WRITTEN BY XANIKA COVINGTON
What is a “digital ambassador”? The term seems quite ominous, and if you aren’t familiar with the concept already, you might feel like you’re missing out. That, or you may be thinking, “I’m involved in fundraising, what do digital ambassadors have to do with running a nonprofit organization?”
The truth is a “digital ambassador” is just a fancy term for a person or group of people who are willing to serve as spokespersons for your organization. This may be a program you already have — formally or informally — or it might be a new concept to your nonprofit entirely. Whether you’re a novice or an expert when it comes to digital ambassadors, this article will have something in it for you.
SIX DEGREES OF KEVIN BACON
We’re all decently familiar with this game (if you aren’t, check it out). Leaving celebrities aside, the basic premise is that everyone is connected through roughly six people.
Now imagine your nonprofit is a person. Studies show that new donors feel most comfortable giving to a nonprofit organization that is connected through six degrees of separation, or less. Put another way, people feel more comfortable giving to organizations that their friends and family also know and give to.
In fact, a recent study found that — compared to traditional fundraising methods where it can take months or even years to convert a first-time donor — personal recommendations have an 82% success rate of converting a first-time donor. This number is astounding when you consider how much time and energy nonprofits put into finding and cultivating potential new donors. You may acquire someone’s email and send them emails for years to no avail, and yet a personal recommendation from a friend or family member is overwhelmingly likely to immediately secure a donation for your organization!
HOW TO IDENTIFY POTENTIAL AMBASSADORS
The insight around the high yield of personal recommendations leads us to the term “ambassador.” Noticing how effective these recommendations are, organizations have begun to systematize and formalize these “ambassador” roles within their donor database. The best way to start identifying potential ambassadors for your organization is to brainstorm who your most avid donors and supporters are. Who has showed up to many events, given many times, and/or liked and followed you on Facebook? Try to make an initial list of 10-20 individuals who fall into this category.You are looking for individuals with a high affinity for your nonprofit to help boost your fundraising endeavors. And chances are you already have some inadvertent ambassadors!
Another great way to identify ambassadors is to think strategically about people in your network or community who are well-situated to positively promote your nonprofit organization to a large audience. Put bluntly: who has a large following or network of their own to promote your organization to? This could be someone with a few hundred, or thousand (or more), social media followers; someone who is publicly known to be philanthropic; or even a local celebrity. Once you’ve compiled a list of potential ambassadors for your organization, you can then put together a plan of action to get them on board.
NOW, WHAT MAKES AN AMBASSADOR “DIGITAL”?
Okay, so you’ve identified some promising ambassadors for your organization. What next? Now it’s time to reach out, set them up with a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign, and provide them clear step-by-step instructions as to how they can best promote your organization. Of course the easiest — and perhaps most effective — way for them to spread the word is through digital media outlets. Studies show it is best to provide your ambassador with several options for endorsing your nonprofit and let them choose which avenue(s) appeal most to them.
Here are some digital promotion ideas for your ambassadors:
- Have ambassadors like and follow your organization’s account on social media and encourage their followers to do the same.
- Encourage ambassadors to share a post on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram once per week stating why they believe in the mission of the organization. Sharing personal stories are highly encouraged!
- Have them send an email to their friends and family talking about your organization and providing impact metrics on how each donor contribution matters.
- Promote a fundraising challenge, where ambassadors “challenge” their friends to give up a designer cup of coffee or lunch out and, instead, donate the money saved to your nonprofit.
- Provide templates and/or content for your ambassadors to share. Even though some of your ambassadors may be more versed in sharing on social platforms, creating templates or providing content (like pictures and videos) from your organization can make it easier for your ambassadors to share, therefore more likely they’ll advocate more often.
- Share your nonprofit’s success stories to show their friends and family, with pride, why they like the organization and your work so much.
Would you like to know more about setting up a peer-to-peer campaign for your next event or campaign?
DIGITAL AMBASSADORS DRIVE REAL RESULTS
About a year ago, a MobileCause client of mine decided to launch a fundraising initiative for their nonprofit’s birthday. It was something they had never done before, and they weren’t sure it would generate any support. Since they weren’t fundraising for a specific initiative or program, they felt a bit uncomfortable going right out and saying “Please give us a donation on our birthday!” Instead, they tried something totally new: they asked a few key supporters to promote the campaign for them — i.e. digital ambassadors. They put together a group of about 15 people, set up a peer-to-peer fundraising page for each one, and provided them suggested content to post and send out over the course of a few days, letting their friends and followers know how the nonprofit had been adding value to the community, and encouraging them to give a gift in honor of the organization’s birthday.
The result? The organization was able to raise over $6,000 from 44 individuals, purely through word of mouth (digitally, of course)! The organization was astounded.
“Do you know how long it would have taken us to get donations from 44 strangers if we started cultivating them through traditional methods?!” they exclaimed.
And it’s true. For the average nonprofit, it takes about 12 touch-points before a supporter is converted into a donor — 12! Yet in this case, a simple recommendation from a trusted friend was enough to get 44 people to give to an organization they only knew about peripherally.
Moral of the story: personal recommendations go a long way, and you may have some very valuable fundraising resources hiding right underneath your nose. By utilizing digital ambassadors, your organization’s message is being spread to an even wider audience and dramatically increases the likelihood of new donors!
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