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Building a ladder of engagement: how organizations can attract and keep supporters

Ladder of Engagement: How to Engage Your Supporters

As we manage the COVID-19 pandemic and periods of social isolation, organizations are pressing pause on any physical events and enhancing their digital engagement. During this time, it is important to figure out how supporters are coming to know your organization—so that you can ultimately figure out how to continue this engagement beyond the digital landscape once things return to “normal.” Understanding how and why supporters come to know your organization is crucial to figuring out the next steps to keep them engaged and continue to be supporters of your cause.

Did they learn of you through word of mouth from a friend who has been directly impacted by the work of your organization? Were they prompted to donate to your cause because they saw a post from someone they know through social media? Perhaps they saw your organization mentioned in an article and checked out your website to learn more. Or maybe they had already been following you on social media, but a certain type of message has prompted them to start sharing and engaging more with your online activity.

Given the overall increase of digital activity coming from every direction, it’s important to evaluate what is breaking through the noise and having an impact. Creating organic and honest engagement (through sharing resources, virtual events, social media posts, etc.) is key when communicating about your organization’s mission during this uncertain time. This is an opportunity to create a plan and build your “ladder of engagement” that will lead your supporters through different levels of activity and interaction with your organization’s efforts.

How to Create Your Ladder

  1. Engage your team members. First of all, this is a group effort! Everyone in the organization should have some involvement in helping create this ladder. It is important to have different perspectives and opinions to make sure that your ladder is realistic and authentic to your organization.
  2. Identify your levels of engagement. These levels may vary depending on your type of organization, but the levels usually follow the following steps: awareness, engagement, involvement, promotion. For example, a potential supporter becomes aware of your organization through an event they attend, in which your organization may have participated. They engage with your organization on social media by following you and commenting on a post. They then may connect with one of your volunteers and would like to get more involved. At the next event they attend, they volunteer and bring a friend, promoting your organization through their network.
  3. Set goals for each level. Start with realistic goals like posting content on social content three times a week on all your social media platforms or getting a quarterly newsletter out to your already engaged supporters. Make sure that each goal can be evaluated and is feasible given your organization’s resources.
  4. Create tactics and materials. How will you get supporters to move up from each rung of the ladder? Tactics are strategic actions that will help reach your end goal—they can be as simple as updating your website regularly or creating a social media campaign and putting on a virtual event, like a webinar. You must remember to create materials that help supplement your tactics. For example, you might want to create a one-page sheet or FAQs on your organization’s history for newer supporters. For a fundraising campaign, you might want to collect stories and videos from volunteers that would showcase how important your mission is to the community.
  5. Create a schedule to evaluate your tactics and goals. Give your organization some time to learn this engagement ladder and put your tactics in place. Then set up monthly meetings to evaluate your tactics and goals for each level and see which tactics might be working better than others. It might be helpful to invest and learn about different analytical tools that can make the evaluation process easier—such as a website analytics tool, Twitter analytics, MailChimp newsletter analytics, etc.a. Please remember that collecting data as supporters enter and move up your ladder is equally important—this can be in a Google form spreadsheet, AirTable, or in a CRM (customer relationship management) platform. This type of data will also help you evaluate your goals and create new ones!

You want to make sure that you keep in mind that your organization’s specific ladder of engagement is a framework designed to help with your changing goals—it is a structure that should constantly evolve!

Infographic outlining steps for building a ladder of engagement. Starting at the top, they are: Level 04. Promotion: Spread the Word. Shares with own network, takes leadership role. Level 03. Involvement: Purposeful Participation. Volunteer opportunities, donations. Level 02. Engagement: Learning About Each Other. Update digital content (website/social media), correspondence. Level 01. Awareness: Getting on the radar. Social media posts, event attendance, networking.

Reprinted from Scott Circle Communications


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  • Nani says:

    May 13, 2020 7:10 pm

    Well done!!