When you think of fundraising ambassadors, you might think of celebrities who use their fame to mobilize support for their favorite nonprofits.
Orlando Bloom is an ambassador for UNICEF. Angelina Jolie, Elton John, and Scarlett Johansson use their star power to bring attention to their favorite causes.
But fundraising ambassadors do not have to be celebrities.
It can be someone who simply helps you generate support
You probably have potential fundraising ambassadors who are already engaged in your work.
A good fundraising ambassador is someone who is bursting with enthusiasm and can’t wait to tell everyone they know how great your organization is.
They bring connections and new supporters to your organization.
They start fundraisers on their own or support the ones you already have planned.
They introduce you to people they know who can be helpful to you.
With a little coaching, your fundraising ambassador can even talk about your organization in ways that inspire others to give.
Sounds great, right?
So, if there are potential fundraising ambassadors already around you, how do you find them? And how do you get them busy, working on your behalf?
Here’s how to harness the power of fundraising ambassadors:
1. Assemble a class of fundraising ambassadors. Make a list of your most enthusiastic supporters who you think might be interested in doing more. Think about Board members, employees, volunteers, donors, and social media followers who can serve as ambassadors. Who are the people who wear their love for your organization on their sleeve and who radiate passion for the cause?
Invite these supporters to be part of a special team of fundraisers. Let them know how much you appreciate their support and energy. Tell them you need them to fill an important role, to be part of your new Fundraising Ambassador Team.
This class does not have to be large. Start with five to eight fundraising ambassadors with a goal of understanding them and how they can best engage in ways that will make them feel great while raising money for your organization.
Make the first meeting extra-special. Give everyone a special t-shirt or a magnet or whatever branded swag you have. (If you don’t have any, get something made if you have room in your budget and if you can’t, don’t worry – you’ll be fine without it.) Invite everyone to share how they got involved with the organization, what their role is, and why it means so much to them.
2. Let your class of fundraising ambassadors know exactly what you need them to do. Just asking ambassadors to spread the word and “help us reach our fundraising goal” won’t lead anywhere. They are already doing that. These actions are too vague.
Instead share a message about an upcoming campaign and encourage them to personalize the message. Then ask them to run a peer-to-peer campaign, sharing the message with 10 friends or family members who might be interested in donating $100 and follow up with each person individually.
For example: College, Here We Come!, the organization I am involved with as a Board member, is raising money to move five young people off our waiting list and into our program. I am so determined to make sure these five young people have the opportunity to be part of College, Here We Come! and achieve their goals. I need ten friends to give $100 before the end of this month. Will you join me in supporting these young people? Here’s the link where you can make a donation: [link].
Whether your ambassador communicates with their friends and family via phone, text, email, or social media is up to them. The goal is to get 10 new donors from each ambassador. And if each donor gives $100, that’s $1,000 per ambassador. If you have five ambassadors in your class, that’s $5,000!
3. Help deepen their understanding of the organization’s brand. Your fundraising ambassadors are like an inner circle of trusted advisors. Share with them your organization’s brand strategy and messaging goals. Talk to them about ways to frame the organization’s work, especially if the work you do can be sensitive and complicated.
The more educated your fundraising ambassadors are, the more successful they will be in building up your organization’s brand. For example, my friend operates a food pantry, and she did not like a video a volunteer made about getting ready to volunteer at the food pantry.
My friend thought the video of a volunteer deciding what to wear to the food pantry made light of food insecurity and struck the wrong tone. She asked the volunteer to take the video down, which the volunteer did.
I advised her to follow up with the volunteer and discuss a video that could be both light-hearted and respectful to the people the food pantry serves, a video that would be on brand. My friend wanted to dismiss the incident, but I thought she missed an opportunity.
Videos, done right, can be very effective! And that volunteer had the potential to be a powerful ambassador when pointed in the right direction and well educated about the nonprofit’s work.
4. Build your fundraising ambassadors into every campaign. Of course, you are going to utilize your fundraising ambassadors on Giving Tuesday, but what about your monthly giving campaign? Can you work with your ambassadors on special messaging around monthly giving?
Build your fundraising ambassadors into every campaign, knowing they are unlikely to share every campaign with their network. By including them in everything, you give them options. Maybe they would rather push out your Valentine’s Day campaign to their network instead of getting involved in your Spring Campaign, which collides with their Spring Break trip.
Make working with fundraising ambassadors a key step in developing every campaign. Yes, it can seem like extra work. But remember, these people will bring their enthusiasm and excitement to the table to help you raise money. Don’t you want that?
5. Provide training. This is a way you can add value to the fundraising ambassador experience. Offer training in how to ask people for money and how to be successful in peer-to-peer fundraising.
Consider an in-person or virtual training experience, depending on your fundraising ambassadors’ schedules and preferences. Bring in a true expert, someone who will impart valuable tools or the trade while inspiring your ambassadors to be the fundraisers you know they can be.
If you don’t have the capacity to offer full-scale training, offer to pay for a webinar that you think would provide value. Or, consider leading a training session yourself!
The more your ambassadors know what to say and when to say it, the more successful they will be in supporting your fundraising efforts.
6. Provide opportunities to practice and role play. Gather your class of fundraising ambassadors to practice making Asks. Not only will you build their confidence, you’ll give them the chance to get to know each other if they don’t already.
