Ever wondered exactly what it takes to be an engaging organization? Or wish someone would come into your organization, give you the once-over, and tell you in layman's terms where you're excelling and where you need work?
If this has ever been a dream of yours, we've got some good news for you. Several years ago, we developed the Groundwire Engagement Benchmarking Survey tool to help the organizations we work with determine where they should be investing their (limited) resources. We've used it enough to believe that it actually 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. You can take the survey now (or anytime in the future), and get a printable report that you can share with your team, board, partners, etc. The survey is 100% anonymous, but you will get an invitation to join an online community of practice around engagement. Which will be awesome -- but if you're not interested, feel free to skip the invitation. You can still download your survey results as a PDF or printed copy.
We'll be publishing and posting resources every month related to a specific question, so once you take the survey (or even if you don't), you can look forward to additional support and advice over the next year. Served up in digestible chunks.
Take Groundwire's DIY Engagement Benchmarking Survey.
To start off, we're tackling the most basic, most important question for social change organizations -- What is your theory of change? All of the ways that you work to engage your supporters are a big waste of time if what you're asking them to do doesn't actually have a strong chance of resulting in the outcome that you all want. Interested in learning more? Here are the theory of change basics:
What is it?
A theory of change is a roadmap, or logic model, which outlines a chain of events starting with your campaign activities or program work that leads, plausibly, to your desired goal.
It has to be believable.
It has to be achievable.
It has to be testable.
Why do you need one?
A theory of change helps you to most efficiently use your resources -- money, staff, political capital, etc. -- to reach your goal.
It allows you to evaluate your assumptions and related strategies and tactics, so you can shift away from what’s not working and focus on or expand what is working.
It ensures that staff and campaign/program partners are on the same page about what you’re trying to accomplish and how.
What are the risks of working without a theory of change?
Without a theory of change you can actually do harm to your cause. It’s like traveling somewhere without a map. Even though you know where you want to end up, if you don’t know the path and end up pointed in the wrong direction, going faster only puts you further from your goal.
When you spend your limited social and political capital asking supporters to fund or work on the wrong tactics, you not only waste their money and time, you waste their passion and you lose credibility. You may never get another shot at the resources you’ve misspent.
Our Theory of Change, Groundwire
What is your Engagement Superpower?, Groundwire
Six Principles of Transformative Digital Campaigns, Communicopia
2011 Nonprofit Communications Trends (and what it means for your good cause), Nonprofit Marketing Guide
Four Reasons Why Multichannel Matters, M + R Research Labs
Smart Chart 3.0, An Interactive Tool to Help Nonprofits Make Smart Communication Choices, Spitfire Strategies
Ready to move on to Section Two? Click here for GW Engagement Benchmarking Survey, Section Two: Your Website.
And as far as keeping your boss out of your world, LinkedIn is seeing a renaissance right now as people are looking for a completely separate social space for work altogether. Maybe Facebook and LinkedIn will be enough to keep the worlds separate without resorting to Google Circles?
Okay, but enough about me and my personality problems. Why is this important to your nonprofit? Because you want to keep your eye on Google +, but remember a social media network is only successful if individuals are loving it up. People don't like change, they have social media fatigue, they don't want to build a whole new community and they don't really hate Facebook as much as they like to say they do. As Jumo can tell you, it’s almost impossible to get people to move over to a new social space when they are already deeply invested. Google has had trouble with this in the past (Wave, Buzz) but Google does have a cool factor people love (if you are still using Hotmail for your email you are immediately being judged, just know that).
Here’s what Social Media for Nonprofits guru Beth Kanter has to say about the possibilities of Google +: “Many who work in health, education, social services and other sensitive areas have found it cumbersome and sometimes impossible to erect professional firewalls to keep patients, students and clients out. Google gives users more control on who can join.”
Read what other people are saying about Google +:
Security and Control: Early Thoughts on Google+, Amy Sample Ward
What is your plan for Google+ experimentation and exploration? Beth Kanter
Google +: First Impressions, Mashable
Nonprofits Adopt Google + Social Network Early, Huff Po
Google Rebrands Blogger and Picassa to make way for Google +, Read Write Web
Five Fatal Flaws of Google +, Thomas Moradapour]]>
The middle of the pyramid is where people begin taking on a more meaningful role in your organization and begin personally investing in your work. It’s the “contribute” stage, where people start committing significant time, energy, and resources to your cause. For an advocacy organization, “contributors” might be doing things like calling legislators, testifying at hearings, making monthly donations, and organizing other members. Because there are (at least in theory) more people in the middle of the pyramid than at the top, this is where the bulk of your meaningful actions will be coming from.
