Understanding your supporters’ day-to-day is invaluable. Learning about their behaviours, their likes and dislikes, can only strengthen your offer to them. If that hasn’t piqued your interest, how about this… I’m going to tell you exactly how we can help you gain future supporters.

In The Choice Factory, Richard Shotton explains that nearly half of our behaviour is habitual. These habits are linked to specific contexts, and it’s only when a consumer’s environment changes that these habits have the potential to become less embedded in their behaviour.

People being on auto-pilot might seem problematic, particularly if you’re trying to convince them to support your brand. Yet, if you understand their auto-pilot habits in the first place, this is step one to adjusting their environment to make your brand fit into their routine.

Take subscription boxes as an example. People who have signed up to the Dollar Shave Club don’t shop for razors anymore, in fact they don’t even think about razors anymore, razors come to them. The reason this works so well, is because it works with consumers’ grain of behaviour.

Admittedly, charities are a bit different. People don’t tend to shop around for charities. They won’t look for your brand, your charity needs to be drawn into your future supporters’ worlds. By doing this, GOOD can help you to become a part of a supporters’ auto-pilot.


The best way to gain a true understanding of habitual behaviour is through ethnography. Ethnography is a long-established research method in anthropology and is fast-becoming equally relevant in the marketing world. It enables us to enter our participants’ or consumers’ worlds — to walk in their shoes, so to speak.

Charities are increasingly recognising the varied possibilities that this depth of research can offer. Macmillan used mobile ethnography diaries, amongst other tasks, to gain a holistic understanding of minority group cancer patients who reportedly have poorer cancer support experiences. Using ethnography meant that Macmillan could identify specific BAME and LGBT patients’ needs to tailor their future support. Unicef tapped into the lives of 33 British families to learn about the everyday pressures they face and the emotions they could help supporters with to scope potential fundraising opportunities.

Ethnography comes in all shapes and forms, but the type of ethnography we are currently harnessing for a client is mobile ethnography. Through this research, we are taking it a step further from understanding supporters’ routines, to learning about the moments in their lives that they value. We are not just seeing, we are feeling what their lives are like. What they care about. What makes them tick. It all matters. The good and the bad.

Crucially, to make sure that all the data we gather is accurate, the assignment questions for mobile ethnography participants has to be spot on. The big watch out with mobile ethnography is not to lead participants. If we lead them, then the data won’t tell us anything. That’s where we step in to craft the best possible questions for the task.

I promised at the beginning that I would tell you how to gain future supporters. How can we reach that untapped audience? How can we regain the support of lapsed donors?

For lapsed or untapped charity donors, mobile ethnography enables us to assess when, or in fact whether participants see your brand in their world. This will be our first clue as to why they’ve stopped or haven’t started supporting you. It is likely that for lapsed and untapped supporters, your charity will not feature in the content they share about what is important in their lives, or what makes them feel good or bad. So, this is when we look at the data and see what they do care about. We gather, analyse and turn the data into something that will help you gain supporters.

Once we know what does and doesn’t matter to supporters, we know what they need. Once we know what supporters need, we can offer it to them.