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Getting into our supporters shoes

A guest blog by Claire Leslie.

Today the housing crisis is getting worse, with more than 98 households being evicted every day. Shelter must raise significantly more income to be able to provide help and support to homeless families that need us – as well as to campaign for better housing provision.

To improve how we communicate with out supporters we wanted to consider what we know about the real people who give to Shelter.

We wanted to get into the shoes of our supporters. Our objective was to help us understand what our fundraising could be like if we really put our supporters needs at the centre. And we wanted to enjoy the process and engage the whole individual giving team because we knew in order to really offer our supporters the best experience everyone had to be on board.

Our data insight team produces a supporter profile report each month. It contains detailed demographics and graphs. We chose to focus on these 6 groups from the report:

  • Supporters who have given a cash gift recently
  • Regular givers who have stopped giving
  • Campaigners who sign petitions to lobby government on housing issues
  • Participants in our challenge events like the London Marathon
  • People who have pledged to leave a gift to us in their will
  • Supporters who give gifts of £300-£3,000.

Bringing insight to life

To bring to life insight from our team beyond what was in our report, we wanted to find an exercise for small groups.

We put the team into groups and asked each group to write a persona (like a pen portrait) for two types of supporters, by filling in the gaps in the template, and cutting photos of people and strapline to represent the supporter who typifies the group.

What we discovered

  1. Looking at donors simply by their giving patterns is not the most useful way to think about them as real people. For example, the top-line demographics for our active cash, pledgers and active campaigners look very similar but our supporters may vary a lot in their outlook and motivations for supporting Shelter. Some groupings such as lapsed regular givers are made up of such a variety of types of people that it’s impossible to sum them up in a persona.
  2. We realised just how hard it is to take ourselves out the picture when we were talking about what our supporters are like. We kept saying “I like, I think that, I would want” or overlaying someone we know who is like that person in some way, in the absence of any real information about their motivations, likes, dislikes.
  3. It was a creative experience! Our team loved cutting out photos from the magazines and newspapers to illustrate the points we were making, naming the person and their hobbies. We made up a lot of colourful details.

The biggest take home was that the exercise made us want to find out more about our supporters. We wanted to have real qualitative research to fall back on for true supporter insights. We’re currently working on new strategies for our individual giving teams and this will form part of our insight. We’re now even keener to find out about why our supporters chose to give because when we know why they give, we can make sure our communications are relevant to the issues around homelessness that they are interested in.

All in all, we will become more supporter driven and focused, this was a very useful, helpful and fun exercise to help us start on this journey.

Claire Leslie is Senior Direct Marketing Executive at Shelter. Claire is passionate about sharing client stories that show supporters why their gifts are important, and when not working loves hosting games nights and going to indie gigs.

To download the persona template, go to www.lucidity.org.uk/freestuff and check out the Leadership Launchpad.

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