Digital Supporter Journeys

Picture of a woman sitting on the edge of a hill, looking at a path below her, stretching off into the distance.
Photo by Vlad Bagacian / Unsplash
At the end of this guide you will:
Understand the importance of identifying who their audience is.
Know how to engage and retain donors.
Be able to build a strategy to engage their preferred audiences.

What is a digital donor journey?

This is the pathway someone takes to become an online donor and begins with how they discover your organisation leading to how you persuade them to give, and not only retain their support but encourage them to become an ambassador for your work. It is about building a digital relationship with your donors which will take time to develop; very rarely will a person make a donation on their first encounter with the organisation.

Where to begin?

Before you start planning your donors’ journeys, first consider who your donors will be. It is tempting to say you are targeting everyone, but people from different demographics use the internet and digital equipment in different ways and respond differently to different approaches. Also each demographic will have varying levels of disposable income and generosity.

For example

  • Women aged 45–64 are most likely to give and give the most, whilst the least likely to give are men aged 16–24.
  • People from Wales are most likely to give, and people from London are least likely to give


For maximum impact you need to match your target donor with the right donor journey experience.

Who is your audience?

You can look at analytics on your website or social media to see who is visiting the site and seek to attract more of the same. Or you may have a different demographic that you want to attract, such as people with specific interests and hobbies, or people in a specific location etc.

Whatever you decide upon, consider picking 3 or 4 demographics and identify how you want to engage with them. Don’t just think about donations, you may also want to recruit more volunteers, or to develop relationships with businesses.

Decide on:

  • Your target audience
  • Why this target group
  • What outcome you would like

Once you know who your audiences are you can begin to plan their journey

Stage 1 - Make Aware

Your donor’s journey begins when they discover that you exist, and what your aims are. This could be through an email footer, social media post, newspaper article, poster, paid social media advert, or all sorts of media both on and offline. It is important that these different sources carry the same messages so as not to confuse your brand.

This messaging is an area that can be constantly developed to help new audiences discover you and prevent existing followers getting bored with your message. When you do make changes, don’t forget to track the impact so you can see what works best.

If people do not know that your organisation exists their journey cannot begin. To give your organisation the best chances of being found, some things you can try include:

  • Optimising your website for search engines.
  • Being active on social media channels (use the channels that the target group you want to attract are using).
  • Interact with other people’s relevant posts, as well as producing your own content, this helps your name to be seen by other users.
  • Update your website with your achievements, recent activities and upcoming plans.
  • Make the content relevant to new supporters.
  • Consider paid adverts – these can help you reach very specific target audiences to match your donor profile.

Importantly, don’t just put out lots of requests for money; people need to understand what you are about and how you benefit people before being asked to donate. Too many requests can look a little desperate, which will put them off following you in the first place.

Stage 2 - Persuade

Once someone knows that you exist, your next challenge is to persuade them to become a supporter. You need to give them reasons to support your organisation’s work, this can be done in several ways by:

  • Showing facts and figures about your work and impact.
  • Showing who else supports your work.
  • Demonstrating the quality of your work through Quality Marks or any awards of achievement.
  • Sharing what other people are saying about your organisation’s work.
  • Ensuring your website is accessible to all – for example different languages, or people with visual impairment.

Think about how you present this information; people are unlikely to want to read pages of academic studies. You can use infographics, case studies about people you have helped, or testimonies from people you have helped. In each case make the information relevant and transparent.

You can find out more about how to demonstrate your impact using digital tools in our guide Simple ways to show impact using digital tools.

TOP TIP – Focus on the positive aspects of your work; although you may deal with emotional and difficult subjects, people want to read about the good things that you have made happen and are less likely to donate to sad stories.

Who shares the information about your organisation is also important. People are much more likely to be persuaded to become a supporter if it is a friend or connection of theirs who shares the information, than when it comes direct from the organisation.

