There’s nothing better than an influential person endorsing your product, service or organization. This is why Tiger Woods, Beyonce and Peyton Manning earn millions for eating or sitting in or smiling at a product.

And the role of the influencer is changing as social media expands its influence. A simple tweet or a post on Instagram can be equally valuable to the brand as a highly produced 30-second commercial. Though the brand might pay more for the modest tweet or post than they do for the production and airing of the commercial.

It’s becoming more about authenticity than the shine of the celebrity when it comes to marketing. If LeBron James wears a shoe, we might buy that shoe because we think that will make us as good a basketball player as he is. But that’s a limited palette for him to “paint” with. Once he’s regarded as an influencer well above and beyond his status as a basketball player, then he can leverage that power in almost unlimited directions. So, he can tweet that he just had a great burger at a Los Angeles restaurant and that business will see a surge in business. That’s social influencer marketing.

Nonprofits and Influencers

Nonprofits can plan and engage influencers and while they might be restricted by a limited marketing budget, they have the inherent value of their mission to “pay” for this work. The U2 front man Bono supports Amnesty International, George Clooney is fighting genocide in Sudan. Teaming up with an influencer who might take up your banner is a brilliant idea but then it’s also difficult to accomplish as there are lots of good causes served by nonprofits out there and a limit to the number of influencers.

Brand Ambassadors

But what is far less difficult to accomplish is empower the people in the orbit of your organization and cause to become “brand ambassadors” for you. And the authenticity that is so prized these days, you’ll already have in the bag. If John is a financial supporter of yours and Jane is a regular volunteer, they glow with the much-desired authenticity and their posts, links, and tweets will be more influential because of it. They’ve given money and time to your cause, that speaks volumes to their social sphere who then are far more likely than the average Joe to join.

Your ambassadors are your employees who are devoting their working life to the cause, your volunteers who are as passionate as your employees—maybe more because they are working for free, the members of your boards, your donors, everyone who regularly attends your events, and anyone who loves your mission but maybe hasn’t been fully utilized yet.

Control the Message?

For some, the idea of a wide group of supporters heading into the world with the intent of speaking, posting, writing on behalf of your cause is a bit frightening. Will they cause more harm than good?

In many nonprofits, the narrative is closely controlled from on top. The president is the voice of the organization and, in close collaboration with the fundraising and marketing chiefs, they lay out a clear and consistent message.

But that good work is the key to leveraging others. If you know who you are and can explain it in simple words and phrases, it will be that much easier for your people to be an accurate reflection of that.

To further that goal, your internal team can put together a catalog of approved photos, videos, and copy that your supporters can use.


Once you decide to encourage and empower those around you to be influencers, you’ll need to double check or polish a few things.

Does your message on the website and other channels easily explain the organization’s mission and impact and is it clear how others can get involved?

Is the donation process seamless?

Is there a calendar of events or a volunteer coordinator that helps them to get involved?

Are your accomplishments and goals in a format that is easy for others to share?

Ask for Help

In the day-to-day life of your organization, look for ways to include those you’ve identified as ideal influencers:

– Ask your people to share the news of their donation to their social group and ask for matching funds.

– Choose a hashtag for your events and ask attendees to take selfies and use the hashtag on their social network channels.

– Hire a videographer for your next event and ask your people if they will give a short testimonial on how meaningful the work has been for them. And then take those clips and share them.

Everyone in your orbit is an influencer to someone else or even many others. They are authentic ambassadors of your work because of the knowledge and passion they have for you as well as the “skin in the game” they have through donations and volunteering. Leveraging them to reach out into worlds yet unknown is a powerful way to expand your message and further your work.

A global team of digerati with offices in Washington, D.C. and Southern California, we provide digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, and creative for brands you know and nonprofits you love.

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