How Influencers Can be Cultivated into Advocates of Your Nonprofit Brand

Influencer relationships are still often an area of untapped opportunity for nonprofits, and even for many commercial side brands. And it’s not because influencer marketing hasn’t been explored; in fact, in a lot of instances, the influencer space has become somewhat over-commoditized and so crowded with noise that it becomes challenging to differentiate the truly authentic partnerships from those that focus mainly on the short term payoff.

But, here’s the thing: we know, with unwavering confidence, that there are people out in the social sphere that are incredibly passionate, and are actively messaging around a multitude of causes. It’s a matter of finding them, for one, but it’s also about nurturing the relationships into something that’s truly valuable and beneficial to all parties. While it takes time, real heart-felt dedication, and patience, cultivating an influencer into someone who wants to be an advocate of your nonprofit brand can have payoffs far beyond any one piece of content, signup or donation.

What Relationship Cultivation Looks Like

Over the last several months, we’ve dug into what real relationship cultivation looks like when it comes to a successful influencer partnership. Here’s some of what we found:

The grassroots approach works. While there’s myriad technology solutions and platforms today that allow brands to target the right influencer groups, sometimes the best mechanism for finding an authentic match is some good old manual research, outreach and communication. As you scan the social sphere, you’ll naturally want to look for influencers that align with your mission and values; but you will also want to consider engaging someone that has a unique perspective and a strong voice in their community. Once you find that individual, taking the time to personally communicate and engage with him or her on social channels, and later email and via phone calls can establish the trust and comfort level needed for someone to feel good about your brand, and visa versa.

Empower and guide your influencer with the right content strategy. A content strategy for your influencer should align well with your mission or goal for a particular campaign, but it shouldn’t be too formulaic or overly complicated. Rather, focus on striking a thoughtful balance between guiding your influencer with messaging and ideas for promoting your nonprofit’s or brand’s content, while giving him of her the freedom to use an authentic voice. This allows you to achieve the intended brand awareness, while not alienating your influencer from his or her own communities; and it also sets the stage for longer term content or a more strategic partnership beyond a single campaign.

Over the span of our work with influencers in the nonprofit space, and across many of our commercial verticals, we’ve learned some incredibly insightful lessons about real partnerships, and real authenticity (not just the buzzword!). Here’s some of the most important ones:

  1. Bake in the time and flexibility to nurture the relationship the way that it deserves – it will be worth it.
  2. Influencer KPI’s shouldn’t always focus on immediate donations, or even immediate brand awareness – think big picture, long term strategy for the most value.
  3. Not all influencers look, think or act the same – cherish the relationship, be a helpful guide, and highlight what makes each influencer personality unique.
  4. Let your influencers have a voice, and don’t over complicate the formula – while it’s tempting to want to over-control the message, let the authenticity of the partnership shine
  5. Focus on trust – successful relationship building depends on it.

See our blog here, in Nonprofit Pro

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