Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Claire is a digital mobiliser, fundraiser, and campaigner. Having worked in engagement and mobilisation teams at Greenpeace, ActionAid, Cancer Research UK and Amnesty International, she joined More Onion over eight years ago.

Since then she has delivered dozens of engagement and supporter journeys projects with organisations of all sizes and has trained hundreds of charity professionals in the same. She is now a Mobilisation Expert and Director at MoreOnion

It’s easy to get caught up in our organisation’s needs when talking to supporters. Please give us money, please support our campaign. But to develop a strong, deep and long lasting relationship, we need to consider supporters’ needs too.

Yes, that absolutely means you should be sending loyalty emails to show how their support is making a difference. For example, how you spent their money or how they contributed to a campaign win. But you shouldn’t stop there. So what’s one simple, yet really effective, thing that could take your supporter experiences and relationships to the next level? Engagement actions. 

What is an engagement action?

An engagement action is a piece of content that invites your supporters to actively engage with you, and is primarily about one of their needs, not yours. 

The ‘active’ bit here is really important.  A quick way to assess whether your communication is active is to ask ‘can the supporter experience this fully with their hands in their lap (and without assistive technology like voice dictation)?’ If they can – it’s passive and therefore a loyalty communication, not an engagement action. It’s a fine line and one that’s often pretty easy to get over with a little creative thinking, but by using ‘active’ as the goal you can take something quite simple and create a much richer supporter experience. 

For example, can someone watch a video with their hands in their lap? Yes, so it’s loyalty. But what if you made the video slightly interactive, asking the user to make decisions at the end of each section to guide their storytelling? Now, it’s engagement. It’s a fine line that makes a big difference. Now instead of talking at your supporters, you’re engaging with them. 

Why bother with them?

At this point you might be thinking – I’m already so busy! Why should I make time for engagement actions?

The incredible thing about engagement actions is that they don’t need to take a huge amount of time or budget to create, but they can uplift the performance of all of your other work. And what’s  more, you’ll be surprised at how much fun you have creating them!

Engagement actions can contribute to a large range of supporter objectives, including:

  • Educate supporters about a topic 
  • Build supporter passion and/or empathy 
  • Help you to learn more about supporters (so you can enrich their experience)
  • Help supporters to learn more about you
  • Foster a sense of community 
  • Plus many more…

The right engagement action for the right audience can make people more likely to give and to remain donors for longer. One project in which we created a welcome email journey found that people who took a campaigning and/or engagement action were 4-5 x more likely to make a donation than those who didn’t.

Here’s some examples to get you started

1. A message exchange action to build empathy and connection

An engagement action can help you to connect your supporters to other key groups of people, like your charity’s clients or campaigners. 

At Christmas, homelessness charity St Mungo’s invited supporters to write a Christmas message of hope to someone experiencing homelessness. These messages were printed and displayed on Christmas trees in St Mungo’s shelters across the country. 

2. Gather expertise and build your community

Charity supporters have a wealth of knowledge and experience that could strengthen their work. So ask them for their input! 

Environmental organisation Friends of the Earth Scotland asked their supporters to share their tips for reducing plastic usage and then shared those tips back with the community. This helped encourage supporters to think about the topic in their day to day lives, to produce a valuable resource, and help people feel connected to a broader community of like-minded people.

3. A resource finding tool

Help demonstrate your value by connecting people with useful resources. 

Sustainable transport organisation Sustrans have a wealth of free resources on their website, but these could be hard to find if you don’t know what you’re looking for. 

In this simple form they gathered key information on the supporter’s location and specific needs. At the end of the short form they were presented with a personalised range of resources relevant to their answers including local maps, cycle safety guides for children, and much more.

4. Make learning appealing

Do you work on a complex or difficult topic? Engagement actions can help make  challenging subject matter appealing and accessible. 

Freedom from Torture provide support to survivors of torture as they rebuild their lives in the UK. They wanted to build the knowledge of their newer supporters of the problem of torture and the stories behind it. They made this appealing by using the recipes that they had collected during their cooking classes – one of the many types of therapy that Freeedom from Torture provide. Supporters were asked to guess which country each dish was from and were then told the story of the survivor who cooked it. On the final step they were offered all of the recipes to download and try at home. 

Engagement actions not only enrich supporter experience but they also enhance the overall impact of your work, proving that a small investment in creativity can yield substantial returns for supporter donations and lifetime value.


If you’d like to read more about engagement actions, you can download a free report at: 

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