Levels Of Engagement On Nonprofit Websites


By Jay Adamsson

For a non-profit organization, it is critical that people become engaged. The organization has a mission, and advancing that mission inevitably involves engaging people for financial, volunteer, or other kinds of support. Society doesn’t change without a push, and the organization is there to provide that motivation. The website plays a role. Exactly what that role is may change between organizations, and in today’s world, it’s almost guaranteed to be an important factor.

But meeting the goals of a non-profit organization is an ongoing process. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to advance the mission without being able to measure progress. In measuring engagment with people through a website and other internet strategies, having tracking tools such as Google Analytics is only the tip of the iceberg. Even more important than gathering the numbers is having the ability to understand and interpret what the data is saying.

Engagment is not a yes/no option – different people will engage with your organization at different levels. It is up to each organization to build their own model for levels of engagment, and to use their website to support their efforts.

In the for-profit world, this is a well-studied topic, often referred to by terms like “marketing funnel” or “customer path”. It is the process that their customers pass through that eventually leads to buying a company’s products or services. It usually looks something like the picture below, although each business will have their own terms, and may add or subtract stages to the process depending on their particular situation.

Marketing Funnel for Business

 

For non-profits, there are similar paths and stages for how people are engaged. Although there are quite a few models out there for a “non-profit marketing funnel”, the reality is that the goals of non-profits are much more varied than in the for-profit world, so the models are themselves more varied. What is your ultimate level of engagment? Is it a volunteer? Is it a regular donor? Is it a commitment to action? Is it a participant? Maybe there are multiple streams that are applicable to the organization. Perhaps it looks like the diagram below, or perhaps it looks more like a plate of spaghetti, with multiple directions.

Levels of Engagement for Non-Profits

Although the web site is an important component of engagment, it has to be remembered that a website is simply a tool to help a non-profit meet its goal. It should be designed keeping in mind people who are at the various levels of engagment in your model, and the website can encourage them to advance up the chain. It should be easy for someone at each level to find the information that they can relate to, and it should provide what they need to move to the next level. And it should be measured as it happens.

There are a variety of website actions that can be recorded, and they can be interpreted in terms of the levels of engagement model for the organization, such as

  • visiting multiple pages
  • downloading white papers or fact sheets
  • making an on-line donation
  • participating in social media
  • contributing to a forum
  • joining a mailing list
  • sending an email
  • inquiring for nearest location
  • signing an on-line petition

The trick is to link the user’s action back to the engagment model, to use it as an indication of the success of the website in helping meet the organization’s goals.