How to Measure Engagement

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Engagement. How many times have you or someone you work with in fundraising or marketing said that you want to increase the engagement of a particular group of people? “Increased engagement” is one of the most common objectives you hear coming out of strategic planning sessions, whether it’s for a formal strategic plan or a simple outreach campaign.

Unfortunately, engagement is one of those funny metrics that is a lot easier to talk about than measure. On the surface everyone knows what’s meant by the term, but few people ever seem to know how to measure it.

The result is that, when it comes time to report on progress against the objective, the analysis is often based on subjective anecdotal and/or random feedback that does nothing to tell you whether you’ve actually improved engagement. Sometimes the “analysis” can even be damaging, depending on whose feedback is reported.

To determine if you’re improving engagement requires that you define, quantify, and measure engagement for your organization.

Define Engagement

Engagement can be defined differently depending on your organization, your role within the organization, and which group of people you’re trying to improve engagement for.

For you, engagement might mean clicks or comments on social networks or your website, it could mean the number of people who take advantage of your services, or it could mean other activities such as attendance at an event or volunteering.

Ultimately, being able to measure engagement requires that you be specific about the types of activities you’re referring to.

Quantify Engagement

To quantify something means to express it numerically, and the key to quantifying engagement lies in the definition of the word “engaged”—to participate or become involved in something.

Martin Kihn, Research Director with Gartner Research puts it simply: “What we love is what we give time to.” He goes on to say:

“To the extent we have control over our time (which we don’t, always), what we choose to do indicates what we value.”

Once you’ve defined what types of activities count as engagement for your organization, quantify each activity by recording the amount of time it takes to complete.

For example, if for your organization, types of engagement are defined as commenting on your blog, attending an event, or giving up a Saturday to volunteer with your organization, record the total time a person would have to invest in order to complete or participate in each activity.

You can compare different types of engagement with one another, by comparing the time it takes to complete each activity. Or you can determine someone’s total engagement by adding up the time required for multiple activities.

Measure Engagement

In order to measure an increase in something, you first need to know the beginning value. That value may be zero or any other number, but you have to know that number.

Oftentimes we find that information isn’t available or reliable for past activities, so it may be necessary to dedicate an initial time period of recording the activity to establish the beginning, or baseline, value.

With your baseline value determined, measuring increases or decreases becomes a matter of recording future engagement activities and comparing the total to the baseline or last recorded value.


Image Credit: Scott Akerman