The middle is also where you start building real relationships with your members. It’s where personal conversations start to happen, and where you discover the knowledge, experience, and resources people have to offer. This is where you start to hear the personal stories that motivate people to get involved -- stories that can become the foundation of your organizing efforts.
A healthy middle of the pyramid is critically important for the long-term health and impact of your organization. But too often, we find that organizations are seriously under-investing in the organizing work that’s required for a healthy middle. In many organizations, organizing budgets have declined as online budgets have grown, but the opposite should be happening -- organizing budgets should be growing to take advantage of the opportunities provided by the big lists we’ve gotten so good at building.
Make it a focus. Think about the qualities you are looking for in effective advocates for your organization. In an advocacy organization, for example, you might look for people with relationships to key legislators, members in certain districts, experts who can testify on your issue, or spokespeople with compelling personal stories. Once you have your list, make sure you have a way to track this information (in your database, not in your head). Then design outreach campaigns with the goal of identifying individuals with these qualities and cultivating relationships with them.
Start conversations wherever you can. Good organizers do this intuitively in face-to-face situations, but sometimes we forget to do it online. One easy step: put a real “reply-to” address on your email blasts. Yes, I mean the actual email address of an actual person. Getting an actual reply from an actual person is called a “conversation.” It’s how you start learning about your members and identifying those you should invest more time in.
Give your staff time and space to be creative and get results. Organizing is hard work. Identifying the right people and cultivating relationships takes a lot of time, and unless you have unlimited resources, it’s time that’s going to come from some other aspect of your work. So you may have to ease off on your list growth goals a bit. List size, click-through rates and action rates are list-building metrics, not organizing metrics.
We're better than ever at leveraging the power of the internet to find new sympathizers and build bigger lists. Now, we need to invest in the next step -- building the personal relationships that are required for real, sustainable impact.]]>
Read this actual transcript from a recent email exchange with my mother and you’ll see why I'm so excited right now. (I admit, my instructions were a little confusing.)
Me: Mom, thought of you when I read this. Click on the link below to read this article. If you can't click on it, copy and paste the link like I showed you when I was home last.
My Mom: Sorry--I forgot how to cut and paste. Can you send it to me another way?
Me: no. You have to learn to copy and paste. it's the simplest thing on the damn internet.
open up your internet connection (internet explorer button - you know how.)
go to top of the page where the there is a long narrow rectangular box. the words in there start with http://
use your cursor to put your pointer arrow right before the http:// and click your mouse. the whole line will now be highlighted. hit delete. now box is blank
now come back down here and put your cursor right before the http:// on this line: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/28/magazine/28athletes-t.html?_r=1&WT.mc_id=MG-SM-E-FB-SM-LIN-NGN-112610-NYT-NA&WT.mc_ev=click
click, hold down, and move your cursor to highlight this whole line.
after it is highlighted, take your hand off the click. the line above will still be highlighted.
now click the RIGHT button on your mouse
it will show you a menu, click on "copy". the highlighted text will now be copied.
now, go back up to the box up top in the internet that is blank.
put cursor in there
right click on mouse
find the word "paste" and click on that.
the link you copied will appear.
it will take you to the page i sent you.
YOU HAVE TO LEARN HOW TO DO THIS! I'M SERIOUS.
My Mom: I can't get it to work! When I put in internet explorer your email goes away. Dad couldn't get it either. Plus then he messed up my reply--we finally got it back. Going out, will call you later.
Now, she can just click on this:
Thanks Google! ]]>
Many of you know that here at Groundwire we do social change strategy for environmental organizations, along with building websites and Salesforce.com databases. Another big thing we do that you might not know about is form partnerships with other awesome online services (Eventbrite!) and other awesome developers (eFactory!) that help the groups we work with do their work even better.
Eventbrite is a great online events site where groups can set up event registration for fundraisers, house parties, work parties, classes, you name it. Eventbrite manages the event online including registration, confirmation email, directions, and secure payment. It’s easy for groups to set up an event and easy for participants to register for events using the site. (Did we say "easy?" It's just all real easy.)
