Client Engagement

Engaged clients achieve more, have better outcomes, and are easier to work with.  However, engagement is an inward condition making it hard to define and measure.

Engagement is different from satisfaction.  Satisfaction is usually measured by determining if someone was treated well, receive value for money, and received the quality of services they expected.  A highly satisfied person can be completely disengaged.  For example, people who drop their car off for service before the garage opens can receive excellent service and be highly satisfied but have limited engagement with the garage or its staff.  They may even prefer to be disengaged.

The best way to measure an inward condition is to look for the outward indicators and ask questions that reveal the inward condition.  Engagement can be different depending on the types of services being offered and how the services are consumed (digitally, remotely, in person, self-service, etc.).  Here are a few indicators and questions to give you a start:

External Indicators:

Enthusiastic about the program

Delighted with the services

Pleased with progress or achievements

Grateful for the help

Tells others about the program

Questions for Clients:

Do you expect to achieve your goals?

Do you feel you will have a better future because of your involvement?

Do you have suggestions that will help us help you acheive more?

Do you have suggestions that will help us improve the program for others?

Do you have suggestions that will improve the partnership between us?

Do you feel the services are meaningful?

Do you feel the services have durable value?

Do you feel appreciated and valued?

You will want to develop an engagement scale.  It is probably enough to divide your scale into four groups (highly engaged, engaged, minimally engaged, and disengaged).  In addition, you will want to map your clients based upon their outcomes.  You will learn several things about improving outcomes when you see how engagement affects outcomes.  The demographics of the individuals may provide additional insights or explain why it is hard to determine the relationship between engagement and outcomes.

Clients who are in the minimally engaged or disengaged groups are clients who can be easily stolen by a competitor.  They are also clients who have very little enthusiasm for your programing, mission, and nonprofit.  They are clients you will find it hard to track after exiting your program.  Raising their engagement will increase the word of mouth in your community and lead to more community support.  The increase in word of mouth will also increase the perception of the value of your mission to your community, which raises the sustainability of your nonprofit.  Raising their engagement will also increase the potential that they will become supporters (donors, volunteers, referral sources, or advocates).

Next Step:

Create an engagement survey for your clients

Ask your staff to note and report the external engagement indicators for each client

Determine how to increase the level of engagement of each of your clients

Explain to your donors what you are doing and ask them to fund the process because of its potential value to your clients

The results of the survey will help you make programing changes that meaningfully and measurably improve your programing, client outcome and the durability of your client outcomes, which will lead to a higher level of sustainability for your mission.  The results from the survey in combination with the year-on-year changes in your outcomes will help you create a compelling case for increased community, donor, and other stakeholder support.

Since increasing engagement usually involves making minor adjustments, there is minimal budget impact but significant value for your mission and clients.

Take It Further:

Measure the engagement of your other stakeholders (especially staff, donors, volunteers, and board members)

Use the changing engagement level and increasing durability of your client outcomes to measure the effectiveness of the programing and your client services staff

Ask your board to use engagement and client outcomes to measure the level of excellence of your programing


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