Higher Education Donor Experience Research Project

We’ve launched the first ever research project into the donor experience from the perspective of higher education development professionals like you.

We want to talk to you about the realities of planning and delivering outstanding donor experiences. With a good understanding of the challenges, we as an industry can have better conversations about how to build on our success and support change.

If you’d like to receive general updates on progress and ways to get involved, please sign up here.

Our research aims

We are seeking to understand:

  • How you think and talk about donors and the donor experience
  • How you evaluate and make judgements on the quality of the donor experience
  • How you make decisions relating to the donor experience

How we’re going to do it

The research study will consist of two phases; a qualitative phase in June/July 2018 where we interviewed a range of staff about their experiences, and a quantitative phase in October/November 2018 where development professionals across all UK institutions will be invited to share their thoughts. The results will be published in early 2019.

Our Research Advisory Board

We have established a Research Advisory Board representing development professionals like you.


Our partners

We’ll be announcing all our project partners shortly. This project is only possible due to generous volunteer contributions, gifts-in-kind and sponsorship to cover direct research costs.

Why this research?

Some of us believe the alumni donor experience begins when they apply to attend university. Others believe it starts at graduation. Whenever the starting point, we know that a donor develops a relationship with a university through their experiences over time.  

We also know that the key to fundraising success is to design and deliver experiences that inspire more people to give, and to want to keep giving. 

UK university philanthropic giving has reached record levels, surpassing £1 billion-a-year for the first time in 2017. Universities are wonderful places for donors to express who they are and make an impact on the causes they care about. 

But our sector will not rest on its laurels. The Ross-CASE barometer shows how our future success is being put at risk by stagnating alumni donor numbers. New alumni donors are giving to universities at the same rate as their fellow alumni are ending their giving.  

Could advancing the donor experience be the key to keeping our donors and launching our next phase of sector growth?

In early 2019, we’ll set out a vision for how higher education fundraising can take charge of the donor experience and reach previously unimagined levels of performance. 

We want you to be part of it! 

Our link to the Donor Experience Project

This study is aligned to the aims and objectives of The Donor Experience Project, hosted by the Institute of Fundraising. The Donor Experience Project’s ambition is to provide evidence that a donor who receives an excellent donor experience will feel good about giving and will therefore, over their lifetime, engage significantly more than someone who doesn’t. Our research will explore the views of higher education development professionals on the importance and value of the donor experience, and gather insight into the realities staff face when making improvements.

We need you!

If you’d like to receive research updates, please sign up here.