We wanted to make sure all of that important information being put into Eventbrite was being captured in our groups’ Salesforce.com databases. Every single day we wax on in some form or another about the Engagement Pyramid, and one of the essential principles of the Pyramid is that groups must collect and track each and every communication with their supporters for better relationship building.
We looked around and turns out a company called eFactory had already developed a free application to connect Eventbrite and Salesforce.com, called (oddly enough) Eventbrite Connector. W00t! The first version of Eventbrite Connector only imported names, though, and we wanted it to do a lot more.
We contacted eFactory and offered to fund an enhancement to the Eventbrite Connector tool. They were excited about it and eFactory developers worked with the Groundwire Labs team to come up with a new version that works much better for the nonprofits we work with.
So for example, we are hosting our 15th Anniversary Celebration on October 14. Our Director of Development set up an event page for the celebration on Eventbrite, and as people RSVP, all this good information about our favorite people gets sucked into a Salesforce.com Campaign set up for the event. Our Director of Development can use Salesforce.com to get a detailed historical view of each attendee, how much they have paid, and she can run reports to help her plan the event.
Of course, you won't get all of this information for everyone – not everyone on your list will have a Facebook account, and those that do may not have it associated with the email address you have for them (you may have their work address, while they used a personal address for Facebook, for example). But you can expect to get some data for a majority of the people in your database.
What to do with all of this beautiful data? As always, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish, but here’s a few ideas to try:
Top of our list is using social data to send more targeted and segmented email. For example, you may want to send an email to Twitter users asking them to follow you on Twitter – something you probably don't want to send to your whole list. You can split up a campaign based on age or gender and tailor your message accordingly. If you’re willing to do a little analysis of people’s likes on Facebook, you can segment people based on interests or affiliations – for example, tailoring a different message for likely conservatives and likely liberals.
Let’s say you have an important advocacy campaign you’re launching, and you want it to spread like wildfire. Wouldn’t it be helpful to know which of your members has the biggest online following? You could put together a list of all your supporters with more than a thousand online fans and call them personally to ask for their help.
On an ongoing basis, you could make a point of following all of your biggest Twitterers and Facebook fans online and looking for opportunities to build your relationships with them, or establish an online VIP program.
It’s easy to forget that your database is not just a collection of names, but a collection of real people. Appending social data to your records can help bring them to life and make one-on-one contacts, like fundraising calls, much easier. You can add photos, see what the individual’s interests are, what they do for a living, where they went to school, and, with quick links to their Facebook and LinkedIn profiles, who else they have relationships with.
By looking at the number of members you have on various social networking sites, you can see if there are any gaps in your social media strategy. Who knows, maybe you have a ton of members on Friendster you've been ignoring.
While we know you’ll only use this information for good, it might still make your constituents uncomfortable that you’ve added personal information about them to your database. That’s especially true for information people might not realize is publicly available. Amazon Wish List, we’re looking at you.
Our advice? Don’t be creepy. If your sense of creepy is not finely developed, ask other people for their reaction. In general, we recommend not using personal info explicitly. So don’t offer to mail me that back scratcher I just added to my Amazon Wish List if I make a $100 contribution. That would definitely be creepy.
Hey. Don’t let the haters get to you. You know that more people than ever, EVER, believe in climate change and want the government to do something about it. More people than ever are freaked out about demolishing our oceans and forests. More people than ever are worried about harmful crap in their food and on their babies and in their hand lotion and are on that first level of engagement, ready to be moved up when you reach out to them.
You need a little positive news, a little inspiration.Here are six stories from the past month to help you pull yourself up off the floor and get back into your letter-writing, phone-calling, house-partying, water and wildlife clean-up, green living ways.
Worldchanging's Alex Steffen: The Next US Climate Strategy: Celebrate the EPAGrist's David Roberts: Is cap-and-trade to blame for the death of the climate bill?
(Includes video of David Roberts!)
Van Jones's keynote address to Netroots Nation: Love Harder.
Food, milkshakes, T-shirts and free checklists? We’re totally engaged. And when OEC sends us that next action alert, we'll be ready.
This is just the tip of the iceberg, of course. There are many ways funders can use online tools to track, highlight and amplify the good work of their grantees, as well as add their own expertise to the virtual discussion, and many foundations are already pushing the envelope. As a new generation of program officers as well as long-time pillars of the foundation world embrace the digital age, there’s so much opportunity. Dig in!]]>
The groups we work with at Groundwire are an industrious bunch -- always planning this, that, and the other to engage the greatest number of people in protecting and enjoying this gorgeous little planet of ours. Read on for a few of our favorites and please feel free to add to our list.
