Are we making the most of the people we meet and connect with in our work day? Can we make these contacts and connections work harder for our non-profit?

Everyday we meet and chat with a range of Board and committee members, staff, volunteers, donors, clients, customers and suppliers. But are we making the most of these encounters and are they extending our mission?

Make your connections work for you

Yes OK so you are busy and have a large network of contacts but what are you doing to nurture and encourage them as active ambassadors for your non-profit?You might not have given a thought to how these connections can promote and recruit to your non-profit, and importantly how your everyday connections can build the foundation for non-profit ambassadors. Or you might have thought about it but not consciously developed a program to build ‘ambassadors’.

Who might make a good non profit ambassador?

So lets identify who among our everyday contacts might make good ambassadors and explore why we might cultivate their ‘sign on’ as the first step to building this community of ambassadors.

Non profit ambassadorsDefining what we mean by non-profit ambassadors

Lets start  first by defining what we mean by ‘ambassador’ or ‘influencers’ and draw on the marketing world for a point of reference.

In marketing a

Brand Ambassador is a person who is hired by an organization or company to represent a brand in a positive light and by doing so help to increase brand awareness and sales.

This definition sounds slightly manipulative to me but then we are dealing with advertising and sales. I appreciate that this approach does not fit with a non profit’s values or mission but it might give us some useful insights in developing an ambassador program.

What non profits are looking for is recruits to the mission who have engaged with you, are willing to promote and contribute to your work and will do so without financial compensation. That we don’t intend to compensate our Ambassadors doesn’t detract from the value of the role, it does perhaps make the recruitment of ambassadors more challenging.

Despite this challenge the notion of ‘Ambassadors’ or ‘Champions’ has value for the non-profit sector.

Choosing our non-profit Ambassador team

Non profit ambassadorsSo we are looking for willing recruits who will undertake the role

  • for intrinsic rewards and
  • because the mission of your non-profit aligns with their values.

Where are some good places to begin the search for likely candidates?

SearchingThere are a number of potential sources for an ambassador program. I’ve drawn the options from the centre of your non-profit out (your direct contacts out to the broader community you serve or interact with).

Non profit staff & volunteers as Ambassadors

First look to staff and volunteers as potential brand ambassadors. This seems logical they’ve chosen to work for you because more often than not your mission fits with theirs. They also likely have a detailed knowledge of your work and its’ reach to be able to ‘spread the word’ knowledgeable.

A word of caution however this might not always reap rewards and should be done with careful thought and consideration. You don’t want to further burden staff, nor do you want disgruntled or poorly informed staff or volunteers taking up the mantle of a brand ambassador. Best to gauge morale and energy levels before you consider adding another ‘ask’ to their day.

Beth Kanter has identified how you can mobilise your staff and volunteers with a well thought out ‘champions’ program and provides some real life examples showcasing how this can be done even with a very small development team.

While Jay Sharman shows how one non-profit builds ambassadors among its volunteers through a ‘host’ model of engagement of volunteers and some clear tangible strategies to guide participation and engagement.

I also particularly like the e-book Transforming Employees into Advocates for the guidance it provides. (PDF download link). In addition there is much in the marketing world on how to recruit staff as ‘brand ambassadors’ which can be mined to guide selection and development of ambassadors.

Board Members as Ambassadors

OK they turn up every month to meetings and events and actively take on their governance duties and would you like them to also act as Ambassadors? They are a good source of Ambassadors and if recruited might also champion a broader ‘ambassadors’ program within your non-profit.

I’ve already written about the benefits of Board Ambassadors and how to engage them in my article ‘6 ways board ambassadors put your non-profit on the map’ so I won’t rehash these points here, suffice to say that they can play a key role in your overall strategy.

It is also worth looking at Stand for Your Mission, a resource put together by the National Council of Nonprofits in the US.

Community &/or members as non profit ambassadors

By now most of us have heard about the potential of ‘word of mouth’ (WOM) endorsements or criticisms and the value (or otherwise) it can deliver to companies, products or services. In recognition of this a whole field of marketing has emerged to harness WOM. The question is does it have a place in the work of non profits marketing?

We see lots of commercial businesses tapping into ‘brand ambassadors’ with some engaging high-profile celebrities to promote their products. In these examples the ‘brand ambassadors’ are generally compensated for their efforts. This is not the model that I am suggesting, instead I am proposing a deeper level of engagement, participation and education of your non-profit community and/or members so that they can effectively promote your work to their networks.

Like your employees they have ‘self selected’ to support your mission so why wouldn’t they similarly tell others of your work and encourage them to contribute in some way. what might stop them is

  1. knowledge of the range of your work or focus of campaigns (good news stories etc),
  2. access to resources to share and inform their networks,
  3. ideas on how to talk and share stories, and
  4. recognition and support for ‘spreading the word’.

Again Beth Kanter has shared the great example of Charity Water and others and the work they do to engage their donors to their cause. Similarly a number of non-profits are using social media to engage and recruit to their mission and ‘spreading the word’.

 weighing up pros and consWeighing up the ‘for and against’ of non-profit Ambassadors

So why would you go down this path, or conversely why wouldn’t you or what should you look out for.

Finally it is worth reflecting that

“Every one has a level of influence that can be harnessed for greater good”
― Bernard Kelvin Clive

Further reading

How to empower staff to be the voice of your organisation 

Champions with a cause