Creating a Straightforward Engagement Ladder in NationBuilder

After a year away to focus on other projects, for the past two weeks, I have been back at work as an online (primarily email) fundraiser. And while you might think that the bulk of this work is copywriting, the truth is that I’ve spent the majority of my time in these early days creating landing pages and building internal systems for segmenting lists on the fly. 

One of the most critical systems I have put in place is a set of Saved Filters designed to help me understand who is — and who isn’t — engaging with our email program. I’m sharing my principles here in the hopes they may be useful to you.

The Basics

To gauge whether a supporter is engaging with our email program, I measure three key metrics in our NationBuilder database:

  • how recently the supporter has opened one of our emails;
  • how recently the supporter has clicked on one of our emails; and
  • how recently the supporter has earned “political/social capital” in NationBuilder.

Opening an email or earning capital is a clear indication that you’re still “active,” while clicking on an email is a demonstration that you are actively engaging with our content. 

In each case, I am creating a Saved Filter in NationBuilder to measure each metric over time. For example, has the supporter opened an email in the past six months? In the past one month? Etc. Then, I configure that filter to automatically tag the supporter with a corresponding tag that I can use as a shorthand when searching in the future.

I then group these metrics into three main categories/measures:

Category Description
Aware The person has earned capital or opened an email in the past six months.
Active The person has earned capital or opened an email in the past month.
Engaged The person has clicked on an email in the past month.

Finally, to be included in my email program’s ladder of engagement, the supporter will need to be “emailable.” 

Note: I won’t get into the precise details of how I’ve structured each of my saved filters, as I want this post to be conceptual and not paint-by-numbers documentation. There are several effective ways to achieve the desired outcome in NationBuilder, and you should experiment to find which works best for you.

My Engagement Ladder

Here’s how my engagement ladder breaks down, based on the above metrics/axis. 

Step Description
Step 1: Unaware

While they may be listed as “supporters” in my database, they have neither opened an email nor earned capital in the past six months.

Goal: Earn their attention, possibly through ad-based re-engagement strategies.

Step 2: Aware & Inactive

These supporters have opened an email in the past six months, but they have neither opened an email nor earned capital in the past month.

Goal: Get them to start opening emails again. Consider focusing on engagement over fundraising.

Step 3: Aware & Active

These supporters have opened an email or earned capital in the past month.

Goal: Get them to click through on an email. Send surveys, petitions, and other “soft-asks” based on current events.

Step 4: Active & Engaged

These supporters have opened an email or earned capital in the past month, and have clicked on an email in the past month. These are your most engaged supporters.

Goal: Continued engagement and small-dollar fundraising.

Step 5: Active, Engaged, and a Donor

These are your super-supporters. Be sure to thank them for their support.

Goal: Ensure they feel recognized and appreciated for their commitment.

The Bottom Line

The goal is to vary the content of our messages to our supporters based upon their level and recency of engagement.

By recognizing and meeting supporters where they are, we can (hopefully) keep them active and engaged without bombarding them with irrelevant content. 

More relevant content should, over time, create a positive feedback loop of better open and click rates leading to better inbox placement and ultimately more fundraising success.