10 Fun Ways To Reconnect With Mother Earth
Make those miles count. If you live anywhere near Washington state: get
sponsors, hike like crazy in the month of August, and help Washington
Trails Association protect the trails we love.
2. Make an organic pasta that will become your summer staple. For inspiration, check out online recipes from the Idaho Conservation League featuring local meats, cheeses, grains and produce. The Basque chorizo / arugula / feta / red pepper pasta = yes.
3. Be a tree hugger. For reals. If you live in the Los Angeles area, check out the TreePeople online calendar for opportunities to help weed, prune, and mulch the thousands of trees planted each year by volunteers and staff from TreePeople. They’re working toward one million trees planted all over the city to restore the tree canopy and help combat global warming. Plus, trees are the best.
4. British Columbia friends! Not here, not ever. Protect your coast from a catastrophic oil spill by making this the summer to get overly-involved with the No Tankers campaign from Dogwood Initiative. Even better, get 20 of your BFFs involved with you!
5. Get your faith community involved in the green movement this summer. 6 Steps to Getting Started in Your House of Worship from GreenFaith is a great place to start.
6. High Country News turns 40 this year (watch this anniversary video, amazing story and we are so proud to be part of it). In honor of their 40th year, they have several photo and essay contests going on this summer – enter them! Also, instead of spending your summer book fund on barely-tolerable summer reads, subscribe to this remarkable news magazine and help keep real, investigative reporting going (Print + Web: $29.95/year; Web only: $24/year)
7. Head to Portland, Oregon, this Saturday (July 10) and join 2000+ cycling buddies for The Night Ride, a benefit for the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. Bike around the city in costume with a bunch of other people in costumes and decorated bikes, eat as many doughnuts as you can, follow a glowing, marked course, and participate in “wild nighttime antics." Keep Portland Weird, baby.
8. Hey. Hey you on the couch. Young person. Anywhere in Washington state. Watching Jersey Shore and Yacht Rock Videos and Betty White clips. Kill three birds with one click: Sign up to join The Washington Bus and 1) meet other young people who are cool 2) mom and dad will get off your back 3) you’ll get addicted to making change happen.
9. Have you been to the Steens Mountain Wilderness in southeast Oregon? Seriously, one of the most beautiful places in this country. It’s the nation’s first cow-free wilderness, and while the cattle are now gone, the fences remain. To help the sage grouse and antelope migrate without getting caught in the wire, we humans need to clean it up. Every year, Oregon Natural Desert Association sponsors a five day backpacking/fence pull in August. Traipse around this magnificent desert, working and playing and camping. Great summer adventure! (August 25-August 30.)
10. Summer is the perfect time to get involved with your local environmental groups working to protect and restore the country’s waterways. If you live in Seattle, there is a People for Puget Sound volunteer orientation this upcoming Wednesday (July 14) from 5-7pm. take a friend or your kids and learn how you can spend the summer conducting monthly waterbird surveys or participating in muddy, rewarding restoration work parties on the Puget Sound.
As nonprofit organizations, we all have missions, we all have expertise related to our mission issue, and we all depend on other people who care about our missions to get the work done.
In a perfect world we would not have to compete for the time, attention and pocketbooks of those on whom we depend. We’d have all the support we needed and we’d achieve our missions in no time. Comic book villains defeated. Climate change fixed. Toxics outlawed. Urban sprawl, deforestation, disappearing biodiversity – all of that stuff would be a thing of the past.
Unfortunately, the world’s not perfect yet, and all of those good people who care (or would care) about our work have loads of other things on their minds, schedules and budgets.
So how do you build relationships with these folks, make them prioritize your cause, better engage them in your work? One excellent way is to use your unique expertise, access, skills – whatever you’re super at – to provide a product, service or experience that really matters to your target audience. Develop an engagement superpower.
Your engagement superpower shouldn’t distract from your mission-related work. In fact, your superpower should advance your mission, even be integral to it. However, an engagement superpower may be an expansion of or a departure from your historical strategies and tactics. Or something you’re already doing, but not doing much of because you didn’t realize it was a superpower.
