Growing your audience, step by step

Person going up stairs

Growing your audience, step by step

In this week's blog we explore how charities can grow their audiences by setting manageable targets and using research.
Anna Wates

I do love the sense of arbitrary optimism ushered in with the dawn of a New Year. Among the nfpSynergy team, our resolutions this January include dance lessons, a coordinated office-wide desk clear-out, and one person who has vowed to read all the unread books she currently owns before buying new ones. There is something deceptively rejuvenating about the possibility of wiping the slate clean. Perhaps it’s also because the holiday season tends to be memorable (for better or worse) and easily comparable with previous years, which affords a sense of perspective.

That said (spoiler alert!) New Year’s resolutions are statistically unlikely to be achieved. A study by Richard Wiseman from the University of Bristol involving 3,000 people showed that 88% of those who set New Year resolutions fail. Where a lot of people get it wrong apparently is in going too big, too much, too soon. That is, trying to give up smoking at the same time as trying to lose weight could be counterproductive because the challenges/stresses of doing one might negatively impact your ability to successfully achieve the other.  

The trick, according to the study, is to set yourself small goals throughout the year. For example, reduce the number of cigarettes you smoke each week by half, or lose a pound a fortnight. In short, breaking things down into achievable steps improves your chances of success.

At nfpSynergy, we help charities of different sizes set manageable targets through both our tracking and bespoke research.

For example, if your goal is to grow your support base, you might want to start by understanding your current supporters. How much do you already know about them, who they are, what they think of you and why your cause appeals to them? Through our Supporter Satisfaction Benchmark, we help charities identify and understand their current supporters across a range of measures, which we then benchmark against the sector average, enabling each organisation to understand what their results mean in context and over time.

This process can be useful in several regards. Firstly, because new supporters are likely to be very similar to current supporters, profiling this group helps you get a better sense of who you should be reaching out to. Secondly, measuring satisfaction and identifying areas where you might need to improve will help maintain support in the long-term. And maintenance isn’t the same as not making progress; it means you’re actively avoiding the negative effects of attrition. Keeping current supporters satisfied with how you look after them is the best guard against attrition, and managing attrition is integral to a healthy growth strategy.

Once you have a clearer understanding of your current supporters, you can then start thinking about potential audiences. As discussed, this is a lot easier when you know broadly what you’re looking for (e.g. understanding who you currently appeal to, or identifying audiences you haven’t yet reached but who are interested in your cause). Might it be useful to ask how much these groups already know about you? When we survey the general public as part of our Charity Awareness Monitor (CAM), we use three measures of awareness – prompted, semi-prompted and spontaneous – all of which tell you slightly different things about where you sit. However, as we explore in our report Ringing a Bell, increasing awareness on its own isn’t enough. It’s just the start of the journey, and needs to be supported by a strong brand strategy which simultaneously works to build affinity and warmth.  

Processes like this take time and investment, so it’s important to take them step by step. Benchmarking and tracking performance is an area we are keenly attuned to. Every year, we survey more than 30,000 people about their thoughts and opinions on the most topical issues in the not-for-profit sector, and we use this insight to help charities implement research which monitors progress over time.

So, we shouldn’t let the irresistible promise of ‘New Year, new you’ stop us from the ongoing task of continually renewing ourselves every day. To find out more, get in touch at or call ​020 7426 8888.

If you have any New Year’s resolutions – however large or small – you want to share, do drop us a line in the comments box below.


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