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DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey Section 5: Engagement Tracking

Resources for tracking engagement.

Groundwire Engagement Survey Section Five: Engagement Tracking.

So, you’ve got some enthusiastic organizers, you’re working on a hot issue that people care about and folks are raising their hands all over the place telling you that they want to get involved. They’re signing your petitions at the farmers market, liking what you say on Facebook, and registering on your website for future communications.

You’ve got a lot of ready, human capital. Do you have a plan for it? Have you thought through your engagement ladder for each individual? Can you draw your organization’s engagement pyramid?

Do you know who should get an email, who should get a phone call, and who your executive director should take to lunch?

What are your plans for the governor’s sister, who signed up for your action alerts last week?

Do you have a framework and supporting systems to make sure the right asks go to the right people at the right time?

Do those systems help you know when you are (and aren’t) achieving your goals for bringing the right people into a deeper relationship with your organization?

Let me relate a short story. An organization, which shall remain nameless (no guessing), had a great mission and was working on popular issues. When they assigned a staff member to a street corner she could sign up as many people as passed by to “support” their campaigns. So successful were they at this tactic of gathering support leads, that they spent a significant percentage of staff time and resources collecting signatures, both online and out on the real, physical sidewalk. Their primary goal, when I met them, was to collect 15,000 new signatures.

And they did it! Those lists of signatures were stacked in piles, all around their campaign headquarters, the stacks so high that they blocked the aisle. Their email list was bloated with thousands of new email contacts. But no one had a plan about what to do with all of these new folks. No one even had a plan of how to get the contacts on the paper petitions into the database, or from their email platform into their database (which wasn’t integrated).

But it didn’t matter at the end of the day, because there was also no plan about what to do with the contacts once they were in the database. The organization staff knew they needed grassroots power, and they went out and started the relationships, but had no strategy for turning the initial interest into something useful for their mission. And, ultimately, signatures weren’t enough to convince the decision-makers this organization sought to influence. The stacks of petitions made good places to set a cup of coffee (and their swollen email numbers increased their monthly email data storage costs) and that was about it.

So, that’s an extreme case. Most organizations we run into have, at least, a fundraising ask waiting for new contacts. But many organizations have not planned for what their short-term and long-term engagement with a new supporter looks like. They aren’t thinking about the person who signed up for their email list as an important potential friend who requires cultivation, or someone they need to court with care.

My colleague, Dave Averill, likes to make romantic analogies (and February is the month of love, after all), noting that you shouldn’t ask for someone’s phone number if you don’t have a plan to call, and you shouldn’t invite someone to a fancy restaurant and expect him or her to pick up the bill. Romance is a great lens for thinking about the way your organization should treat new (and existing) supporters – you're flirting at the bottom of the engagement pyramid (and doing all of the stuff that it takes to attract attention) and in deep, long-lasting commitment at the top.

Make appropriate requests at each level of relationship, appropriate reciprocation (you should know what recognition, authority, and other value you provide at every level), and don’t take your supporters for granted! Don’t take your sweetheart for granted, either, but that’s a different post.

Make a plan for what happens when someone shows interest in your mission. Be able to articulate what actions or characteristics indicate when people are more deeply engaged with your organization and how you will know and measure it. Make sure that you have documented (and that your staff members understand) the different levels of authority, responsibility, and service your organization offers to people at each level. And finally, choose technology that supports tracking engagement, and allows you to segment supporters by degree of interest, activity and investment.

Take the Survey


The Engagement Pyramid: Six Levels of Connecting People and Social Change, Groundwire

Engagement Ladders: Building Supporter Power, Frogloop

Idaho Conservation League Works the Engagement Pyramid, Groundwire

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

Managing Relationships at Your Organization, TechSoup Canada

One Organization. One System for Donor Information, Groundwire

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