Here are a handful of great engagement superpower examples:
How do you know if an experience, service or product you offer is actually an engagement superpower? Or if it has the potential to become one, if you just invested a little more?
So what are your organization’s engagement superpowers? What are you doing to serve them up to the people you care about? If you have a great example, let us know!
How are you using your engagement superpowers to move your supporters up the engagement pyramid? Read our article The Engagement Pyramid: Six Levels of Connecting People and Social Change for even more engagement goodness.
Civic engagement can mean a lot of different things though – from the casual forwarding of a friend’s email to deep involvement on a board of directors. Some engagement is lightweight and some is deep, and that’s OK – we can’t expect everyone to have the same degree of interest in our mission. In fact, having a mix of people with varying levels of interest and engagement is actually a good thing. Why? Because being effective at social change means being able to choose from a portfolio of strategies and tactics in a way that best maps to the specific conditions we’re facing at any given moment. Sometimes that’s lightweight communications from lots of people; sometimes is a well-timed phone call from a carefully cultivated relationship with a community leader.
The most effective social change organizations understand how to wield their portfolio of engagement tactics in Zen-like fashion; knowing just what kind of touch is called for to influence the outcomes of a particular decision. They also know how to meet people where they are at, and craft their calls to action appropriately so as to match the specific level of interest and commitment from each person they ask. These organizations also tend to have good processes for stewarding people toward ever higher levels of engagement in their mission.
At Groundwire, we use a framework for mapping these different levels of engagement that we call an “Engagement Pyramid.” This framework builds on ideas from the fields of community organizing, relationship marketing and fundraising. Fundraisers will see elements of the ‘donor pyramid’ in what we describe here. We’ve also had plenty of feedback and inspiration from peers as we’ve developed these ideas over the years, including our friend Stephen Legault from Highwater Mark.
The vertical dimension of our Engagement Pyramid represents the intensity of engagement, with low level, lightweight engagement at the bottom and high intensity, deep engagement at the top. Its horizontal dimension represents the number of people involved. Combine the two and you get a pyramid with lots of mildly engaged people at the base and a small number of deeply engaged people at the top.
We’ve found it useful to think of the vertical dimension – the intensity of engagement – as a “ladder” that individuals climb as they become more involved in a particular organization or campaign. We call it a “Ladder of Engagement” but really it’s just the vertical rise of the pyramid.
At the bottom of the Engagement Pyramid, communications and relationships are technology-centric and more automated; at the top, they are more personal and labor-intensive. Using technology to automate interactions at the bottom of the pyramid helps us scale engagement efforts to reach lots of people. Websites, databases, email and social networks are excellent tools to this end.
The upper levels of our Engagement Pyramid entail a much deeper level of engagement than is typical of most approaches to online activism. That is because automated communications tend to become less effective in engaging people above level three in our ladder, where personal relationships become increasingly critical to success. Websites, email and social networks still play an important role in offloading certain types of more routine communications, but above level three there is no substitute for the human touch. Relationship management databases can help organizations manage engagement across their constituencies; focusing resource-intensive personal interactions on their most important and/or promising people.
The Engagement Pyramid is an integrated approach to spanning engagement in both the electronic world and the real world. Organizations can use it as a way to think more holistically about the range of engagement strategies and tactics they have at their disposal. It also provides a framework for matching these opportunities with those constituents most likely to succeed in carrying them out.
Our Ladder of Engagement has six rungs, or levels, which are outlined in detail below. Why six, and not five or seven? Because six is the number of levels that we have found to be meaningfully different in our work with the organizations we serve. Civic engagement is a complex field though, and there is no way a model like this will ever fully capture the nuances and inherent messiness of any one particular on-the-ground campaign. What it can do is serve as a conceptual map; a jumping off point we can use to clarify assumptions and help simplify the complex realities we face, in order to gain perspective and help us navigate the right course.
