Organisations can’t deliver their mission without a deep understanding of their audience, including supporters, users, clients and beneficiaries.

To do that, they need to access, interpret and analyse qualitative and quantitative data. Then use it to make sure that their audience engagement strategy will meaningfully support their organisation’s ambition.

Insight can come from many sources, including:

  • Market and brand research (eg quantitative polling; competitor analysis; brand awareness, perception and association; sentiment analysis; market segmentation)
  • Fundraising database data
  • Analytics data (eg user location, most popular content, donation patterns)
  • Social media audience profiles and ad test results
  • Email statistics (eg most popular content by clicks and opens)
  • Supporter and/or website user surveys

Accurate and up-to-date insight helps organisations to develop programmes, products, services and communications that respond to people’s real needs and wants.

Making decisions based purely on assumptions is risky. Organisations can end up wasting time, money and effort on doing things that seem like a good idea, but don’t serve the right purpose.

Insights formed from a combination of data can also point to trends in an organisation’s output and impact. They can be used to optimise existing activities, rather than wait until the end of the project and the evaluation. That means that organisations can be fleet of foot and optimise or stop projects or products as soon as their impact starts to fade. Or they can develop new products that fulfil a newly identified need.

Things to think about

  • Do you have audience profiles which are used in planning across all teams in the organisation?
  • How widely is audience insight used in your planning?
  • Do you use insights to spot trends in how your organisation is progressing its strategy and design an appropriate response?

Insight: five levels of maturity

1. Gathering

Insights are gathered and used in a silo of a team that commissioned them.

2. Understanding

Insights from more than one source are combined to build understanding.

3. Analysing

Knowledge about who people are is combined with behavioural insights.

4. Acting on

Insights are used to shape planning and delivery. Some products are optimised based on data analysis for better results.

5. Learning from

All work and strategy are grounded in rich, up-to-date insight distilled from the holistic data pool and optimised to improve results and impact.


Just Enough Research by Erika Hall is a guide to research methods you can implement right away, whatever the size of your team or budget. The second edition came out in November 2019.

The Eden Stanley Group’s free guide for building an audience-centred strategy, The Right Wavelength, is full of statistics and case studies that will help make the case to your colleagues.

Average score

Overall, for this competency, organisations average out at level 2.4.

Scores by year

These graphs show the average scores for this competency over the last few years, expressed as a percentage.

  • 2020 60% 60%
  • 2019 62% 62%
  • 2018 60% 60%
  • 2017 56% 56%
  • 2016 40% 40%