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Developing and Using Engagement Scores

Engagement scores have become increasingly important in recent years as organizations look beyond giving patterns to inform their fundraising strategies and build their pipelines. You can create an engagement score by determining the ways that constituents can “plug into” your organization and developing a scoring system to quantify each constituent’s behavior. Your team can use the resulting scores to determine where on the engagement spectrum various groups lie and to ultimately create strategies to increase that engagement by group. Be sure to import scores into your system of record to drive this segmentation and outreach.

When creating your first engagement score, we recommend you start simply. It’s easy to overcomplicate the scores by including as many different forms of engagement as possible. This can lead to a delay in buy-in from other development staff and implementation. As you get more comfortable, you may adapt the scoring mechanism to your organization’s needs, using weighting, ranges, and additional types of engagement.

How to Create an Engagement Score

Start by determining the various ways constituents engage with your organization. Staff should discuss this and determine the common characteristics and behaviors shared by your best donors and friends. You can create your own categories or consider frameworks that are in use across the nonprofit sector.
Here are categories that reflect ways people engage with an organization. Think about the data you have that fits into these groups:

Attend: These are events and activities that promote the value of the organization and its mission through in-person and virtual opportunities including, but not limited to, galas, sporting events, performances, class reunions, and virtual conferences.

Give: Philanthropic gifts are an important indication of a person’s commitment to an organization, and there are a number of ways giving can influence an engagement score including, but not limited to, giving this year, consistent giving for two years, increased giving, and documented bequest giving.

Volunteer: Volunteers differ in their roles across organizations, but the time and expertise they offer is indicative of their dedication. Examples of these roles include board members, council and committee members, docents, and program volunteers.

Communicate: Consistent and strategic communication is critical to keep community members engaged between the other moments listed above. Examples include meetings and calls with staff, meaningful connections through social media, and other online communications.

Once you have a list of characteristics and behaviors to explore, check your data. The goal is that each
identified type of engagement is being tracked in your system of record and is detailed by constituent. If any type of engagement is not in your system of record, consider how to update and import it. This may change your initial scoring criteria and pave the way for a version two with enhanced data, depending upon the work that needs to be done to track the data. For example, if membership in your organization’s legacy society is an important part of philanthropic engagement but is currently being tracked in a spreadsheet until a constituent makes a documented bequest, you may decide to add a constituent code to identify those in the legacy society. Once it is in the system of record, you can use it more easily for scoring.

Once you’ve determined that the data needed is in the system of record, hold a follow-up discussion to clarify any data points necessary and determine your model for scoring. How many points does each type of engagement receive? What is the highest number of possible points that one constituent can achieve in a category? How often do you want to refresh your model, and how does that affect scoring? One model assigns the same maximum point value to each of the four categories and adds them together to get a constituent’s overall engagement score.

Next Steps

After assigning engagement scores to all constituents, provide the list of constituents to key staff, including their overall constituent engagement score along with the sub-scores for Attend, Give, Volunteer, and Communicate. This list should help you prioritize donors and prospects in the near term and build out constituent engagement efforts in the future.

Use the scores to create meaningful segments. For example, a constituent with high Attend and Volunteer scores, but low Give and Communicate scores might be a good candidate for annual fund appeals, particularly low monthly contributions. A constituent with a high Give score but low Attend and Communicate scores may be a good candidate for a small group virtual event invite or volunteering opportunity to increase engagement.

It’s most important to just get started and use the data to inform simple outreach strategies. Good luck!

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Katelyn Martin
Katelyn brings a unique combination of development and consulting experience to her work at Campbell & Company. Katelyn’s direct fundraising experience focused on arts & culture and youth development, including...
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