The 4R's of Engagement Professionals

Think for a moment about a recipe that you’ve been making for years. It’s a good recipe, perhaps handed down through generations, like a taste of home. In fact, nothing has changed about the recipe since probably long before the first time it ever hit your taste buds.

And it’s good?  But just good.  It’s worked all this time, but you know it could use something to push it over the top and take it from just good to amazing.  

Then one day, you take that recipe and decide to play with it. Before you know it, voila!  You’ve created a masterpiece!! You found that perfect secret ingredient to really make that recipe sing.  

It’s still got the foundation of goodness from what it was before. But this. This makes it amazing!  This makes it special. This takes it to another level.

The Three R’s... for now.

If you're a nonprofit Engagement Professional - a fundraiser, a volunteer manager, an educator, a communicator, or executive leadership - your world is governed by a sweet little treat known as the 3R's: Recruitment, Recognition, and Retention.  

Handed down from professional to professional, it’s a recipe that we all use to drive our nonprofits forward in our goals to grow and deepen the time, talent and treasures necessary for each of our missions.

You know this threesome well because, like for all of us, they were ingrained in you from the beginning of your profession. A delightfully simple model, it’s how we get people (Recruit), we acknowledge and celebrate those people (Recognize), and then leverage opportunities to keep them around for the duration of the event or over long periods of time (Retain).

In some ways, this model is an independant cycle - one that can be used time and time again as needed such as in event-based or in spontaneous situations.

Leveraged in other ways, it can be a kind of concentric cycle, with each of the elements having a distinct influence on the others, helping to grow all of the 3Rs simultaneously - as with traditional donors, board membership models, volunteer programs or with annual educational or communications efforts.

But on and on it goes. A model older than any of us, honestly. So we think it's time for an upgrade, don't you? And we think it’s time to make this group a foursome. It's time to add a new ingredient: Refinement.

Why Refinement?

*clears throat* The Webster's Dictionary defines Refinement in three ways:

  1. The process of removing impurities or unwanted elements from something.
  2. The improvement or clarification of something by the making of small changes.
  3. Cultured elegance in behavior or manner.

Every day, Engagement Professionals are Recruiting donors or volunteers or board members or the public and then working very hard to Retain and Recognize these individuals. We are making this recipe like clockwork, practically able to make it with our eyes closed.  As we all know, this process is effectively and essentially endless under our control, creating a cycle of effort to build communities and networks of engaged individuals.

But is it always under our control? As a cycle, it can sometimes feel like a loose wheel rolling downhill, taking place, but hard to catch or evaluate. And where are you making room to grow? To change your efforts or designs? To confirm this model of best-practice is really the best it can be for you and your nonprofit's needs?

Adding Refinement solves this problem.  

With the addition of Refinement, you’re taking a classic recipe and giving it a modern, delicious twist. Adding a missing ingredient to a system of practice that has aided us well, but never really expected more from us. The 3R's don't inherently push any of us to think critically about evaluation, improvement or repair as a fully integrated part of the process.

That is, until something dramatically fails.

And only then, when something breaks or fails or isn’t producing, do we pause and reevaluate our efforts. Only then do we take a critical look. And that has to change. Once and for all.

We need to build in systems of evaluation, we need to look more closely at each of the outcomes and impacts related to the first 3Rs in order to even know if they’re connected thoughtfully and/or are supporting one another effectively. That’s done with Refinement.

Adding Refinement isn't just revolutionary, it's evolutionary. It's all of us as Engagement Professionals advancing and taking a new level of responsibility within our systems of management.

Where does Refinement fit?

Since Recruitment, Recognition, and Retention is a cycle-based model, we're suggesting that Refinement creates an internal cycle that offers a dedicated review of your practices and processes to improve, change, and evolve your models of engagement impact.

So technically Refinement goes everywhere. To support this theory, in the weeks ahead we will be taking deeper dives around Refinement’s efforts within several Engagement Professional roles: Volunteer Management/Human Capital, Fundraising, Communications and Executive/Board development.

 <<< In fact we've created a little image to represent this concept here. >>>

It's time to think differently.

As you’ll learn in the weeks ahead, adding Refinement forces you as an Engagement Professional to take on some of the onus of the successes of your program, but with a constant eye to improve and identify struggles too, pushing all of us to seek improvement and become more effective in our core industry goals.

Our theory of a 4R model will help you problem-solve any number of issues with your intended audiences including the deadly attrition, apathy, discontent and decline. These issues plague us all and now we’ll have a model that progressively addresses them as part of the overall experience.

The 4R's; Recruit. Recognize. Retain. Refine.

Refinement has been the missing ingredient. The “cultured elegance” our programs deserve. And it's the future of Engagement professionalism.

NEXT BLOG: Join us to learn how the 4Rs impacts Fundraisers and the Development profession. 

- Ben & Kathy