Building a 4-stage Online Ambassador Program — Stage 2: Engagement

Before reading this post, be sure to check out Stage 1 in this four-part series on identifying potential ambassadors by clicking here.

All caught up? Great! Now let’s talk about engaging and on-boarding your potential online ambassadors.

At this point, you’ve developed a list of your online supporters who have a good degree of influence over online communities, be it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn) or email. Next up is the crucial step of inviting them into the program and having them accept their responsibilities as online ambassadors for your institution or organization.

Today’s topic – engaging potential online ambassadors

Pick up the phone!

Sometimes new-school tactics require old-school approaches. This is certainly true of engaging your soon-to-be online ambassadors. While email and web login are mandatory aspects of most ambassador programs, some of the best performing peer-to-peer programs are built around person-to-person invitations. Often this one-on-one engagement takes place over the phone.

One great example of going one-on-one over the phone to invite ambassadors comes from Wabash College in Indiana. Before Wabash’s first giving day in 2014, Wabash Associate Dean for College Advancment, Joe Klen picked up the phone more than 180 times to recruit 175 online ambassadors who were instrumental in the day’s success. Not only did more than 2,200 donors give nearly $500,000 to the tiny school, but the ambassadors were so active that “Wabash” was trending on Twitter along other slightly more well known names like “Netflix” and “Charles Barkley.” Not bad for a school with fewer than 20,000 emailable alumni. (To read more about and watch a video on Wabash’s ambassador effort, click here.)

Tweet them!

To engage ambassadors on social media, first warm up the relationship by conversing with the potential ambassadors on their social network(s) of choice.
To engage ambassadors on social media, first warm up the relationship by conversing with the potential ambassadors on their social network(s) of choice.

If someone is active and supporting your organization on a social network, then it makes sense that you would use that network to engage them. This is especially useful if you don’t have an email or phone number for this supporter.

But be careful – you don’t want to use social media to spam or uncomfortably surprise someone. Before asking your active social media supporter to be an ambassador, warm up the conversation by retweeting them, commenting on their blog posts, or sharing their Facebook photos. Get to know the potential ambassador before using social media to ask for their support as an ambassador.

Be clear!

It’s likely you want something specific from your ambassadors – perhaps it’s supporting a giving day, expanding awareness of your mission, driving an email campaign – whatever it might be, make it clear to your ambassadors what you’ll be asking of them in the near and long-term. Give them an idea of how many emails you’ll be sending them, make them aware of any software they’ll be using, and reinforce their importance by clearly stating how impactful online ambassador activity can be in accomplishing your mission.

Additionally, it’s wise to have some rules for the ambassador game. Do you require ambassadors to state they are digital advocates of your organization in their profiles? Better let them know. Is there a minimum amount of posting activity to remain in the program? If so, your ambassadors show know what that threshold is and what happens if they don’t maintain that level. Along with basic rules for decent online decorum, give your ambassador guidelines that will help both your organization and the ambassadors themselves.

Give them a job!

Once an ambassador has agreed to be part of your program, give them something to do as soon as possible. This will help cement the program in their mind as part of their normal, daily digital routine. If too much time lapses between engagement and deployment (more on deployment in a later post) ambassadors might forget their purpose and not perform the desired sharing activity.

Product update — ScaleFunder’s Giving Day module (launching February 29, 2016 with Washington State University’s #CougsGive) includes an online ambassador toolset that tracks the real fundraising ROI of your ambassadors. For the first time, nonprofits now have access to a Giving Day platform that not only deploys ambassadors, but provides data on exactly how much each individual ambassador brings in during the event. To learn more, contact me, VP of Digital Fundraising Strategy, Justin Ware, at justin.ware@scalefunder.com.