How to start a nonprofit brand ambassador program: 4 tips

Your nonprofit works hard to get the word out about your cause, whether you’re posting to social media, planning exciting community events, or creating new content on your website. However, did you know that there’s another helpful resource you can use — that’s already at your disposal — to amplify your organization’s voice? 

Your well-connected supporters! These individuals can become ambassadors for your nonprofit, helping to spread the word about your events, programs, initiatives, and much more, so you can grow your donor pool and maximize engagement. 

This guide covers how to start a nonprofit brand ambassador program to greatly expand your organization’s reach.

Just like you have to recruit volunteers, you also need to recruit enthusiastic ambassadors. In this guide, we’ll cover four best practices to start a brand ambassador program made up of passionate individuals to help your nonprofit reach more and raise more. 

Set up the framework for your ambassador program

Before you can start tapping ambassadors to support your marketing plans, you need to set up the basic framework for your program. Start by determining the goals for your ambassador program, such as:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Facilitating greater loyalty and engagement from supporters
  • Securing registrations for upcoming events
  • Encouraging increased donations

Then, think through the specific roles and responsibilities your ambassadors will perform and how they will push your goals forward. For example, you can ask ambassadors to:

  • Promote your awareness campaign: A well-planned awareness campaign can help put your organization’s mission on the map, but you’ll need all the help you can get to grow your support base. What better way to boost your visibility and increase brand awareness than asking ambassadors to use their wide networks to bring attention to your cause? Ambassadors can help to repost social media content about your campaign, share website content with their networks, and even peer-to-peer fundraise (which we’ll discuss later). 
  • Host competitions before events to boost excitement: Are you planning to host a fundraising event like a walkathon or auction and need some help creating buzz? Ambassadors can help host competitions like social media contests as part of your pre-event marketing strategy to create hype. 
  • Increase event attendance: If you struggle with event attendance or just set a new, ambitious attendance goal and need some help meeting it, ambassadors are just the people for the job. Because of their wide reach, they can easily spotlight your event and bring hundreds more people to offer their support. 
  • Host social media campaigns: Ambassadors can lead standalone social media campaigns or campaigns tied to specific fundraisers or events to increase your following and boost brand visibility.

Once you have a good idea of what role you want your ambassadors to play, lay out role expectations and the time commitment. This will be important once you start recruiting ambassadors so they can determine if they have the skills and time to provide support.

Recruit the right ambassadors

After you’ve established your program’s framework, it’s time to recruit ambassadors who will work well with your nonprofit. The best ambassadors will be passionate about your mission and align with your values. Think of them as affiliates in business marketing — your ambassadors should reflect positively on your nonprofit.

Your most passionate ambassadors will be your existing supporters. Look for well-connected individuals among your:

  • Board members
  • Major and mid-level donors
  • Volunteers
  • Staff members

Reach out to individuals with many connections and ask that they serve as your ambassadors. Explain the expectations of your program and highlight the benefits of joining, such as the opportunity to play a more fulfilling role in your mission and receive free tickets to your next silent auction event

Train your ambassadors on best practices

To ensure your partnership goes smoothly, train brand ambassadors so they’re well-equipped to handle their new responsibilities. Teach them the best practices for their role to help them maximize their impact and complete their tasks effectively.

For example, let’s say that your ambassadors are tasked with handling peer-to-peer fundraising before a 5K event. Show them how to:

  • Set fundraising goals. Based on the size of their networks, ambassadors should set a peer-to-peer fundraising goal. Help them use the SMART framework to create their goal, ensuring that it’s specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. This will help them track their progress to ensure they’re on track to meet their goal.
  • Create personal fundraising pages. A key part of online fundraising is creating personal fundraising pages, but your ambassadors might not be familiar with the process. Teach them how to do so and also advise them on how to personalize the pages to maximize engagement, such as by including a personal anecdote about why they’ve partnered with your nonprofit.
  • Share these pages widely with their networks. Encourage your nonprofit’s brand ambassadors to share their personal fundraising pages through multiple communication channels. If their audience mostly lives on social media, adding a post on those platforms is a great first step. They can supplement their marketing efforts by sending emails to their networks as well, encouraging them to donate.

Prepare training materials ahead of time to ensure that your ambassadors have all the resources they need to succeed. You can also provide them with marketing materials so that it’s easier for them to promote your nonprofit’s mission and activities. For example, create social media assets they can repost on their account with brand guidelines on what to write in the caption and what hashtags to include.

These training fundamentals should be adapted for all circumstances, not just fundraising. Setting goals, empowering ambassadors with the tools they need, providing encouragement, and checking on their progress are all essential responsibilities. By doing so, ambassadors will feel supported and empowered to continue performing their duties on your nonprofit’s behalf.

Gamify your ambassador program

People love games — that’s why competitive fundraising events such as golf tournaments or marathons are so popular. Incorporate gamification elements in your ambassador program to keep energy levels high and inspire your ambassadors to keep working hard to support your mission. Use gamification strategies like:

  • Fundraising thermometers. These thermometers will help your brand ambassadors visualize their individual and collective fundraising progress, motivating them to work harder to support your nonprofit.
  • Leaderboards. Particularly competitive brand ambassadors will relish the chance to be featured on your nonprofit’s fundraising leaderboard and be recognized for their greater impact on your mission.
  • Prizes. Offer prizes to ambassadors who meet their goals to incentivize them to do so. These prizes don’t need to break the bank — they can be as simple as merchandise branded to your nonprofit, such as T-shirts, water bottles, and more. Gift cards are another versatile option.

With the right gamification strategies, ambassadors will feel rewarded for completing their to-do lists and meeting their goals. This is extremely beneficial for your nonprofit, as they’ll be more dedicated to spreading the word about your mission, promoting upcoming events, and more. It’s also a great way to foster a stronger passion and sense of loyalty within your ambassadors, and they’ll appreciate the chance to show their dedication to your organization.

Wrapping Up

Ambassadors are an underrated resource that can help your organization amplify its cause. Use these strategies to build an inspiring ambassador program you can count on for years to come. And don’t forget to express appreciation to your ambassadors for all the hard work they do by sending them thank-you notes, hosting ambassador appreciation events, or giving them a shout-out on your marketing channels!

If you plan for long-term collaboration, you can onboard your ambassadors to a central task management system and keep track of any kind of online or offline activity. Community-oriented apps like Zelos Team Management will let you do this at scale, and easily engage a large number of micro-ambassadors.