How I experience the theme “donor journey”

It started as usual: with a question. “Jan, do you have any tips on how to set up Donor Journeys?” No, I did not, since I had not dealt with the subject intensively so far. However, a survey I conducted in 2016 already showed that the topic would be important: I interviewed 30 digital fundraising experts worldwide and asked them one question: What’s hot, what’s new in Digital Fundraising? From the answers, I created a sort of ranking list of the topics mentioned: Donor Journey (User Experience) came second together with Virtual Reality (after e-mail marketing on first place and integrated fundraising on third place). At the same time, I talked to more and more colleagues about the topic and I heard them talking about big challenges – or rather complaining – that involves designing, setting up and implementing suitable donor journeys.

My own journey started

That’s what it started with. When I begin to deal with a new topic, I’d like to experience it myself – and ideally prepare it so that others can benefit from this knowledge as well. A first challenge was planned: a seminar on integrated and digitized donor journeys at the Online Fundraising Forum 2017. This put a first deadline and pressure on me to devote myself intensively to donor journeys.

What are Donor Journeys?

First, I wanted to understand exactly what we mean  when we talk about Donor Journeys. In my research I found some descriptive articles but an exact definition was not mentioned. So I dabbled in a definition that I find very fitting until today – but at the same time I have to say or ask: is a donor journey not just generally describing fundraising and relationship building?

First feedback – and challenges

In my seminar »Integrated and Digitized Donor Journeys in 2017«, the focus was on integrated and automated fundraising and other requirements for successful digital donor journeys. Feedback from the participants confirmed my assumptions: the thinking in silos in the organizations as well as managing all accumulated data (sources) make it difficult to set up and do donor journeys.

Conversations continued, from all sides – whether large or small organizations – I heard: it is difficult. Yes, we should and want to do it, but no, it’s tough and challenging, , we’re having a hard time to set up donor journeys.

What can I personally do?

I always ask myself: How can I contribute personally in my roles as a service provider, consultant, inspirer, motivator, speaker, fundraiser to enable many colleagues to take some steps forward? My answer to this question: Learn for yourself, set up donor or customer journeys, study the topic intensively and prepare for a continuing seminar. Hence, put yourself under pressure to structure what you have learned as well as to prepare it in an understandable and learnable way. Thought – done. Of my two submitted topics at the Call for Paper for the German Fundraising Congress 2018, the program jury decided: Your topic should be Donor Journey. Full disclosure, with the proposed title (=> Best of Digital Donor Journey 2018), I’ve also put a little bit on edutainment, the show factor in my lectures and seminars, which I find by the way extremely important for a good learning experience in the context of such congresses. Anyway, the first deadline was set (# DFK18) – but at the same time: preparing the topic “only” for one event was also not the right approach. So there were talks with people in charge of other events or papers submitted and now there are a number of events upcoming where I can present the topic in 2018.

Focus 2018: Best practices and how-to

The emphasis in this new seminar is clearly on two points: Best (and worst) practices from which we can learn and be inspired as well as the how-to’s. So how do we do it concretely? I’ll showcase examples of what’s possible and what’s going to happen, and what organizations should do to take next steps in their very own journey in designing, setting up and performing donor journeys.


About This Author

Jan helps organisations to reach their fundraising goals, focusing on major gifts and digital fundraising. He has worked as project manager with Swissfundraising, the Swiss fundraising association, and is now community manager at RaiseNow. In 2012 he co-founded the Major Giving Institute, offering a qualification programme for major gift fundraising. Jan is author, (video-)blogger and member of the advisory board at the German Fundraising Association.

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