You likely have a bigger vision you want to fund. You want to scale, expand your impact. Well, there’s only two ways to raise more money: invite your current donors to invest more or enroll more donors.
And in order to enroll more donors, it would be helpful to have more people tell your story all over the place and raise money for you. For some reason, many nonprofits are only leveraging the relationships of board members and development staff now. That just makes raising money so much harder than it has to be!
These folks who are willing to tell your story are called ambassadors. You may call them campaigners or fundraisers now but let’s change that. Since raising money is about telling stories, building relationships and connecting people to your cause, it’s essential to check your language. And folks like to be called ambassadors – I’ve conducted many straw polls and here is what they say: “Its empowering.“ “I feel like I’m representing good work.” “Being an ambassador takes the focus off money and makes it about mission.”
So that’s step one – change your language and help adjust the mindset of those who might be hesitant to approach potential ambassadors.
But where the heck do you find more ambassadors? If you’re stumped, you’re probably asking the wrong question. Let’s not ask, “Who would be willing to raise money for us?” Instead ask, “Who might be willing to tell others the story of our impact?”
Here’s the good news – there are plenty of people who know, like and trust you right under your nose. Meet 3 of them who are likely to join forces with you as ambassadors:
1. Your donors. This is not a secret but when was the last time you invited a donor to be an ambassador? What’s the issue? Think of it as gaining referrals in business. These people have proven to you with their money that they believe in what you do. They are probably proud to do so. They may already have mentioned it to their friends. It is a very short leap to inviting people they know to invest also. So what’s holding you back?
Keep in mind that donor stewardship, involving donors with your organization, is an important step in the fundraising cycle. And inviting them to become ambassadors is a great way to do that.
You can start simply by using social media and/or your newsletters to plant the seed. Let folks know you’re expanding your team of ambassadors.
You can send a survey to all your donors and among a few other questions, ask them if they would be willing to tell others about your cause. Then follow up individually.
You can ask those donors you have a relationship with in person, focusing first on the ones who have given the longest over time.
Even if only 5% of your donors said “YES, sign me up and train me!” you could double the number of ambassadors you have now.
2. Employees. Did you just gulp? There’s some weird stigma about having staff raise money. But your ED does, right? And your development staff, if you have some, do too. The rest of your staff team are the ones who are most connected to your mission and therefore make the best story tellers! If there’s a hang up in your nonprofit’s culture, remember that this isn’t about money – focus on telling the story of your mission impact and the people who are benefiting from your work. Perhaps you can start to change your organizational culture.
You can start by enrolling 1 or 2 of your most passionate employees in your vision for a staff campaign.
Create a team structure and train these leaders how to encourage payroll deduction. It’s optional, as are all donations, but I know from experience that if you enlist your staff thoughtfully, employee giving will increase.
You can use some of the same strategies you do with donors to invite them to tell your story to their circle of influence and start to expand your donor base.
3. Volunteers. Once again – no surprise here. They are already devoting time and talent to your organization. And yet, they are largely untapped. However, when you present the opportunity for them to take on an ambassador role, it’s a natural extension of their volunteer work.
You can let your volunteers know, at your next volunteer meeting/appreciation event or whatnot, that you’re expanding your team of ambassadors. Have them break into small groups and have them answer the question – who else do you think might be willing to share our story? This exercise has never failed me – there has always been several people who say – “Why not us?”
You can add the same question to your volunteer surveys; net promoter questions will tell you a lot about who is most likely to recommend your organization to others.
Regardless of where you start, remember to train your ambassadors well on HOW to share the story. You may need to help them think about when/where they can serve as ambassadors – just like you do with your board.
If you still are on the fence on how best to expand your team of ambassadors, I want to respectfully remind you this isn’t about you. This is about the people who are counting on you to change the community. You can’t afford to sit back and just do business as usual.
So commit to taking one step. Just one in the next week and start enrolling more ambassadors so you can fund that bold vision of yours.
Cindi Phallen works with nonprofit leaders to build healthy boards that reach their goals faster. She is the President of Create Possibility, author of “The Impact Triangle,” teacher of fundraising at the University of San Diego and a former ED herself. Known for asking the tough questions, she is on a mission to change the mindset of nonprofit leaders so they move from intention to execution.