What is your nonprofit supporter's decision journey in age of information overload? | Beth's Blog

What is your nonprofit supporter’s decision journey in age of information overload?

Measurement, Research Studies


Source: HBR = Branding in a Digital Age

Yesterday,  I blogged about the  “Valid Metrics Framework” from the AMEC that provides a suggested guide post for selecting the right metrics to measure social media in the context of an integrated communications campaign.   The framework uses actions and results across a continuum that based on the marketing funnel or AIDA framework.   The stages include:  awareness, understanding, interest/consideration, support/preferences, and action.   In the discussion in the blog comments,  there was a question about whether a linear framework is the best choice and a reference to “The Consumer Decision Journey

The traditional marketing metaphor for many years has been a Funnel.  It assumes that consumers start with a large number of products or brands in mind and methodically limit their choices until they’ve decided which one to purchase.    After purchase, their relationship is focused on using the product.

Scaffolding by depth of relationship is a familiar framework for many nonprofits – whether it is donors or activists using  the “Ladder of Engagement.”   It has been applied to specific social media channels – for example Twitter Ladder or  Facebook Ladder or to describes different levels of engagement across channels.   Colleagues Sean Power and Alistair Croll have a funnel and analytics to measure online community engagement called “Communilytics. ”   These frameworks show the process for becoming an activist or donor as linear one – going from name recognition to advocate.

But we know the media landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade and now we’re faced with so many choices and too much information as Steve Rubel points out in this presentation.  What he is talking about is “transmedia storytelling” a term coined by Henry Jenkins.    There are others that have looked at this:  Gary Hayes Transmedia Storytelling model or Lini Srivastava’s Transmedia Activism model.  Rubel describes the new  the media landscape with four distinct areas:  traditional media,  “Tradigital” media (blogs),  Owned Media (brand website), and Social Media/Networks (Facebooks, Twitter which are increasing being consumed on the go), although consumers do not make a distinction.

Is the marketing funnel the right metaphor in age of information overload and a cluttered media landscape?

Source: Branding in a Digital Age - HBR

I was intrigued to see this visual – showing the different loops.  In the Networked Nonprofit, we have a chapter called “Learning Loops” that attempted to illustrate a less linear process.   New research shows that rather than systematically narrowing their choices, consumers add and subtract brands from a group under consideration during an extended evaluation phase. After purchase, they often enter into an open-ended relationship with the brand, sharing their experience with it online.

This may not change what you measure or using a grid – but it certainly has implications for your strategy and tactics – especially around engagement and content – but how nonprofits build and maintain relationships with donors.

Is your strategy and measurement for integrated communications campaigns based on the right metaphor?

3 Responses

  1. Rob Wu says:

    Great post on how nonprofits should be thinking about their donors/supporters. These models are helpful in getting into the minds of them to understand what they need as well as their anticipated behaviors.

    We wrote a post a few months ago on how we think your engagement ladder ties into the McKinsey’s Consumer Decision Journey Model — here’s the breakdown:

    Active Evaluation – This is the stage for Happy Bystanders. Non-profits should ensure that well-drafted content about their mission, programs, and impact is available to their audience. Mixed media (text, video, photos) on channels such as their website, Guidestar, Charity Navigator, Idealist, and social media channels should support the engagement of Bystanders. They increasingly seek out or “pull” information about non-profits, so this information must be readily available to them; if compelled, these Bystanders move to a greater degree of involvement/relationship through a donation or action, which leads into the “Post-purchase experience” stage.

    Post-purchase Experience – For a non-profit, this stage is best reflected as “post donation” or “post action.” Donors, Spreaders, Evangelists, and Instigators are the segments of supporters within this stage. Each of these segments require a different experience. For example, donors may need a delivery of a donation receipt, news about its impact, and communication of future funding opportunities. Instigators may need recognition of their efforts and ways they can take active roles in the organization. Non-profits should categorize their supporters into these groups and understand what type of communication they need. Cultivation of supporters this way leads towards a deeper relationship (loyalty) and engagement with the non-profit, so that the active evaluation stage can be bypassed.

    Also an interesting concept supported by Joseph Jaffe (Flip the Funnel) and John Jantsch (Duct Tape Marketing) is to use your customers to bring in more customers. Related to the nonprofit space, this is about using donors/supporters to bring in new donors/supporters. This happens today through personal fundraising, supporter storytelling, among other methods.

  2. I’m glad my comment about tying the matrix to the consumer decision journey kicked off a brainstorm.

    I couldn’t stop thinking about how the consumer decision journey could be made more relevant for nonprofits. It’s an informative model for the digital age and relationship building.

    I’ve come up with an adaptation for nonprofits, turning it into a “supporter decision journey” where the initial trigger is the impulse to care: http://bit.ly/iLTvHJ

    I’d love to know how you and others think the supporter decision journey can be applied to nonprofits. I feel like many of us–CauseVox folks included–are thinking along the same evolution of models.

    Now to tie this new supporter decision journey model closer to strategy and measurement!

  3. Beth says:


    I’m late in responding to your very thoughtful comment about this – thank you … had a glitch with my word press comments to email …


    Thanks for sharing your excellent thinking of this and see how you integrate into real life practice. I’ve had a few conversations with some networked nonprofits that are adopting this now. I wonder what it means to change to this mindset for organizations that have been thinking in ladders and funnels?