5 Ways to Engage Online Ambassadors

Olympic Purim Party
Olympic Purim Party in Israel hosted by the British Embassy

Activating online ambassadors–or influencers as they are known in social media parlance–can be a scary thing. Most people think of cranky bloggers who complain about getting over-pitched. And if you’re sending blatant asks to bloggers, that fear is a reasonable one. But, any organization that is skilled at cultivating board members and volunteers can be good at activating online ambassadors.

Successful social media-based fundraising in many ways is about democratizing development best practices. If you want to develop online relationships with people who care about your cause, use tried and true development tactics. Here are five development tactics applied to cultivating online ambassadors.

1) Host a Schwanky Event

High dollar donors love special events. It offers a meet and greet atmosphere with other high rollers, and provides sophisticated entertainment as well as access to nonprofit executives and celebrities. This type of event makes donors feel special.

Online ambassadors like to feel special too. Throwing an event just for them or providing special access does just that. Keep in mind for all intents and purposes, these folks are today’s citizen media AND they are activating their personal networks for you, much like a board member would. The event doesn’t have to be hosted at the Ritz, just make it exclusive and fun.

In addition, events provide digital ambassadors something to talk about. They get to meet friends with whom they normally only see online in Facebook or abroad in other networks and blogs. Done well, this usually provides a series of online posts, photos and network updates, creating secondary public relations value.

2) Highlight Their Works

High dollar donors like to be recognized for their contributions. If someone is important to you online–as a passionate advocate or as an online influencer–then they are likely important to others. Give them shout outs and highlight their wares. This is authentic because you already think they are important. This is a demonstration of that value.

Shout outs make people feel special online, that they are valued and important. If someone is a content creator, links are like gold, the currency of the social web. These actions are even more important given the nature of fundraising and social marketing. Doing good isn’t a high paying activity, particularly for volunteers. More on this in tip #5.

3) Make Advocacy Fun

Image by smsavestheworld

Often a nonprofit will give awards to its most engaged citizens at an annual event. You can take this concept further online.

Online, gamification is all the rage today, and that’s because it takes the mundane or dry, and adds fun to it. Making advocacy awards fun by adding a contest for a prize, public recognition, or leaderboard to create a sense of competition between ambassadors can be a great idea. Use the contest as a means to highlight great actions, and encourage other ambassadors to act.

A word of caution: While you want to encourage people to win, you don’t want to create losers. Celebrate any action as a positive step. If at all possible create a middle tier award.

4) Create an Advisory Board

You already have a board for your high-powered donors. This makes high dollar donors feel valued and special. Similarly, create a social media advisory board and add your willing online ambassadors.

If you do this, make sure you create a means for them to communicate with each other regularly like a Twitter List or Facebook Group. Convene once a quarter and actually use the board–i.e. listen to them. Make sure there are incentives, in particular some of the items you found in recommendation #2, as well as some of the items you would offer a traditional board member, such as clothing and other give-aways.

5) Put Them on the Wall

In a capital campaign, high dollar donors receive name recognition. For example, you may put a plaque up on the wall.

You can do the same with an online campaign. Put digital ambassadors on the campaign web page or the general nonprofit’s web site, highlighting their names by the amount or type of sport they provided. Make it somewhat exclusive for people that really take some sort of significant action on your behalf.