Qualifying Online Ambassadors

Photograph by Geoff Livingston

Last week we talked about the strategy of using online ambassadors to attract new donors with social media. Of course the question for nonprofits is how to vet or select these ambassadors. Where to begin?

The first mistake is to assume that online voices and bloggers with the biggest accounts will yield the most results for you. Of course, this approach may lack relevance to potential donors. Does this person have an authentic tie to the cause? Do they care about the issue?

Similarly, others want to rely on a benchmark like Klout. While a Klout score can measure how much attention a personality gets online, it doesn’t actually help you determine someone’s ability to fundraise for you.

A recent PayPal for Nonprofits white paper I authored that studied the drivers for a successful online “celebrity” fundraiser. It takes a closer look at the influence levers that drive successful social fundraising. While most of your online ambassadors will not be celebrities, the direction is still the same.

The process is very much like vetting people to serve on a board. The three key factors are:

  • What will make the cause ambassador relevant and authentic? Do you they have a personal tie to the cause?
  • Does the person have a relevant network that can deliver impact for the nonprofit?
  • Are they willing to work with you, and activate that network (not just tweet or Facebook once) on behalf of the cause?

The white paper itself has several case studies from Twitchange, Donorshoose.org, Causes, and Network for Good that illustrates these three factors.

Often the most likely candidates are people that are already donating and volunteering to your cause. They are probably engaged with you via social media, too. What’s left is to vet them.

Applied to your fundraiser, the most important aspect is the passion, finding people that will ring true, relevant and authentic about your cause. The relevant network itself may be thousands or just hundreds, but so long as they are closely engaged with the would-be ambassador they hold promise for you. Finally, like that person you are considering for the board, they have to be willing to leverage their address book for the good of the cause.

If you get 10 to 20 online ambassadors who are willing to participate in a coordinated social fundraiser, your fundraiser can easily surpass $10,000, and with a more than 50% new donors. In some cases the new donor ratio may be as high as 90%.

Not bad for an online fundraising campaign that focuses on empowering your most loyal advocates. Certainly a lot easier than posting repeatedly on your Facebook and Twitter pages hoping for new rain.

How do you approach grassroots fundraising?