Jan/Feb 2009

Why is Constituent Empowerment Important and How Do I Do It?

by James Young, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Convio

To truly value constituent empowerment, you first need to completely understand the concept. The definition I use is this — constituent empowerment is allowing your constituents to work with and for you. There are tons of ways to empower constituents, but they all revolve around the same idea that a person not employed by your organization is taking action on your organization’s behalf, such as influencing a legislator, requesting a donation, or educating a person who's unfamiliar with your mission.

Enabling this kind of action is important because it allows you to reach farther and smarter than you could with your resources alone.  And, this combination will lead to empowered constituents who are more satisfied and will grow with your organization. Constituent empowerment:

  • Reaches farther, because each constituent knows people that you don’t
  • Is smarter, because each constituent knows the best language that appeals to each of their friends
  • Makes constituents more satisfied, because the interactions initiated by empowered constituents are between trusted friends (peer-to-peer vs. organization-to-peer) and are therefore more likely to result in action — a successful action leads to satisfaction

Trust => Action => Satisfaction

  • Leads to growth, because that person is more engaged and more loyal to your organization, and will be motivated to take on other opportunities on your organization’s behalf

Engagement => Loyalty => Growth

Now that the concept is defined and you see its importance, here are five key steps that will foster constituent empowerment and make it more successful within your organization:

  1. Opportunity – You have to offer a way for constituents to work with and for you, and the offers must be numerous and varied. Treat constituents as individuals — if they are going to work on your behalf they want to have some say in what kind of work they do. Provide different kinds of opportunities, ranging from personal fundraising pages to event participation, content sharing to profile badges; each opportunity should be across a variety of time frames and campaigns.
  2. Encouragement – Empowering constituents is no “field of dreams” effort. Simply making an offer doesn’t mean they will come. Organizations need to build momentum by providing encouragement and examples. Have your staff use the opportunities personally. Try specifically reaching out to your most active constituents, or offer incentives to your entire constituency. Communicate to everyone how great the opportunity is, what it means, and how easy it is to take action.
  3. Education – Getting constituents engaged in personal efforts is only half the battle; the other half is making sure they are successful. Choose tools that incorporate guidance and best practices or provide how-to guides in written and video formats. Check in periodically with your empowered constituents and ask them if they need anything. If you hear the same answer a lot, provide a public, easy solution.
  4. Promotion – You should make sure your organization's audience is aware of these individual efforts. Incorporate success stories from your empowered constituents into your homepage content and your newsletter. Use social media tools to broadcast the efforts of those constituents who consent.
  5. Recognition – Everyone likes to be recognized for their efforts. Be sure to let each empowered constituent know how much you value them and how their efforts are helping the organization's mission. Highlight the successful efforts in every place you can. Provide a rewards schedule and follow through with it.

With the state of the economy, using constituent empowerment tools like Convio TeamRaiser™, Tributes, Advocacy, Personal Events, and Widgets should be an imperative in 2009. All of us are more likely to part with our dollars and time if the request is coming from a trusted friend. By empowering constituents, your organization will benefit two-fold: you’ll be better able to reach new supporters and build deeper relationships with your existing constituency.

Click here to read about Children International, the 2008 Convio Innovator Award winner for Constituent Empowerment.

Why is Constituent Empowerment Important and How Do I Do It? | Convio