Why measure Supporter Engagement?

watercolour style abstract of supporters arm in arm

Why measure Supporter Engagement?

Last month we launched our Engagement Scorecard and described the four dimensions that drive the overall score. So why do we think this is so important?

Tracking engagement will help you understand areas of strength and weakness across your supporter base and rank donors on their levels of engagement across multiple factors. Knowing who your most engaged supporters are will help you steward them better to retain and deepen their support, whilst identifying pockets of your base that are not engaging can help you instigate remedial action to improve their engagement by testing other ways to talk to them.

Furthermore, breaking this down in to the four component dimensions will show you what it is that is driving, or not driving, their engagement and which areas you need to focus on.


Tenure measures the length of their engagement, ie the time between their first and last interactions. Ideally you want to retain your supporters and keep them giving for as long as possible as you no doubt spent a lot of time and money to recruit them and retention is one of the key drivers of Lifetime Value. Understanding how tenure varies for key channels and products will show you where you have holes in your leaky bucket and review your programme to either change investment away from this areas, or build strategies to lengthen their tenure.


Diversity looks at the range of interactions of supporters and highlights where individuals might be engaging in multiple different ways. This includes giving to different products or via different channels, or volunteering as well as giving. Supporters who engage across different touch points tend to build more affinity towards the organisation and so go on to give more and give for longer. Identifying those who only engage in one way can help you plan and target your cross-sell campaigns to better effect.


Frequency includes the number of interactions a person has – whether financial or non-financial. Understanding whether somebody is engaging with you on a regular basis versus those that give occasionally will help you understand how and when to talk to people. And monitoring second gift rates is vital in ensuring you are doing all you can to get supporters over the hurdle of giving again after their initial engagement and starting them on a deeper and more valuable relationship with the charity.


Value is a measure of the strength of those interactions, most typically a financial amount but could also be a measure of time or voice. This is the most commonly tracked measure of engagement, and often the ultimate aim, but many organisations still fail to evaluate this from an individual perspective. Metrics such as lifetime value are vital to ensure you understand your most valuable products and channels and so optimise your investment for maximum effectiveness.

Tracking changes in the average scores will help you evaluate the effect of your communications and stewardship programmes. For example, do you see an improvement in tenure by implementing a welcome programme? Or is your diversity score improving by offering more cross sell opportunities? Ultimately each action you take should be trying to improve engagement to a target audience which will improve their score, and therefore your overall average score. By improving one of the four dimensions you increase engagement which will lead to better lifetime value and also the potential for future legacies.

Charities can use the engagement score and the four dimensions to segment their supporters into groups of common behaviours. These segments can then be used to design strategies to plan supporter journeys and talk to them in appropriate ways.

Get in touch to chat over how we can help or advise you on measuring your Supporter Engagement performance.

We don’t use Orbit

Orbit screenshot perspective view

“We don’t use Orbit”

It’s a phrase we sometimes hear from Apteco end users who have tried to create new dashboards within Orbit, one which immediately pricks ears up at Sequoia, and one which we’d love to help users overcome. In this blog we will outline some of the usual blockers that we come across and give pointers on how to overcome them so that you can get the most out of this powerful and ever-developing tool.

If these sound familiar and you are struggling to achieve your Orbit dashboard aims, we’re happy to devote some free time to help get you going, get in touch with us here.

The “we don’t use Orbit” phrase usually stems from one of three places:

1  “I tried it out but couldn’t do what I wanted”.
2  “We have alternative dashboarding software, so we don’t need to use Orbit to create dashboards”.
3  “It’s just dashboards, right?”


“I tried it out but couldn’t do what I wanted”

Starting with the first comment, if Orbit is (like the rest of the Apteco software) easy and flexible to use why do we also have people saying that they tried to use it and they couldn’t get what they wanted out of it? This generally relates to two versions of the same scenario – data preparation.

At the simplest level this boils down to thinking about what you want to present on a dashboard, and ensuring your data looks fit for purpose. A dashboard should be simple and clear to read without lots of fuss and ambiguity. Chances are that much of the source data which people want to utilise on a new dashboard is detailed, split across multiple fields, and contains some irrelevant values for the intended purpose. Remember, this may well still be the case where a lovely, categorised data model has been created, as a degree of detail must be maintained to allow for flexible usage, potentially across many other applications.

Orbit system screenshot - dashboard

Orbit dashboard – click to expand

However, this is still definitely the most common point at which consideration of what data to use goes out of the window. It’s unlikely that any dashboard which is just built from the raw data loaded to FastStats is going to fully provide the intended outcome, and it’s certainly where most dashboard abandonments seem to occur. Apteco software has decades of use across thousands of users where new or revised data has been created within the FastStats database to fit any number of use cases. The data engineering capabilities within Apteco, coupled with the ease and speed of creating derivations and aggregations, provides the ideal place to consider how dashboard data should first be prepared to ensure that a clear and concise presentation of the key data and metrics is achieved.

