The nonprofit marketing space isn’t as straightforward as it once was. It’s easier than ever for nonprofits to connect with their supporters, but that also means there’s a lot of competition for donors’ attention.
One effective way to make your organization stand out is to create an ambassador program. Ambassadors can take the reins during fundraising or marketing campaigns, promoting your organization to their personal networks. This form of peer-to-peer marketing is highly compelling because people are more likely to support a cause that’s recommended by someone they know and trust.
To ensure your ambassador program gets up and running quickly and yields a high return on investment, we’ll explore these top tips:
- Identify the right recruits.
- Brand your ambassador program.
- Create clear roles and expectations for ambassadors.
- Empower ambassadors with training and resources.
- Promote recognition and a sense of community.
- Evaluate and adapt your program as needed.
Supporters often want more than just to help promote your nonprofit’s cause — they want to feel like members of your community. An ambassador program gives them an outlet to express their passion for your mission and share their enthusiasm with others.
1. Identify the right recruits.
Effective nonprofit influencers can be found almost anywhere. The best recruits for your ambassador program will all share one trait in common: a deep sense of commitment to your cause.
Search for individuals who have a strong existing relationship with your organization and are particularly vocal about their love for your cause. Potential ambassadors could be:
- Peer-to-peer fundraisers
- Beneficiaries of your programs
- Social media followers
Use software solutions like your donor management system and volunteer management platform to identify long-time, highly engaged supporters. Filter your database by length of involvement or number of interactions to find your top supporters.
Then, personally reach out to these individuals with an invitation to join your ambassador program. Reference their past involvement to explain why you’re reaching out. For example, you might say: “Eliza, we are so excited to invite you to join our new ambassador program. Your passionate volunteer involvement and past peer-to-peer fundraising experience make you a perfect fit for our new program.”
2. Brand your ambassador program.
You’ll have an easier time bringing recruits on board when your ambassador program looks official and professional. Create an eye-catching brand for your program by thinking through the program’s:
Incorporate these brand elements into your promotional materials, such as your social media posts and personal emails to potential participants.
For example, here’s a flyer for a fictional environmental nonprofit ambassador program with a cohesive brand:
This flyer features the organization’s brand name, logo, and a QR code that potential participants can scan for more information.
You can also boost the sense of community by creating branded merchandise for your program, such as hats, T-shirts, or name tags. Offering new ambassadors matching items will help them feel like members of an exclusive team.
3. Create clear roles and expectations for ambassadors.
Ultimately, your ambassador program shouldn’t just provide new engagement opportunities for supporters — it should also tangibly support your marketing and fundraising efforts.
Take the following steps to ensure your ambassador program bolsters your existing strategies:
- Set goals for your ambassadors internally. Determine the metrics you will track to assess your ambassador program’s effectiveness. For instance, you may track key performance indicators like peer-to-peer fundraising participation rates, donations that can be attributed to ambassadors’ influence, or social media engagement rates.
- Define clear roles and responsibilities. For example, will ambassadors promote your peer-to-peer fundraisers? Will they share social media content? Will they speak on your behalf at events? All of the above may be possible. Delineate clear roles so that potential participants understand what will be expected of them.
- Establish guidelines for program membership. Create clear regulations that ambassadors should follow when acting on behalf of your cause. For example, you might establish rules regarding the type of content ambassadors can share on behalf of your organization, such as pre-approved images or messages.
When potential ambassadors understand what your program entails, you can narrow down your recruit list to just individuals who feel comfortable with the role expectations. And with clear metrics to guide your program, you can determine whether it’s a worthwhile use of your time and resources.
4. Empower ambassadors with training and resources.
Invite your new ambassadors to a training session to help them get up and running in their new roles. Depending on how spread out your ambassadors are, you might host a video or in-person meeting. Reiterate the role expectations and let ambassadors get to know one another with some icebreaker activities.
Also, craft a training manual for ambassadors to follow while promoting your organization. Your manual should include your brand guidelines and ambassador program regulations. You should also include marketing materials that ambassadors can use in their promotional efforts, such as:
- Personalized donation page links. Give each ambassador a personalized donation page link with a custom URL. You can even let them personalize the page with information about their connection to your cause and photos of themselves participating in your events or volunteer opportunities.
- Custom graphics. Create branded graphics that ambassadors can use in their promotional materials, such as fundraising thermometers or infographics. You can use a tool such as the Bloomerang fundraising thermometer generator to quickly create a graphic with your nonprofit’s brand colors.
- Messaging guidelines. Provide ambassadors with a variety of messages they can use in social media posts or emails. Make sure they’re clear about your nonprofit’s tone and brand voice. For example, you might advise them to strike a friendly, approachable tone in their social media posts.
Let ambassadors know that they can come to you at any time with questions or concerns. You may even set up a mentorship or buddy program within your ambassador group to ensure each participant has at least one peer they can turn to for support.
5. Promote recognition and a sense of community.
Fostering a strong community among your ambassadors can encourage program retention. Plus, when ambassadors have fun supporting your mission and feel engaged in your cause, their promotional efforts will be much more genuine.
Pull from your donor recognition playbook to develop an appreciation approach for your ambassador program. Show your gratitude by:
- Offering ambassadors-only communication avenues, such as a Facebook group or group chat
- Publicly recognizing ambassadors on social media and within blog posts
- Sending thank-you gifts and personalized gratitude messages
- Sharing wins with ambassadors, such as donation increases, to highlight their impact
Celebrate your ambassadors’ accomplishments through meet-ups and events such as a happy hour or picnic. You can even host an award ceremony to honor your most successful ambassadors and thank them for their hard work.
6. Evaluate and adapt your program as needed.
As your ambassador program gets underway, you might find that certain strategies aren’t working out as expected. Remain flexible and adjust your program when necessary to continue offering a high-quality experience to participants and ensure that your program effectively supports your nonprofit.
Continuously evaluate your program by taking the following steps:
- Survey ambassadors to ask for their feedback on your program. Ask questions about their level of satisfaction with the program, any suggestions they have for improving the program, and areas where they may need more support. Highlight any trends in their responses and incorporate their feedback as applicable.
- Track metrics to assess progress made toward your goals. Keep an eye on the key performance indicators you identified during the planning process. Note any drastic increases or decreases in your metrics, investigate potential causes, and adjust your approach accordingly.
Supporting your ambassadors every step of the way is one of the most effective ways to ensure a high ROI for your program. Take ambassadors’ feedback seriously to ensure you’re continuing to meet their needs and providing a positive experience.
Once your ambassador program gets up and running, it can be a powerful addition to your marketing strategy. Your ambassadors can help you connect with new potential donors and spread awareness of your mission more effectively. With these tips, you’ll make sure they have everything they need to perform their roles at a high level.