Growing Future Advocates of Your Association or Nonprofit

By Association Adviser staff • April 13, 2021

When looking for potential advocates or “brand ambassadors,” start by looking at your current association members or donors. These individuals have already bought into your organization, your mission, and most likely your values.

When asked about the biggest challenges facing nonprofits in the US and Canada, the second most common related to cultivating, retaining, and communicating with donors, according to a 2019 survey by the Nonprofit Research Collaborative. Many nonprofit organizations or associations invest so much of their capacity in finding and keeping members and donors.

You have already done the hard work of cultivating your members and donors. Why not further engage these people as advocates for your community and your cause? After all, they already expressed a commitment to your organization when they made their contribution.

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Harnessing Social Media

These days nearly everyone has a platform they use to influence and reach their audience. Whether that audience is college friends, their extended family, or their local community anyone who is active on social media has an audience.

Whenever your donors or members positively mention your organization on social media you win. Major social media channels like Facebook prioritize content people engage with. As Facebook publicly stated in 2018, most Facebook users want to connect with friends, extended family, and other people who interest them. This is one reason the algorithm prioritizes personal status updates and engaging content that individuals share.

Try these tips to inspire your stakeholders to generate online word-of-mouth:

  • Ask them! Members of the general public are not always aware of how social media platforms work so it may not occur to them to give you a “boost” by sharing your content.
  • Create engaging and shareable content. Take time to create simple but appealing branded graphics or videos to reinforce your message.
  • Learn about the type of content that inspires engagement in your field. Find engaging ways to tell part of your organization’s story in bite-sized portions.
  • Make it easy for your advocates, consider sharing sample post copy or media in your member newsletter or website.
  • Encourage engagement through discussion prompts, crowdsourcing ideas, quick polls or anything that may lead to meaningful conversations.

Leveraging Your Existing Email List

Your member or donor email list has the potential to be your most powerful outreach tool. Social media platforms wax and wane in popularity and algorithm changes can destroy organic reach in the blink of an eye. As much as possible, encourage followers to subscribe since a strong mailing list is still as valuable in 2021 as it was in 1990.

The options for leveraging your email list are endless, here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Add an element of interaction to your newsletter whenever possible.
  • Ask your members for help when you need it ranging from tiny asks like sharing a post on social media or bigger “asks” like serving on a committee or making a large donation.
  • Pay attention to your email newsletter metrics including which segments of your subscriber base open your emails and open them repeatedly. Adjust your approach accordingly, also this may point you in the right direction for one-on-one outreach.
  • Your newsletter offers a great medium for telling stories about what your organization is accomplishing, your team, your members, and more!

Think Omni-Channel

By now, you may have noticed that tactics that work well for social media channels and your newsletter overlap. Think about all of your outreach efforts as a unified channel. As much as possible, pay attention to keeping your branding consistent and staying authentic. While your Twitter content may be different than your YouTube or website content all channels should work together as a whole.

Practice Telling Your Organization’s Story

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools available to non-profit and association teams. Your donors and your members believe in you and they want to continue. They want to feel connected with your mission and accomplishments.

As much as you ethically can, tell stories about the challenges, rewards, opportunities, and success in your organization and the beneficiaries. Collect photographs, anecdotes, video interviews whenever appropriate. If your organization is involved with highly sensitive issues, consider ways to authentically tell these stories without exposing the identity or wellbeing of those involved.

Also, practice mini-elevator speeches for each program or initiative. Include a short anecdote or story whenever possible. Humans connect with stories on an emotional level. Consider recording yourself with the voice memo on your phone as you practice 10-20 second elevator speeches and anecdotes.

Strategic Outreach

Reach out to others doing similar work in similar or adjacent fields. For example, a musicians association may find non-competing partnership opportunities working after reaching out to a visual artists association. Think coop-etition not just competition.

Most nonprofit and association leaders are highly skilled at outreach and networking. As you build on your prior success, consider ways to fold that into your omni-channel outreach strategy. Also, share your organization’s stories with those who may one day be advocates, partners, and supporters.