Also remember that if the same dashboard layout is required for different subsets of the database (such as different rehoming centres, event participation, or shops) then a single dashboard with appropriate filters can achieve this. Importantly, this not only gives users one place to go to view the information…it also means there is only one place to update if any changes or additions are required.

There is, however, a second level of data preparation that is harder to cater for, and that’s where fundamental changes to, or within, a data model may be required. This could be to create an entirely new table of values or results, or could involve amending and rebuilding joins between tables, or even changing the centricity of the data model. Where this level of data derivation is needed, then it’s likely that either an extension to the current FastStats data model is needed, or a secondary sidecar style FastStats database may be required. This is typically, therefore, where a deeper view is needed to establish the most suitable approach. The key takeaway here though is to maintain an open mind and to utilise the best tool to deliver on the requirement, rather than trying to shoehorn a solution into place.


“We have alternative dashboarding software, so we don’t need to use Orbit to create dashboards”

So, what about that second comment?

It may well be that an organisation who uses Apteco does also have PowerBI, Tableau or other BI tools. If anything, it’s becoming increasingly common as migration away from legacy fundraising CRM systems to the likes of Microsoft Dynamics takes place. In such a scenario, organisations are becoming more focused on what they may be able to utilise within that same ecosystem.

One thing that we advocate is ensuring that whatever tools an organisation uses, they read their data from the same well-structured source. In many cases this isn’t just what is in the fundraising database but may be a combination of data contributing to a single supporter view, with recognition of like for like individuals, and well categorised behavioural data associated with each of these entities. Having this common data source for a set of downstream applications ensures that each of them gets the same information from the same place, and that queries return equivalent results across each application. This leaves users with the ability to maximise the core capabilities of any application consuming this data, rather than trying to work out why they get different results from different products.

Using PowerBI (or similar) to create formalised, standard dashboard suites within such an environment is clearly a good use of this application. However, whilst it provides dashboard users with the ability to interact with the data, segment and slice it based on published dimension filters and so on, it’s generally harder for a user to perform a train of thought flow through their data, or to base their exploration on something that doesn’t exist in the underlying data model. Given the effort and care in building such a data model, it’s also likely to be something well controlled and managed, with formal processes and procedures governing any changes or additions.

So, what happens if a user wants to try something new, to explore the data in a different way, to utilise a series of tailored measures and dimensions, or create and share dashboards based on these activities? That’s where the use of Apteco Orbit provides the flexibility to explore, evaluate, and create with speed and ease.

Orbit system screenshot - Measures

Orbit: Measure selection – click to expand

As the nature of the Apteco environment is the ability to query and devise new aggregations and derivations of the underlying raw data, users of Orbit can be the first stage of exploration and creation of new and useful data metrics. As the interrogation of data and creation of new information can be undertaken at pace, Orbit is a quick way of visualising and sharing quick insights about specific supporter groups, campaigns or activities that help drive tactical decisions around your communications programmes. Where any findings emerge that are more widely useful, these can still be planned into the core data model to feed the variety of applications which may also benefit. Such additions to the core data model may perhaps then feed into a library of formally managed, strategic dashboards delivered via tools like PowerBI alongside, and it is this compliment of tactical and strategic use which sees multiple tools working cohesively to the best effect.

And all this still goes alongside the fact that Orbit can be used to deliver dashboards in its own right, with all viewer interaction completely free of charge and managed within the existing over-arching Apteco environment.


“It’s just dashboards, right?”

And that last phrase… “it’s just dashboards, right?”

There’s a common misconception that Apteco Orbit is just a tool to create dashboards because that’s largely where it started. An important factor missing from this view is that Orbit is, in fact, designed to be the main web-based user interface for the Apteco software…that means not only interactions in FastStats and PeopleStage but also the management of the FastStats database design, combining multiple legacy applications into one user interface.

The delivery of the functional breadth of the software within a web browser relates to a clear expectation of modern users wanting to be able to manage and use their data (securely) from any location and on any device. Orbit can already deliver much of the campaign and analytical capabilities of the full Windows version of Apteco, and fortnightly development sprints and releases are quickly expanding these features.

Orbit system screenshot - audience

Orbit Audience – click to expand


Orbit system screenshot - cube

Orbit Cube – click to expand

So no, it’s not just dashboards, it’s a fast-growing set of capabilities with all interaction unified within a single web browser. And those fortnightly sprints mean there’s always something new to check out.



In summary, get your data right and carefully prioritise and define your use cases, and you will be well on the way to getting the most out of Orbit. We’ve seen many penny-dropping moments where some context and guidance has opened the potential for big savings against otherwise manual production efforts.

