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Measuring Engagement

November 1, 2009

Several years ago I met with an executive at a large Christian ministry in Colorado Springs and he explained to me that his challenge was finding ways to keep donors engaged with the ministry. He had tried t-shirt giveaways, regular newsletters, music CDs, and a host of other ideas. Even though the conversation was years ago, I’ve often thought about his passion for engagement and pondered how a database can help grow engagement.

It seems that if engagement is critical to the success of any ministry, and I believe it is, that engagement should be measured, and it should be a standard ministry KPI. So, how does one develop a metric for engagement? A donor who is engaged with the mission of the ministry would have more points of connection with the ministry , give more regularly, participate in activities, submit prayer requests, refer friends, etc. An engagement metric would therefore count all these various connection points, weigh them according to their perceived engagement value and present the current engagement value for any donor, any class of donor, or the entire ministry.

Developing an engagement metric is an intense requirement for a ministry database. It means being able to know every point of engagement – every prayer request, every gift, every volunteer hour, indeed every connection to the ministry.

In the business world, a current trend is finding ways to go beyond loyalty program (e.g. frequent flier programs) and to design products and provide such great customer service that customers feel passionate about the company. Apple has developed that type of devotion in their following.

This idea applies to ministries but at a higher level. For businesses it’s a question of value – for ministries it’s a question of values. Donors already feel passionate about God’s redemptive work. Your most engaged donors are those who perceive that your ministry is aligned with how they perceive God’s redemptive work in the world. For example, donors who believe strongly in James 1:27 – true religion is caring for the orphans and widows – are more likely to give to ministries that serve orphans and widows. 

This means that donor engagement is more than just doing the right things, having the right programs, and giving away the coolest t-shirts (not that there’s anything wrong with that). Ultimately, donor engagement is about engaging your ministry with God’s redemptive work.

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