Research has found that when people are interested in giving, they will read information until they are persuaded to give. Online information is ideal for this because the costs of putting material online is free or low cost. You can gain interest with short snappy facts and stories, and for those who want to know more provide links for them to get more in-depth information. Remember to put links to donation points within the text, don’t just leave them until the end.

Stage 3 - Convert

The next stage is to convert a supporter or interested person into becoming a donor. You can still easily lose them at this point if you do not make the path to donating clear, quick and trustworthy.

TIP - Two things to avoid:
Download forms that the donor completes by hand and posts back – this takes too long, and the donor has too many opportunities to get side-tracked or forget about making the donation.

Using unbranded donation pages that look very different from your own webpage or social media, this can make a donor feel the page is untrustworthy.

It is easy for people to become distracted when browsing, e.g. following links to adverts or other topics. Therefore, limit the number of links or adverts that are on display on your pages where you are asking someone to donate. After working hard to drive someone to this point, you don’t want to lose them at the last hurdle.

Make your donation page easy to find. People’s attention span on websites is very short, at around eight seconds. Therefore ensure the donate page is easy to find in menus and look to having an obvious ‘donate now’ button that is visible from every page on your site.

Graphic of a donate now button on a webpage

Adding the ‘now’ helps create a sense of urgency to increase the likelihood of someone donating.

Find out more about developing a website in our Introduction to Website Development Guide.

There are many dedicated giving sites such as PayPal, Just Giving and Local Giving. These typically have a charge for collecting the donation and/or an annual fee. The benefit of using them is that they are recognised, and trusted sites which donors are confident to use. They often offer additional resources and analytics of donations to help you understand your donor’s behaviour. There are several free sites, however they often pay for themselves with adverts which can distract your potential away from your primary goal of making the donation. When choosing a donation platform, make sure it offers the flexibility that your organisation wants – e.g. varied sizes of donations, one-off and repeat donations, and provides you with any data you need.

When setting up the donation amounts donors will have the option to make, have repeat donation as default as this is the preferred donation that you want to receive (regular, repeating donations provides you with reliable income that you can build into forecasts and budgets). Aim to give your donors about four options, plus an ‘other amount’ which will give people the flexibility to set their own donation size. When thinking about what size donations to set as the main options, think through what you know about your likely donors and their levels of disposable income.

Show what a donation could buy and how it would help. A donation of £25 into an organisation with turnover of £100,000 seems like a drop in the ocean, but to know that the £25 would buy 30 mins of counselling for a child makes it feel much more important.

It is also important to show greater value for money for larger donations. For example, don’t say a donation of £2 for a malaria pill could save a life, and a £100 could fund an hour of education, as this does not make the larger donation seem good value by comparison.

Encourage people to share that they have donated on their social media profile. Many of the giving platforms enable this, and this is a great way for people to attract their friends towards your organisation.

Make Aware, Persuade, Convert.

These are the first three stages of the donor journey, taking them from being unaware of your organising through to making a donation. The next stages of your donor’s journey are about retaining them as a supporter and encouraging them to act on your behalf to reach more people.

Stage 4 – Appreciate

In some ways the hardest work begins once the donor has made their initial donation, as you now need to keep them engaged and hopefully get them to donate again, and even better, promote your organisation to others.

Always thank every donor for their support and let them know how the money will be spent. People donate because they like what you do, and they will want to know how their money is helping you to make a difference. A common reason donors stop giving is that they did not know where their money was spent.

Research shows that donors are 400% more likely to give again if thanked with 48 hours of giving, while nearly 70% of donors say understanding the impact their money has made is important to them. (

To make the process easier for your organisation, set up an automated email to message people as soon as they have made their donation, and if possible, personalise it to their donation, rather then a generic “thank you for your gift” message. This costs nothing but will make your donor feel more appreciated and therefore more likely to give again.

If the donation was for a specific campaign or project let them know what this work will achieve. If it is a more general donation, you can provide an example of what the donation would provide.

