Improving Performance with Information and Insight
Published by Lehman Associates

Pursuing Engagement Scoring is Real Work

Strengthening member and donor engagement is a major objective in many associations and other nonprofits. As we move toward what some describe as a relationship economy, these organizations understand the importance of building relevance through deeper and more meaningful interactions with constituents. Engagement scoring is a way to track these member relationships.

Comprehensive Scoring: To be most useful, engagement scores need to incorporate all of the interactions a member or donor has with the organization. They need to include the full range of participation options – conferences, donations, email lists, website use, social media activities, organization leadership, other volunteer activities, and so on.

Tailored to the Organization: Simply put, engagement scores are produced by assigning various weights to member / donor interactions. For example, attending a conference would have a different weighting than posting on a social media page. Both may be important components of overall engagement, but the weights assigned to these two interactions will vary by organization. In some cases, the overlay of external data may also help shape the engagement view of the member or donor.

Scoring is Modeling and Modeling is Hard: Engagement scoring like many other types of modeling is harder than it might seem. Not only is there the question of weighting, but there is also the question of redundancy. Perhaps attending a conference and attending an in-person training session are each correlated with a connected member. But it may be that is the in-person aspect that element of what is importance. As such, the engagement score might assign points to attendance at either, but not double the points for attendance at both. Similarly, a member who posts even once in an online forum may reflect a high level of engagement, but whether they make one post or ten doesn’t really matter, or at least not as much.

Multiple Scores May Be Required: For many organizations, measuring engagement along several dimensions may provide a more meaningful view of members and donors.

It is a Process: Developing and fine tuning engagement measurement is an ongoing process. As the organization learns more, the scoring can be refined to better reflect the range of member interactions and the needs of the organization.

 GuideDog Foundation for the Blind – a great case study

A recent presentation by Wells Jones, Executive Director, GDF, offers a great example of how one organization has approached  donor engagement scoring. Here are some relevant highlights.

GDF has established four dimensions of donor engagement. While these are combined to generate a single score, the individual dimension scores are important on their own. The dimensions are intended to stay constant over time, but the indicators and models used to generate scores within those dimensions will evolve over time.

  • Funding (what they have given and for how long)
  • Participation (their involvement as volunteers, advocates, event attendees, and access to information)
  • Communication (participation and response to GDF email and other communications)
  • Gift Ability (connecting external sources of information to add breath to the engagement scoring)
  • Points Jones makes about the organization’s view on engagement scoring.
    • Scores are dynamic and changing.
    • We learn how to apply the scores to what we do through trial and error. It is an ongoing process and a long term commitment.
    • We use the data to customize the constituent’s view of the organization.
    • We retain the underlying data. When we make a change to our scoring algorithms we rerun the historical data with the new model. This helps us test the effectiveness of the refinements.