On a recent conference call for AmeriCorps Alums, I was introduced to a new idea that’s been helpful for me to think about building our local chapter. W., who was running the call, mentioned the concept of a “Pyramid of Involvement”. You can probably infer what it means from the name, but the basic idea is that in every organization, there is going to be a small, committed group of people that form the core of the organization. This core is the group that comes to most events, helps with planning, probably is willing to donate money, and feels a strong connection to the organization.
There are a few different models for this pyramid – some focus on organizational structure while others focus on level of engagement. Wiser Earth, and Groundwire’s concepts (here) are two of my favorites. Groundwire offers the model that I find most useful, as it breaks each level down to talk about goals and metrics with examples of what a participant in your organization might be willing to do, depending on how engaged they are.
So, how can you use the engagement pyramid to build your organization? First of all, accept that there will only be a small group at the top – make sure you’re finding ways to reward them and acknowledge their contributions. This group should also rotate – whether it is a formal board or a leadership group, the same person should not always be in charge. Give others a chance to be leaders. The lower levels of engagement provide a range of ways to activate someone’s interest in your organization. Some people will never go beyond simple things like “liking” your facebook page. Others want to have a dialogue, and the value of “touch points” or human interaction is invaluable for keeping them involved.
Now, the pyramid looks great – it’s a neat and tidy way to think about interactions, but is it really useful? Guess I’ll have to try it out and let you know for sure, but my first thoughts are that it is a great way to start conceptualizing and brainstorming (or revamping) your outreach strategies in conjunction with development strategies and volunteer recruitment/retention. If you can get someone to volunteer and then be a donor, you know they are moving up the ladder. But, do you then push them to be a board member? How do you know what their upper level of involvement is? I’m guessing there are times where you’d also see slippage on the ladder – a burned out board president who only reads your e-newsletter….are there ways to change that? The other point I see is that the ladder may help you focus your energy by putting energy into those groups that will give you the best response. Because sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you just can’t get everyone in your organization to walk like an Egyptian (or think like one). At least we still have the Bangles.
[Ay oh whey oh, ay oh whey oh]
Pyramid of Involvement