With the competition for donation dollars fierce right now, many not-for-profits are turning to influencers — from Hollywood celebrities to politicians to blog stars — to raise awareness of their organizations and causes. But before your nonprofit solicits influencer support, there are a few things you should know.
On the plus side
If influencer marketing didn’t work, for-profit companies wouldn’t pay celebrities to tout their products on their social media accounts. These sponsors realize that influencers have ready access to the thousands, if not millions, of people who follow them online. Their followers may consider influencers credible on a wide range of topics. When an influencer promotes a nonprofit, that organization immediately assumes an air of legitimacy with his or her followers. Followers may explore the cause more thoroughly or just immediately click a link to donate.
For budget-strained nonprofits, it’s hard to beat the cost-efficiency of influencer marketing. By connecting with a charitably minded influencer, you can get the word out about your mission or programs to a mass audience at little or no expense.
Planning is critical
Like your other marketing initiatives, effective influencer marketing takes planning, preparation and continuing work. Consider these three steps:
First, find the right person. A good influencer can increase awareness and generate support and donations. The wrong one can irreparably hurt your reputation. You need to consider more than just an influencer’s number of followers. Also make sure that the person’s values and interests align with your organization’s. Keep in mind that not every influencer is an actor, athlete or performer. Journalists and authors, subject matter experts, academics and other thought leaders may have smaller audiences, but their followers might be more engaged with their areas of interest.
Second, take the time to build true relationships with your influencers. Your interactions shouldn’t simply be transactional. Establish rapport and common cause and do what you can to shine a light on the influencers’ charitable acts on your social media and elsewhere. Give them branded swag, share their successes and invite them to your events.
Finally, give your influencers the tools they need to help you. Begin by establishing expectations in writing. Lay out your respective roles and responsibilities, with timelines and suggested tactics. Also provide them with all of the information they’ll need to clearly carry your message — for example, facts about your cause, success stories, details about upcoming campaigns, graphics, photos, and links to make donations or to volunteer.
Depending on the influencers, they also might appreciate assistance drafting their posts. Remember, though, that their posts must reflect their own voices.
Don’t give up
If, despite all your planning, an influencer relationship doesn’t work out, don’t give up. You may need to find a different kind of influencer or work on a different social media platform. The potential low cost and ability to raise awareness makes influencer marketing worth the occasional obstacles.