You can also offer options for people to continue their support in non-financial ways, perhaps by signing up to a newsletter, or following you online – don’t be tempted to immediately ask for more money! Engaging supporters with ongoing communication is a great way to develop your relationship and keep them up to date with what you are achieving.

TOP TIP: People who have donated once are much more likely to repeat the donation and require less work than recruiting a new donor. Holding on to and cultivating donors is therefore important to growing your donor base.

Once a giving campaign has been completed, it is worth a follow up message to thank donors again and let them know what the project achieved.

NB – ensure all GDPR obligations are met before you send out marketing/fundraising materials.

Stage 5 - Nudging

Once you have received your donation and begun to create a relationship with the donor you can think about ‘nudging’ your donors to give again. This may be another one-off donation, or by becoming a regular giver. The donor triangle below shows the different donor categories, the goal being to ‘nudge’ them further up the triangle.

Think about these different levels and what information you have on your site that may encourage a donor to move up the triangle. Do you explain how important having regular donations are to aid your financial security? Have you shown how a past legacy gift has made an impact? Or shared a story from a major donor about why they support you?

Diagram of the pyramid of giving. Text from top to bottom "Bequests, lead donors, regular major donors, first-time major donors, regular donors, first-time donor, prospects."

To ‘nudge’ past donors to donate more, remind them of their previous donation (remember, someone who has given before is far more likely to make a repeat donation) and what this achieved, then show what a slightly larger donation could do.

Do not rely on repeating the same information to elicit future donations. Keep the content on your social media and website fresh and relevant. As a rule 80% information about your work and 20% asking for donations is about right. If you ask too much you will seem too needy, but not enough and they will not donate at all.

Stage 6 - Ambassadors

Ambassadors are people who can represent your organisation, both on and offline. They are normally volunteers who are active supporters, sharing online content, and commenting upon your work.

Getting donors to become ambassadors for your organisation is a very effective way to increase your reach to find new donors. We are influenced by the actions of our peers and friends, therefore when they share information about a cause or project, we are more likely to take action than if it comes directly from the organisation.

You can reward such donors, by giving them ambassador, super fan, or similar status, perhaps also a badge they can add to their social media profile. You may need to supply such supporters with the information you want disseminated to ensure it stays on message and is accurate. The last thing you want to happen is lots of supporters who start giving out different or conflicting messages about your work.

Donors may also be interested in becoming fundraisers, organising events or undertaking a sponsored event to raise more money. If this is something you want to encourage ensure you put information on your site, and promote on social media, to help them arrange and carry out an activity. Along with providing the resources to help them, for example sponsorship forms, wording about the organisation, logo, and a contact name for them to ask for help. You may also set up groups for fundraisers to help keep them motivated and to share ideas.

This stage should feedback into the first stage, helping you make new people aware of your work, and the cycle begins again as you start to take those people on their journey to support your organisation.


Online giving is not an exact science and results will differ between organisations. It is therefore important to learn, from your organisation’s own perspective, about what works and what doesn’t, and then use that learning to make improvements.

Set Key Performance Indicators (KPI) for your different activities. KPIs are indicators that you can use to measure progress towards your goals. You should choose indicators that are easy to record and track. For example, you could use unique visits to your website to see if your campaign work is helping you engage with more people.

These will help you to monitor your online performance, and include data such as website visits, newsletter opens, social media engagement and donation figures. You should be able to identify any relationships between increased donations and interactions with your supporters to learn where the greatest impacts are of your campaign work.

You can find out more information about how you can use data more effectively in the Data for Fundraising guide, but simple things include looking at the time-of-day popular social media posts are made or which articles in a newsletter are opened the most. You can also look at website data to see if people are returning to get updates on your work and projects. If they are not you may need to look at your wording and content or perhaps talk about it more on social media.

Whenever you make changes, review the impact so you can learn what works the best. Try to only make one change at a time to see what is the most effective.

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