Five #SupX challenges for 2017 – the year of supporter experience
  • March 8, 2017

Five #SupX challenges for 2017 – the year of supporter experience

Is your supporter experience (SupX) fit for purpose?

This year is set to be pivotal in defining the future relationship between charities and their supporters – be they donors, volunteers or campaigners. The charities that are slow to react to the needs and wants of their supporters will find their place taken by other more responsive and engaging charities. Supporter experience is not a legislative tick box – it’s a meaningful opportunity.

As part of our ongoing work in the sector, we’ve put together five SupX challenges that we think are going to be talking points during 2017.

#SupX Challenge: 1 Seeing and believing – transparency and trust

"I always have this inclination to mistrust charities. The bigger they get, you wonder where money goes. Charities need to be totally transparent about what they’re doing with donations, and actually use the money for what they say they will."


The new regulatory regime is dominating the compliance agenda this year. Charities that adopt new measures earlier than they have to or go further than recommended as best practice by regulators will steal a march in the trust stakes.

Confronting the need to change early will give brave charities a ‘first mover advantage’ as the sector seeks to recover reputationally from a bruising 2016.

By taking action now to understand and improve relationships with supporters, dissatisfaction can be addressed and waning loyalty turned around. We expect to see this being readily and nimbly handled by smaller, more agile charities with more autonomy whilst larger charities with more complex infrastructure may struggle to move quickly. 

Regulation is coming and beyond the tick box there are some real opportunities for improving transparency and trust.

#SupX Challenge:  2 The power of personal stories

"When you see the results − the actual stories and features of real people, and you can see where the money goes and how it is helping − I think that’s what’s important to me."


The practice of driving donations through telling the personal stories of the people that benefit is rightly set to continue. Close behind this we expect to see more campaigns focusing on the individual experience of supporters.

At the same time, personalised marketing communications activities (personalised emails, letters etc.) are taken for granted by most supporters.  And the expectation of the degree of  personalisation is growing; as consumers, supporters are used to being presented with choices based on their personal profile and their past purchases – just look at Amazon.

Getting to know your supporters is key to ensuring smart personalisation.

#SupX Challenge: 3 Asking for more - the ‘Gran’ test

"I used to donate through the bank to a lot of charities but I kept getting letters asking for more. They weren’t just saying ‘Give what you can’ − they were asking for £17, and I’m a pensioner. We just stopped the direct debits because it was getting out of hand."

Jean and Gayle

The Care Quality Commission uses a model called the ‘Mum Test’, where inspectors ask “would I be happy with the level of care if it were my mum receiving this service?” Maybe fundraisers could adopt a ‘Gran Test’ and ask themselves: “Would I be happy if my grandmother was subjected to the sharper end of our fundraising practices?’

This was the debate led by the think-tank New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) and it’s a simple way of making sure that you’re doing the right thing, not just from a regulatory point of view, but from an ethical and brand perspective too.

Simply put, would you want to put your grandmother through the experience you offer?

#SupX Challenge: 4 Maintaining commitment – real-time reporting

"I’d like to regularly hear about what kind of things the charity are up to, projects that they’re dealing with and where the money is actually being spent."


There is nothing new about the concept of real-time reporting – we see it every day in our own lives; at work; in the media; in politics, yet when it comes to the supporter experience it’s much less evident. The over-reliance on an annual report produced months after the year end as the sole reporting tool for supporters is poor.

Reporting your impact, and communicating the difference you make, in real time will engage and bind supporters (new and old) to your cause. Supporters are quite rightly discerning consumers. Speeding up the communications process is paying dividends for charities . We expect next day delivery, instant responses and live reporting in many aspects of our lives –  why not in the charities sector too?

#SupX Challenge: 5 Flexibility and control

"It would be good to have more flexibility. If I’m having a lean month and don’t have anything left over in the bank, it would be good to be able to skip a month of donating."


The launch of the My Oxfam app enables supporters to control the amount they wish to donate, hear quickly about new appeals and read the stories of how Oxfam is helping people directly.  My Macmillan is a similar, successful approach to giving supporters more control over their engagement with the charity.

Whilst these initiatives give more control to supporters, they also provide more direct access for the charities and the opportunity to build open, transparent relationships.

Permission-led marketing is nothing new, not least because of legislation. Rather than the simple binary option of opting in or out, supporters want greater choice, more subtlety and increased control.

Charities that make things easier, transparent and more engaging will reap the rewards.

In summary – the importance of understanding your supporter experience

Supporter experience (or SupX as we like to call it) is going to be big in 2017. Every charity offers a unique experience but many do not have the detailed understanding and knowledge of their supporters to enable them to embrace and improve their SupX.

Supporter feedback should have no filters. Positive feedback is great to hear but often the more interesting and valuable learning is to be gained from looking beneath the surface and listening to the less satisfied.

Alterline can support you with effective initiatives to ensure that your supporters have a greater voice in strategic decision-making during what looks to be an uncertain, but exciting, 2017.

For more information about the ways Alterline can support you to understand and improve your supporter experience, please contact Nina Copping at or on 0161 605 0862.