Engagement Level 1: “Observing”(bottom of the engagement pyramid)
|Primary engagement goals||Inspire initial and repeat contact with the organization.|
|Mindset of person being engaged||Interested in the cause and aware of the organization. Awareness is the major factor. “I care enough about the issue to be aware of your organization’s existence, but you haven’t given me reason or opportunity to investigate you first-hand.”|
|Nature of engagement||Sporadic, indirect communications.|
|Communications||Person takes occasional, distracted glances at the organization’s work. These indirect communications may be via word-of-mouth, social media or traditional media. Person may visit the organization’s website but does not provide contact information, so any direct communication is at their initiative. Communications focus on information sharing and awareness-building.|
|Action||Deciding to visit organization’s website or attend an event.|
|Examples||Hearing about an organization’s work from a friend via email or a Facebook or Twitter post. Hearing about the work through a newspaper article or blog or by attending an event.|
|Engagement metrics||Website traffic, polling, media impressions.|
Engagement Level 2: “Following”
|Primary engagement goals||Offer value and secure permission to deliver direct, proactive communications.|
|Mindset of person being engaged||Understands and is interested in the cause and cares somewhat about the organization. Attention is the major factor. “I care enough about your work to open my stream of incoming communications to you, but there’s no guarantee I’ll look at what you send me.”|
|Nature of engagement||Regular, direct communications.|
|Communications||Person receives ongoing stream of communications focused on information sharing and piquing interest. These updates keep the organization’s work front-of-mind and build enthusiasm.|
|Action||Providing contact information. Reading and watching direct communications from organization.|
|Examples||Subscribing to an email distribution list, print newsletter or an RSS feed. Signing up on a list at an event. Note that Facebook fans and to some degree Twitter followers blur the lines between levels two and three because the public nature of following an organization on a social network is also a mild form of endorsement.|
|Engagement metrics||Email subscribers; RSS subscribers; Twitter followers; Facebook fans; Attendees of a free event.
Engagement Level 3: “Endorsing”
|Primary engagement goals||Earn enough trust to secure endorsement of the work.|
|Mindset of person being engaged||Believes in the mission and trusts the organization enough to approve the use of their name to endorse the organization, its programs or a particular campaign. The endorsement may also include a nominal financial contribution. Trust and time are the major factors. “I endorse the work you do, but it is your work and I’m not prepared to invest a significant amount of my time/money in it.”|
|Nature of engagement||Straightforward, single-step, transactions.|
|Communications||Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, punctuated by concise, persuasive communications leading to a simple call to action.|
|Action||Simple, quick acts with little risk or investment of resources; commitments limited enough to be made on impulse rather than through real deliberation.|
|Examples||Examples of endorsement include: low-level membership pledges, forwarding email, and petition signing.
|Engagement metrics||Number of members or other lower-level contributors; public endorsers (such as petition signers); supporters who contact officials, Attendees of a paid event.
Engagement Level 4: “Contributing”
|Primary engagement goals||Deepen commitment to the mission and the work.|
|Mindset of person being engaged||Contributes significant time, financial or social capital to the organization. Time and money are the major factors. “I’m committed to the work and will pitch in to help, but don’t expect me to assume responsibility.”|
|Nature of engagement||Multi-step assignments.|
|Communications||Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, accompanied by periodic, personal email, phone calls or face-to-face meetings to share information and coordinate on a discrete project or request for funding.|
|Action||Contributions are not made on impulse – only after due consideration. Habitual contributions may feel like impulse decisions (writing the year-end check or coming into the office regularly to volunteer), but they are part of a larger pattern of behavior indicating a considered investment in the mission. Significant contributions of time and resources become an expression of values and beliefs. The best volunteer jobs are concrete assignments with clearly defined deliverables and good staff oversight.|
|Examples||Writing or reviewing organizational marketing materials, making personally significant donations, attending public hearings, or joining a committee or task force.|
|Engagement metrics||Number of regular volunteers; Number of regular activists; number of mid-level donors; number of content contributors or collaborators.
Engagement Level 5: “Owning”
|Primary engagement goals||Instill and develop a sense of responsibility for the mission.|
|Mindset of person being engaged||Fully invested in the mission and success of the organization, a program or campaign. Mission-relevant knowledge and skills are the major factors. “You can count on me to figure out what needs doing and to be responsible for getting the job done in the way that makes the most sense.”|
|Nature of engagement||Ongoing, collaborative actions.|
|Communications||Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, accompanied by regular personal email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings to collaborate on ongoing projects. Flow of communication is two-way and conversational.|
|Action||Investments of time, financial and social capital increase, often blurring together. These investments confer a sense of ownership in the organization’s work. Financial support is significant enough that the person feels warranted in their desire to shape the work and understand its impact. Contributions become a creative outlet and expression of passion. People begin using the term “we” instead of “you” when talking about the organization.|
|Examples||Deep volunteer involvement in a program or board membership; testifying at a public hearing; blogging or otherwise publishing about the organization’s work.|
|Engagement metrics||Metrics become less quantitative, more subjective, but may include board members, major donors, etc.
