How to build an engagement pyramid

Picture of Lego Clone Troopers forming a human pyramid

Have you found yourself devouring Beth Kanter and Katie Paine’s new book, Measuring the Networked Nonprofit? We are too and just finished the chapter on building a Ladder of Engagement. In this post we’re going to share with you a tools we created for nonprofits to use in designing their own ladders, or in this case pyramids, of engagement.

In the  Ladder of Engagement chapter Beth and Katie profile three organizations, two real and one fictional. Through them they demonstrate how a nonprofit can build their communications and measure them to see if they are moving people to take increasingly more meaningful actions on behalf of their mission. We were thrilled to see local stars Grist profiled, and learn how they’ve consciously built a trajectory for audiences from ‘on-ramps’ with light weight content all the way to ‘policy level discussions’.  (For more on Grist & how they designed & measure their engagement check out this post from Beth Kanter.)

Simple but meaningful, here’s how Grist envisions people moving up their ladder of engagment.
Image: Grist &


Are you salivating at the thought of having such a clear picture of engagement for your nonprofit? Beth and Katie lay out 6 important steps to building a ladder of engagement in their book. In addition we’d offer this Engagement Pyramid Worksheet, which we adapted from Groundwire’s  Engagement Pyramid. After you’ve read the chapter, or better yet the whole book, consider using this worksheet to create your own plan for engaging people in your mission.

Download this worksheet and start building your nonprofits own Engagement Pyramid

Start at the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up, listing what actions you expect your audience to take at each stage of the pyramid. Page two of the worksheet gives you examples of the types actions to list. A couple key things to consider as you work on this:

  • Notice at the top of the worksheet how it says audience profile? That’s because your organization likely has different types of audiences you’re trying to engage. For example, the actions you want monthly donors to take is likely different from policy makers. Consider creating unique engagement pyramids for each of your organization’s primary audiences.
  • The pyramid gets smaller as the actions get deeper. Your organization will literally be engaging fewer people the farther you move up. This isn’t failure, it’s how it works. As Beth and Katie say, “…you can’t define success as getting everyone to the top.”

Once you’ve completed this pyramid remember to add your measuring metrics to it. Without measurement this pyramid is static and you won’t know if people are in fact becoming increasingly engaged with your mission. In Measuring the Networked Nonprofit Beth and Katie suggest three reflection questions for when you’re measuring your pyramid’s effectiveness:

What are we doing/writing/posting that has convinced all those lurkers and low-level engagement folks to go to the next steps?

What is convincing them to care more about the organization or cause?

Which posts or tweets or videos contributed to this increase in engagement?

From Measuring the Networked Nonprofit

Beth Kanter and Katie Paine


What other tools have you used to build an engagement ladder or pyramid? Share them in the comments please.


Image thanks to Flickr:pasukaru76 , Grist &

Disclosure: The links to Measuring the Networked Nonprofit are Amazon affiliate links.
We do get a kickback if you buy this awesome book via the link.

  • Beth Kanter

    Terrific post! While we were working on this chapter, I came across another way to express the ladder of engagement – “decision-making journey” – less of a funnel but more of a spiral. I think when our word count got totally bloated, we had to cut. But thought this was interesting food for thought for thinking about ladders of engagement –

  • Pingback: Nonprofit Social Media Marketing: Winging It No Longer Works()

  • shannontracey

    I’m unable to download the worksheet – error message via both the image link and the in-line text link. I’d really like to check it out so please fix!