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January 24 2012

GW Engagement Survey Section Four: Action Opportunities

Groundwire Engagement Survey, Section Four: Action Opportunities

diy-engagement-benchmarking-toolSeveral years ago, we developed the Groundwire Engagement Survey tool to help the organizations we work with determine where they should be investing their (limited) resources. We've used it enough to know that it provides useful, actionable diagnostic information, and decided to make a DIY version that anyone could use. You, maybe.

There are ten questions in our survey. Over the next ten months, we'll present one section of our survey and related resources to help you improve your engagement foundation.

This month, we're looking at Section Number Four: Action Opportunities.

Groundwire Engagement Survey Section Four: Action Opportunities.

The key question we ask when we do engagement pyramid planning with an organization is this: What can someone do to help you achieve your mission besides writing a check?

Now, don’t get us wrong, checks are groovy and important. Credit card numbers and cold, hard cash, too. But there is a 99.9% chance that the people who agree with your worldview and support your mission have a lot more to offer than what they can spare from their pocketbooks, and if you don’t provide them non-financial opportunities to participate, you lose out in two ways:

  1. You don’t get the benefit of their other skills, personal relationships, expertise, and institutional connections
  2. You are less likely to deepen their commitment to, and engagement with, your organization, and less likely to develop advocates and evangelists and leaders

Writing a check is empowering for some people, but for most of us, deep engagement comes from investment of more personal capital like our special skills, ideas and time. Hands-on equals hearts-in, and for the hard work we do in the social change sector, we need as many hearts as we can get.

Connecting with others who share the same interest and convictions in support of an issue can also pull people into deeper commitment, and that rarely happens through check-writing. 

Volunteer, advocacy, education and recreation opportunities are all ways to connect your constituents with each other while achieving your program goals. An army of supporters who know and work together and support each other will always be more powerful than an army of isolated individual donors, even if those donors have deep pockets.

So – when you think through your campaign strategy and your goals and objectives, it’s critical to determine what roles can and/or should be played by supporters rather than staff. You should also determine which of those roles are best suited for the different subsets of your supporter base. Identify the value proposition that is going to make the role attractive. Is it power and authority? Related to someone’s personal interest? The opportunity to learn new skills? A chance to meet new and interesting people? Is it fun?

Finally, it is critical to track which roles your supporters are playing, how often, and for which campaign or issue. When you review the activities you’ve asked people to participate in, you should be able to see how many people participated, and who, individually, those people are. You should be able to track what issue interest and/or past roles led those folks to want to participate. You should also have a plan for identifying or building your supporters’ skills and interests for the next role you need them to play.      

One more thing: when you ask people to play a role in your work, make sure the role is needed. There are few things more loathsome than a request to sign an online petition that you know will have no impact on a campaign’s success (read about Felix Warneken’s study on how even altruistic toddlers are unwilling to help when the help is not needed).

The contacts in your database can do a lot more than send the occasional check. Make sure you aren’t wasting those resources. 


The Engagement Pyramid: Beefing up the Middle, Groundwire

Want to Fundraise Like Charity:Water? Develop Engaged Advocates, not Donors, Bright+3

Donors and volunteers: More alike than different, Energize Inc.

Balancing Tasks and Relationships: The Art of Engagement, Alchemy of Change


Did you miss the first three articles in this series?
DIY Engagement Survey Tool: Section 1 Theory of Change

DIY Engagement Survey Tool: Section 2: Websites

DIY Engagement Survey Tool: Section 3: Email


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