Engagement Level 6: “Leading”(top of the engagement pyramid)
|Primary engagement goals||Develop leadership skills and opportunities.|
|Mindset of person being engaged||Leads others in carrying out the organization’s work. Leadership skills are the major factor. “I’m willing to lead us in carrying out this mission.”|
|Nature of engagement||Ongoing acts of leadership.|
|Communications||Regular, direct mass communications to inform and pique interest, accompanied by regular personal email, phone calls and face-to-face meetings to support the mission. Communication flow is often initiated by the person, rather than the organization.|
|Action||The engaged becomes the engager, so deeply committed to the mission they now focus their energy on engaging and leading others in the work. Focus of energy broadens from campaigns and programs to a more holistic mission focus.|
|Examples||Community organizers who find and development talent in their community; board members who take on real governance and leadership of the organization.|
|Engagement metrics||Metrics become less quantitative and more subjective -- the people in this level are the most important to your organization.
By Laurie Demeritt, President, The Hartman Group
Sustainability has become a multi-headed, industry-driven cause célèbre. Media headlines are far more likely to be laden with news about alternative energy, “socially conscious” products, or the latest efforts to “green” retail, residential and workplace environments, than they are to describe consumer motivations to purchase or participate in various green behaviors, goods or services. The reality is that consumers are not really as preoccupied with sustainability as the media or industry would like to think.
One of the reasons for this is that as a culture of consumption, we tend to fixate on what are perceived as “tangibles” (products, services and technologies), rather than the driving behaviors behind consumption.
Sustainability, as a term, has not yet reached everyday, household status. Beyond a hazy awareness for it, sustainability has diverse meanings among consumers. One of the most common associations with the term, for example, is a somewhat literal interpretation, the notion of endurance over time.
We also find that sustainability is strongly associated with environmental concerns, as the sustainability trend has dovetailed with the even larger “green” trend, whereby consumers are being challenged to develop and express an “eco-consciousness” in their daily habits and purchases. Indeed many individuals, whether or not they have heard of the term sustainability, express a concern and belief that society must preserve and conserve its natural resources if human beings are to sustain their way of life over an indefinite period of time.
While using “green,” “eco-friendly” or “environmentally conscious” as synonymous with sustainability provides a straightforward definition, herein lay the limitations of the term. As long as the word sustainability only connotes “green,” as it does for some individuals, it falls short as a real-world description for the variety of social, economic and environmental issues that individuals believe are important to sustaining themselves, their communities, and society at large.
Regardless of whether or not individuals are acquainted with the term “sustainability” or can supply a formal definition for it, we find that they often point to words and phrases that reference the greater good. Recurring terms such as “responsibility” and “doing the right thing” emerge as ways described by consumers to achieve the greater good and link economic, social, and environmental issues important to them.
The Explanative Power of Responsibility
Responsibility is value-laden. Consumers do not literally use the term “responsibility” synonymously with “sustainability,” or even mention responsibility when attempting to supply a definition for “sustainability.” Consumers tend to allude to a more literal translation for the word sustainability by alluding to the “ability to last over time.” However, we find that when consumers talk about what’s important to their personal lives and the concerns facing society, the word “responsibility” and similar phrases like “do the right thing” come up time and again as a way to symbolize the underlying values that guide their views about sustainability.
While knowledge about the environmental, economic, or social benefits of a product or service is crucial to the topic of sustainability, consumers say that the notion of responsibility symbolizes why it matters. As a value-laden ideal, responsibility provides a more meaningful call to action for all those in society – consumers, businesses, and governments alike – to participate in the greater good. As one consumer stated, “You have to acknowledge that what we do here, it affects someone else. Taking responsibility for your actions and choosing to do better so that the world, so that my children’s kids will be able to have a quality of life.”
Laurie Demeritt is President and COO of The Hartman Group, a leading consulting and consumer insights firm. The Hartman Group specializes in the analysis and interpretation of consumer lifestyles and how these lifestyles affect the purchase and use of health and wellness products and services. Their client base includes a number of Fortune 500 consumer packaged goods companies, pharmaceutical firms, and mass and natural food retailers. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.