Published: 10 February 2012

Climbing an engagement ladder

Take your supporters on a journey of engagement, says Jonathan Purchase

How many of you use engagement ladders? Grouping supporters into different segments based on their activity and relationship with your organisation is paramount to success. If you don’t know what your supporters have been doing, you can’t tailor your messaging accordingly and you risk losing them. For example, asking an existing donor for a £10 gift when they already give a monthly donation is not a successful communications strategy – you may anger your donor, and lose their support and money altogether. How you group your supporters and determine their groups is up to you. It depends on what your objectives are, but here are a few ideas:

  • active campaigner (taken more than a certain number of actions in the last year)
  • active donor (given a certain amount of money over the last year)
  • campaigner/donor (supporters who have given money and taken action in the last year)
  • fundraiser (people who have raised money for you as part of an event)

And combinations of the above! The engagement ladder bit comes in when you have your groups and set the objective of moving your supporters up a ladder by engaging them in different asks. You can have multiple engagement ladders, depending on the types of supporters you have (campaigners, fundraisers, volunteers, etc), or you can include everyone on the same one. Again, it just depends on your strategy and what you want to achieve.

The ladder entry point

Not everyone will start at the bottom of the ladder and work up. Some will join at points along the way. As long as you have your groups in place, you’ll be able to report on the various entry points, as well as where people are getting stuck. You’ll then be able to tweak your messaging and try out different tactics for recruitment and engagement. Most importantly, if you aren’t tracking activity you’ll never be able to find out what’s working and what isn’t for your ladder(s) and it will simply crumble.

Climbing the ladder

It's important to get a clear picture as to if and how supporters are moving up your ladders. Through supporter profiling, you can regularly run reports based on the boundaries you have set. For example, if you've set a segment for standard campaigners – ie anyone who has taken part in fewer than three actions in the last year – running a profile will pick up the details of these supporters. Some supporters in this segment then take a few more actions, which lift them out of the standard campaigners group and into the super activist segment. When you next run your profile, you'll be able to see who has moved up.

If you don't have any profiling tools available then loading all your data into spreadsheets and manually moving your supporters along when they take an action is another (albeit slower) option.

Stay relevant

Once you know what groups your supporters are in, every time they receive an email from you, or click through to a landing page from the email, the copy and asks they see should be relevant to them. If they see copy relating to what they have done for you in the past, they are more likely to want to carry on helping.

If they take part in an action that moves them onto another rung in the ladder (for example, moving up to a ‘peer to peer fundraiser’ from a ‘campaigner’), then you should thank them accordingly and make sure future messages reflect this change in group – if you don’t, you could be back to square one with them.

If you aren’t using engagement ladders you should try them out to see how they work for your organisation – I’m sure you’ll be really pleased with the results.


Jonathan Purchase, head of UK market development, Engaging Networks