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Donor Participation Project

Building an Engagement Path: A Team Approach

An engagement path maps how your organization guides donors from initial awareness to deep, long-term engagement. Creating this path requires collaboration across teams to understand the donor experience holistically.

According to engagement strategist Emily Taylor, “Your donor just sees it all together. They see you as your organization.”


To build an engagement path, start by identifying how donors engage at each stage, from observing to following to endorsing to contributing and beyond. Look for gaps between stages and opportunities to lead donors to higher engagement. Your social media, events, and fundraising teams each play a role in moving donors along the path.

“The idea is that once you can get all this in place and see how you’re moving people up that ladder, your team can work together to do that,” said Taylor.


Next, determine what motivates donors at each stage. Their needs are not just functional, like receiving an incentive or discount. Donors also have emotional needs, like feeling a sense of belonging or purpose. They have cultural needs based on their backgrounds and life experiences. By understanding donors’ multifaceted motivations, you can tailor your engagement approaches to their specific needs.


Finally, take a scientific approach to engagement. Develop hypotheses about what will motivate donors to progress to the next stage, then test different options to determine what works. Look at metrics like open rates, event attendance, and gift amounts to see which strategies are most effective.

“The more we can think like scientists—that we can see things not as set in stone and that they require some experimentation—the better,” said Taylor.

With a coordinated effort across teams and by understanding what motivates your donors, you can build an engagement path that transforms observers and followers into ardent supporters. Donors will appreciate your organization all the more for recognizing and meeting their diverse needs. A scientific mindset helps ensure you guide donors in the right direction.

View the full recording of this session in our Resource Library.

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