As mentioned at the start, if you think there is more you can achieve by getting to know Orbit better, get in touch and we can offer a free session to get you on the right tracks.

Author: Matthew Tamea, October 2023    © Sequoia-Insights.com

Sequoia Engagement Scorecard

Sequoia Engagement Scorecard screenshot

Why is Engagement important?

In recent times, supporter engagement has taken centre stage in fundraising discussions, emerging as the ‘hot topic’ and it is one that we at Sequoia have seen (and been involved in) many projects commissioned to define and create a single score aimed at understanding and measuring how deep a given supporter’s engagement is with a charity.

Like many things aimed at scoring, ranking or grouping supporters, think segmentations or RFV scores, there is no definitive right or wrong in these projects. It will depend on the context and environment the charity is operating in and their overall aims and objectives. That being said, we have dedicated a lot of time amongst ourselves here discussing all the elements that have been common across these endeavours and built a framework that covers a wide variety of needs. Allowing for a common score which can be created and compared across products, departments, and indeed charities and as such we are pleased to the announce the release of our Engagement Scorecard as part of the Canopy Reporting Suite.

We can all agree that supporter engagement scoring extends beyond the traditional performance indicator of income generation. It also needs to take into account various touchpoints, and other key metrics each with their own significance. Deciding the relevance and ranking of each has been a big part in the process. Measuring supporter engagement is a complex beast, but one that we believe the Engagement Scorecard can help to standardise.

Engagement, along with retention, serves as the driving force behind fundraising efforts, advocacy campaigns, and community building. Engaged supporters are more likely to donate, volunteer, and champion your cause or product so tracking it, and being able to act on changes to the score will give you a deeper understanding of your supporters and give focus to your stewardship programmes.


Key considerations

Before we talk about what the score looks like, let’s first bring to the fore some of the lessons we have learnt along the way.

  • Everyone has their own view of what should be included and what touchpoint or behaviour should be given the most importance – but these can be driven by individual priorities and a shared agreement is vital
  • Looking purely at value through measures such as average gift or lifetime value is not enough – other dimensions of engagement need to be developed that give a broader picture of the ways supporters interact with your organisation
  • Sometimes touchpoints will not have data recorded against them and innovative or new ways will be needed to evaluate these – ideally leading to better data capture in the future

None of these should be seen as blockers though and what is important is to make a start. Whilst your first attempts at creating a score may not be perfect, they will begin your journey towards a more holistic measure of your supporters and will drive learnings and changes along the way. Definitions can be refined as you learn, and data points can be added as you capture more.


The Sequoia Engagement Score

Sequoia have overcome these challenges by creating a standard framework for measuring engagement which we hope can become a common language within and across charities and departments. Importantly this includes measures which can be applied across all kinds of activity so that a full view on an individual’s engagement with your charity can be assessed.

We have boiled it down to a four dimensional aggregated score:

TENURE measures the length of their engagement, ie the time between their first and last interactions

DIVERSITY looks at the range of interactions and highlights where individuals might be engaging in multiple different ways

FREQUENCY includes the number of interactions a person has – whether financial or non-financial

VALUE is a measure of the strength of those interactions, most typically a financial amount but could also be a measure of time or voice

Screenshot of Sequoia's Engagement Scorecard in action

Click image to enlarge

Each supporter is awarded a score across each dimension depending on our own proprietary rules about their level of activity in each area. These scores are then summed up to create the overall engagement score from 1 to 100. This score can then be used to rank, segment or profile your different types of supporters.

The individual component scores can also be used to understand what is driving the engagement of your most engaged or “immersed” supporters. Or, they can be used where engagement is low, or in decline, to understand areas of focus needed to increase this.

Tracking the overall trend of the engagement score can be a good marker to check the health of the file overall. By assigning a score now, and looking at this on a regular basis with the ability to identify which area is affecting the rise or fall could be a key step in making early changes to stem decline or invest in development.

You can also compare and see how your scores compare to other organisations across the sector.


Get started

Supporter engagement is a vital aspect of any organisation’s success, but it’s a complex concept to measure accurately. By talking to Sequoia we can accelerate the process and get you on the right path quickly – helping you gain valuable insights into your supporters’ behaviour and their organisational connection. The Sequoia Engagement Scorecard brings all this to life if one place allowing you to quickly understand your overall engagement, how it is changing, and what it looks like for specific groups of supporters. Remember that engagement is not static; it evolves over time, so continuous measurement and adjustment are essential to maintain a strong relationship with your supporters and achieve your goals.

Furthermore the dashboard links directly into our suite of more detailed reports covering areas such as second gifts, crossover, retention and lifetime value.

Get in touch to chat over how we can help or advise you in this key area.

Author: Jon Kelly, October 2023    © Sequoia-Insights.com