How nonprofits should approach social influencers

Connecting with influencers online can open nonprofits up to a wider audience.
Date Published
12/27/2013

When reaching out to donors, nonprofit groups have a variety of options, each with their own benefits and drawbacks.

For instance, many organizations continue to rely on direct mail when appealing for contributions from individuals, which is an effective channel that builds trust among donors and nonprofits. However, direct mail can become both labor and cost intensive when nonprofits don’t prepare well, leaving less room in marketing and communications budgets for alternative fundraising efforts. This is one reason why a growing number of nonprofit enterprises have taken the initiative to develop a stronger online presence, to develop a more interactive community of donors and build awareness.

Building a foundation
With a larger presence on social media or on an organizational website, nonprofits can engage with donors, members and the public on an ongoing basis and can respond more quickly. At the same time, having a well-developed strategy for outreach online is an important first step. An essential aspect of growing an organization’s Web presence and authority is collaborating with others in similar fields or those who have developed a large Internet following by having considerable expertise in a relevant industry.

According to Entrepreneur magazine, these influencers are an important resource for any organization aiming to improve their standing as thought leaders in its particular sector. For instance, David Edelman, the mind behind all things digital at the research firm McKinsey, has amassed a loyal following online via social media channels, and professionals in related fields are able to connect with him to engage in discussions, but also to develop an association with him. In short, connecting with influencers can provide an organization with a greater depth of knowledge and relevance among donors and members.

Making the case
However, connecting influencers isn’t as simple as clicking a mouse. It requires patience and understanding that developing a relationship with them requires time, similar to many donor management strategies. As Entrepreneur suggested, organizations need to do the research to find out who handles communications for the individual or association a nonprofit is looking to connect with.

  • First, identify the most direct contact – hopefully, it’s simply the individual – and provide detailed information. The nonprofit should explain why it wants to connect with the influencer and be able to explain how this individual links with its mission or any campaigns.
  • Once a group has made contact, it should allow time for the influencer to learn about it and engage in some back-and-forth to begin forging a relationship. To create a sustainable partnership, there can’t be any sense of disconnect between the two parties.
  • At the same time, as Associations Now explained, it can be beneficial to move the conversation offline. For instance, expos, conferences and annual meetings often provide an opportunity for nonprofit professionals to connect with thought leaders and influencers in a concrete setting, which can engender better communications and relationships.

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