Words of wisdom: “Walk in your supporters’ shoes”

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Words of wisdom: “Walk in your supporters’ shoes”


Good fundraising isn’t just about meetings targets; it’s about truly getting to know and understand your supporters, say Lucy Gower


Last week I went to look round the new gym that has opened near to where I live. I was keen to find out about exercise classes that I could attend without becoming a gym member. Katie showed me round. She just wanted to sell me gym membership. 

Our conversation was disjointed. We didn’t build rapport. Katie wasn’t listening to me because she was focused on selling monthly gym membership. She was frustrated that I didn’t want to buy gym membership. I was frustrated that she wasn’t listening. 

What has my frustrating gym experience got to do with fundraising? Everything. 

Katie was working really hard to achieve her target of a quota of gym membership sales that had been set by her manager. Because she was being measured on this it became her sole focus regardless of what I said.

Ticking boxes 


I have seen frontline fundraisers work to plans and targets that are set by senior managers, or inherit plans that have been written by other people. We are judged on these measures, which are often short term and internal facing, serving a tickbox exercise for internal reporting rather than focusing on our supporters’ or beneficiaries’ needs.

Fundraisers need targets - otherwise how do we know what success looks like? But the risk with internally driven and short-term measures is that we can lose sight of a really important measure: how satisfied our supporters and our beneficiaries are.

In order to know whether our supporters and beneficiaries are satisfied, we must understand what they need and want. If we operate in a vacuum without getting to understand them or listening to them, we run the risk of replicating my gym experience with Katie on a grand scale. Which, in case you were in any doubt, was an awful experience for both of us.

This is why we must do everything we can to get to know supporters and beneficiaries. Get in their shoes, understand what they want and need, and help them solve the problems that they tell you about, as well as the ones they don’t.

Getting to know your supporters


This edited extract from my upcoming book, The Innovation Workout, gives three tips on how you can create opportunities in your day-to-day job to interact with your supporters, and get to know them better:

·     Create conversations. Pick up the phone rather than emailing when you can and look for opportunities for dialogue and face-to-face meetings.

·     Consider complaints. What do your supporters complain about? Listen in on supporter care calls, follow conversations on social media read and respond to complaints, especially if that is not in your remit. Are there patterns or recurring problems?

·     Ask more questions. Don’t accept that the current way is the best way. You will gain lots from open questions, like:

             -  Tell me how you feel about that?

             -   What happened?

             -  Can you help me understand?

Only when you know and understand them will you be able to build mutually beneficial long-term relationships. And that is the essence of good fundraising.

Lucy Gower is director at Lucyinnovation.co.uk

Extract from The Innovation Workout – by Lucy Gower, published in October 2015 by Pearson. Pre-order your copy here 

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