Share the ultimate Ask script that has been passed from fundraiser to fundraiser, and then give them the opportunity to learn through role play:
I am helping [organization name] because of [your reason for being involved]. I thought you might be interested in this organization as well, because of [reason they might want to get involved]. We’re raising money for [program or project and why it matters].
Will you be willing to consider a gift of [amount] for the [how their gift would be spent] by [upcoming date]?
7. Look for ways to connect an ambassador’s passion to an Ask. Let’s say you have an ambassador who is active in the running community. Brainstorm with the ambassadors ways to connect the work your organization does with their passion.
Maybe the ambassador could get a group of running friends together to do a big race wearing your organization’s t-shirts. Maybe the running group would do a peer-to-peer campaign raising money for our organization tied to the race?
I knew a woman who was a former ballet dancer, and, once you got to know her, you realized dance was a huge part of her life and her identity. If I were working with her as an ambassador, I would look for ways to wrap an Ask in the language of dance so she could talk to her dance friends about donating.
You might think those dance friends would only want to give to dance causes. But, I wouldn’t assume. People are more than just their one big passion. Someone who is passionate about ballet might also love dogs and appreciate the invitation to donate to a rescue organization. Plus, people tend to give when it’s a friend who asks for their help.
Maybe you could create some social graphics with dogs in tutus?
8. Create a campaign just for your fundraising ambassadors. If you have a unique and urgent need, consider letting your ambassadors run with it. For example, let’s say your organization determines that a digital billboard is a key component in reaching your fundraising and marketing goals, and it costs $5,000. You know this billboard will be a game-changer for community engagement and help you reach more people.
Tell your ambassadors how important this digital billboard is, and show them the data about how many people it will reach and why it’s needed. Engage them in your decision to pursue this strategy. Then, enlist them to help you make it happen! Set up a campaign that they can push through their channels, and then let them go out and work their magic.
When they reach the goal, let everyone know that your fundraising ambassadors secured the billboard! When the billboard is installed, invite the fundraising ambassadors to an unveiling and publicly recognize their efforts.
Then, most importantly, make sure that digital billboard gets used to engage the community! Share photos, videos, and status reports!
9. Encourage your fundraising ambassadors to host gatherings. Small, in-person gatherings are a great way to introduce new people to your work. Your ambassador could host a gathering at home or at a brewery, coffee shop, or other location with space for a small group.
The host provides light snacks and shares with guests the reason for their involvement in the organization. Someone from the organization gives a very brief presentation, and then the host makes a light Ask.
This is a fun, easy, and low-pressure way to bring in new donors, leveraging the power of relationships!
10. Involve your fundraising ambassadors in strategy development. Think about each fundraising ambassador’s strengths and find ways for them to get involved at the strategy level. For example, if you have an ambassador who is successful in working Instagram, ask for help maximizing your organization’s Instagram account.
If you have an ambassador who is successful in a corporate role, seek their advice for securing partnerships with corporations or sponsorships for your next event.
Use your fundraising ambassadors as a sounding board for messaging you are considering. Do they think your new message will resonate with your audience? Will they be proud to share this message?
How about the social graphics you are working on? What do they think? Are these graphics clear? Or are they muddled and confusing?
People loved to be sought after for their expertise! And if your ambassadors can help with high-level ideas, they might be more bought in to sharing them.
11. Thank your fundraising ambassadors for going above and beyond. Your fundraising ambassadors might not be celebrities, but you can give them the celebrity treatment! Really roll out the red carpet when you thank them for their important role.
Highlight their role in public ways when it makes sense. Thank them at your fundraising event and or through social media shout-outs. Make a special thank-you video just for them, mentioning their specific wins. Share a photograph of a program in action, and give your ambassador credit for helping to make that moment possible.
If you thank your fundraising ambassadors the exact same way you thank all your volunteers and donors, they may wonder why they bother putting in the extra effort. Let them know that you appreciate their extra effort.
12. Cultivate the next class of fundraising ambassadors. Give your class of fundraising ambassadors a start date and an end date. Invite them to stay on for another year or roll into a new role. Even if they don’t want to continue being part of the fundraising ambassador class, chances are they will remain involved with fundraising.
Then, bring on some new fundraising ambassadors! Comb through your social media channels and see who engages with your posts. Review volunteer lists and see who consistently shows up. Go through your email and look for communications with enthusiastic donors.
Issue a new round of invitations for the second class of fundraising ambassadors. Produce some fresh swag, and invite participants in the first class to make presentations about the strategies that worked for them.
The Bottom Line
Fundraising ambassadors are your next-level supporters. They do more than like your post on or share your Giving Tuesday post. They care a lot and they’re ready to show it!
Activating these waiting-in-the-wings fundraisers is a step toward spreading the fundraising responsibility around so it doesn’t all fall on you!
The important thing is to make being a fundraising ambassador fun. Set short-term, attainable goals that fundraising ambassadors will be happy to work toward. You will build excitement for fundraising while training a whole team of people to work the fundraising strategies with you. Together, you will get to the year-end goal.
Fundraising ambassadors can power your organization to more donors, more money, and more enthusiasm, enabling your organization to expand programs and change more lives. And that’s what it’s all about!