The Common Good

Increasing donor engagement for medical research

Donor Engagement

Medical Research


The problem

New donors are needed to fund innovative medical research efforts in order to give chronically ill Australians more time.

The solution

A comprehensive guide to accessing potential demographics, including how to find them, the language to use and how to move them from their level of engagement to a donor.

Project updates

None of us know how much time we have

Looking at a photo of myself, at age 7, at my first Royal Queensland Show (the Ekka), ploughing into a famous dagwood dog bigger than my head and putting up the ‘bunny ears’ for the photographer (my dad) - time is not really something that crossed my mind.

Maybe counting the months and weeks until the Ekka each year, figuring out how long my siblings and I would need to save for those showbags we wanted, checking how long the line for Strawberry Sundaes was.

Experiences that I, like a lot of us I’m sure, have taken for granted. There comes a moment in all of our lives where we start to notice the passing of time, are conscious of how little we really have. 

This is especially true for people living with under researched chronic and/or fatal health conditions, with 90% of Australians experiencing a chronic illness in their lifetime. 

The Common Good gives these Australians more time. 

The Common Good

The Common Good is an initiative of the Prince Charles Hospital Foundation, funding innovative medical research in the areas of heart, lung and gut disease, mental health, dementia and silicosis. Their groundbreaking campaign 'Buying Time' equates 1 hour of medical research to $44, making it easier for donors to understand the tangible impact of their donations. They are also behind the infamous Ekka Strawberry Sundae - with every 8 Sundaes funding an hour of research.

In 2021, the team at The Common Good delivered over 61,000 hours of medical research, nearly $3 million in donations (The Common Good Annual Report, 2021).

The Common Good has a dedicated pool of donors–with most donors donating over a long period of time, and are typically elder former patients or family of former patients of the Prince Charles Hospital in Brisbane.  Given that 90% of us will be affected by these conditions, the Common Good came to spur: with the challenge of expanding this donor pool to a wider range of people with different priorities, values, technology ability and touchpoints.

But we’re all tapped out 

While 15 million Australians donate approximately $181 each year to charities and not-for-profits, making Australia second in the world for giving, these numbers are declining year on year.  On top of that, after the Covid-19 pandemic and bushfire appeals, Australians are experiencing donor fatigue–we are tired of being asked for money. We are not, however, tired of giving money:

Charities and not-for-profits that rely on donations as a main source of funding are competing in a very concentrated market of similar players. When Australians  give - 94% of all donations go to just 10% of charities.

That means that 90% of organisations in Australia are fighting for just 6% of all donations.

spur:'s task was to develop an engagement strategy for The Common Good that captured a new set of donors without contributing to donor fatigue.

Who is touched by these issues?

spur:'s research into the areas of medical research undertaken by The Common Good turned up a range of different demographics, ages, stages of life, family make-ups, values and volunteering jobs who would touch some nexus of any one of the health issues The Common Good touches. At a glance, some of these communities included the children of smokers, aged-care workers/volunteers and tradespeople.

This research informed the development of personas. Personas are hypothetical people that could be engaged with, and details from their name, occupation, budget, social circle and politics are all ideated. These factors, and more, dictate how people make certain decisions. For example, your disposable income speaks to how much you might be able to donate, while your age and politics will indicate who you will donate to, and your confidence with technology might determine if you donate in person, over the phone or online. Persona allow you to deeply understanding customers, donors, voters, volunteers - anyone an organisation needs to engage with in some way. For The Common Good, the most important determinant of how and how often a person donates was generational. spur: developed 16 individual personas for The Common Good to explore further.

spur: has a comprehensive open-source tool that helps to articulate personas.

Just as important as understanding who a persona is, is understanding what they do when they interact with you.

How do they engage?

Customer journey mapping, or donor journey mapping, allows us to map the process that personas go through in the journey with an organisation.

When mapping each persona's donor journey, spur: asked:

  • What are the steps they go through from their first interaction to donating money?
  • What are their pain points?
  • What are their happy moments?
  • Where are the opportunities?

Each persona had its own distinct journey with The Common Good with pain points, happy moments and opportunities. This process facilitated understanding how The Common Good should communicate with each persona, how often, when, where and the language and/or imagery that they would respond to. spur: has also a tool for customer journey mapping.

This process also raised further questions of:

  • How might we integrate this with The Common Good's systems and data collection?
  • How might we leverage The Common Good's existing and strong volunteer base?
  • The Common Good already has many entry-level touch points with potential donors, but how might we convert these supporters to donors?

The final strategy provided to The Common Good incorporated donor persona journey mapping into a simplified system of communication 'blocks' - a sub-strategy of communication for each persona type based on generation/age and their level of engagement with The Common Good to date. Engagement levels are a useful tool for understanding what needs to happen to move a person from aware of an organisation, to supporter, to donor, to advocate. And yes, spur: has a tool for this too!

The Common Good is currently in the process of implementing the system developed by spur:.

Though the Ekka was cancelled in 2021, the spur: team was able to keep a tradition alive and share Strawberry Sundaes in The Common Good take-home packs:

project team

Olivia Roney
Olivia Roney
William Smith-Stubbs
William Smith-Stubbs

William Smith-Stubbs

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