makes people want to give, and then continue giving.

Through our research into donor loyalty we’ve developed a robust measure that enables us to give every donor a loyalty score. In our work with more than 20 charities over the last six years, this has shown us that a one-point increase in a donor’s loyalty score leads to over five per cent more of them giving the following year. Putting this into context, for 20,000 supporters donating an average of £50 per annum you could raise an additional quarter-million over four years, while your supporters experience an enriched relationship with their favoured charity. 

And what’s more, supporter loyalty can lead to so much more than further donations. Our research shows that the most loyal supporters are also nine times more likely to promote your cause to their own networks and they are five times more likely to leave you a gift in their will.

When we help our supporters develop a genuine sense of passion and love for the causes they care about, we enable loyalty, as well as a sustainable fundraising programme.

So, when we talk about supporter loyalty, we must do so with the understanding that this means the way supporters feel – the passion evoked by your cause and your stories and communications. For it is this passion that will create the long-term, valuable and happy supporters that we all strive for.

This is the first in a series of blogs exploring the science of loyalty. Within this series, Roger will be looking at the drivers of loyalty, the importance of measuring loyalty and what charities can do to nurture loyalty among their supporters. If there’s something you’d particularly like Roger to address within this series, please do get in touch at roger@about-loyalty.com.

About the author: Roger Lawson

Roger Lawson

Roger Lawson 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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