influencer marketing

Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Have you heard the buzzword “influencer” and wondered what the heck it was? Or if it’s a familiar term, have you struggled with how to find one of these elusive creatures to work with your nonprofit? Well, never fear—today’s post is for you.

While influencers have always existed, the Internet Age has given them new meaning, as well as new ways to capitalize on their popularity. (Cue the Wicked soundtrack!) Social media brought with it a whole host of new job possibilities. I mean, 15 years ago, we all would’ve laughed someone out of the room who said people would pay to watch another person play video games. But, here we are…

So, if getting an influencer to spread the word about your cause is on your To Do List, Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups is going to break it down for you. I’ve seen social impact organizations have great success with this tactic, so I’d encourage you to give it a try and see what happens!

Why Nonprofits Need Influencers To Grow (And How To Do It Right)

Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making donors care about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

It’s important to make time for your nonprofit marketing, and using influencers doesn’t just save you time—it’s also highly effective. Keep reading to find out how your nonprofit can benefit from an influencer collaboration in 2019.

What are influencers?

While you might not know exactly what influencers are, you’ve probably already encountered them without realizing it. Influencers are social media stars, tastemakers who command significant influence over their followings online.

There are countless examples of online influencers: Kim Kardashian, Marie Kondo, Jake Paul, Huda Kattan, Andrew Bachelor, Gary Vaynerchuk, Joanna Gaines—the list goes on. And for every influencer, there are ten more examples of brands partnering with them for a marketing campaign.

Influencers can be divided into two, broad categories: macro and micro.

Macro-influencers are the A-listers of the influencer world. With social followings in the high hundred-thousands or millions, these individuals are renowned the world over. Consequently, any brand looking to collaborate with them can expect to pay correspondingly high prices.

At the other end of the scale, however, are micro-influencers. These social stars typically have a follower count of around 10-100K.

While they are less well-known than their macro counterparts, micro-influencers enjoy a closer relationship with their followers. They occupy niche areas such as specific beauty subsets (think makeup tips for women with vitiligo), eating gluten-free, or mental health. Their community is intimate and closely-knit, and they’re more affordable as a result of a smaller follower count (though still substantial).

Why do nonprofits need influencers?

We’ve established the difference between macro- and micro-influencers. The former has a large following, so partnering with a macro-influencer for a marketing campaign gets your nonprofit seen by the masses.

But this isn’t the goldmine it first seems. The fact is, while macro-influencers generate more awareness, their campaigns lack engagement.

Research shows that when an influencer’s follower count reaches 1K, the ratio of likes to comments peaks. And when an influencer’s followers exceeds 100K, engagement starts to level out.

Micro-influencers, on the other hand, reach a far smaller audience but with much higher engagement. Their close bond with their followers means their content is received on a deeper, more meaningful level.

And for nonprofits, engagement is crucial. You could create a macro-influencer campaign that reaches 10,000 people. But if those people don’t care about the campaign—if they don’t engage with it—then it will fall flat.

Nonprofits need micro-influencers because the success of their initiative hinges on making people care, and influencers can make that happen.

How do I choose the right micro-influencer?

The key to a successful nonprofit-influencer campaign lies in choosing a micro-influencer who aligns with your nonprofit’s values.

Start with what your nonprofit stands for and the work you do, and go from there. For example, if you work with sufferers of anxiety and depression, a mental health influencer would be an ideal choice for your nonprofit.

You can find micro-influencers in a number of ways. There are plenty of influencer marketplaces that let you easily find influencers, sorted by industry, follower count, social profiles, and more.

But for a quick fix, simply scope out other nonprofits operating within your niche and see who they’ve partnered with. Take a look at their blogs and social media accounts to identify any influencer campaigns, and contact the influencer in question to request a collaboration.

Alternatively, you can search hashtags on social media to see what influencers are already talking about, and what causes might be of interest.

How to launch an influencer campaign for your nonprofit

You know the what and the why. Read on to discover some great influencer collaboration ideas that will grow your nonprofit.

Get your micro-influencer to tell your nonprofit story.

Micro-influencers are characterized by their special relationship with their followers. The interactions influencers have with them are genuine and meaningful—they are real. As a result, they enjoy an honest, trusting follower relationship.

This is a boon for nonprofits. The general public is numb to marketing, either switching over when an ad comes on TV, or switching off when they see one online. But when micro-influencers extoll the benefits of a nonprofit, their followers pay attention.

Use this special relationship to your own advantage and get your chosen influencer to discuss in depth why they partnered with you. They should outline your various initiatives, highlight the work you do, and even meet and interview someone your nonprofit has helped in the past.

Launch a UGC donation matching campaign.

Most brand-influencer partnerships use a contest, competition, or giveaway to grow their business. And while some nonprofits might benefit from this, an even better, albeit similar, idea is to launch an influencer-led user-generated content (UGC) donation matching campaign.

Donation matching is simple, but effective.

Your chosen influencer gets their followers to share an Instagram photo centered around a theme (e.g. if you’re an animal rights nonprofit, they might share a photo of their favorite animal) with a branded hashtag, following and tagging your account. For every photo shared, your micro-influencer donates $1 (up to a given value).

This strategy doesn’t just give you a quick donation boost. It also invites interaction with your social media followers. It creates a conversation with your followers, involving them with your nonprofit work and making them care.

A UGC donation matching campaign also gives your nonprofit a valuable publicity boost, netting you new followers and growing your Instagram account. Combine this with National Giving Day for an added promotional boost.

Involve your influencer to reach unengaged individuals.

Many nonprofits struggle to make their work seem real to donors. For example, let’s say you’re a nonprofit working with individuals suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease. You might find it difficult to make people with no experience of the disease connect with your cause on a meaningful level, simply because it feels too distant.

Micro-influencers are the perfect conduit for breaching that distance. Invite your influencer to see first-hand the vital work you do, and encourage them to share their experience on social media.

Of course, sensitivity and confidentiality is crucial here. But when you and your micro-influencer work together to create a nuanced, insightful social campaign, you turn otherwise indifferent individuals into engaged, committed donors.

Influencer collaborations are an effective and affordable marketing strategy for nonprofits. They drive engagement and get your organization seen, helping you reach a whole new audience of potential donors who might otherwise not know your nonprofit. Use the tips above to create an influencer partnership that grows your nonprofit now and well into the future.


Kayleigh Alexandra of Micro Startups

Kayleigh Alexandra is a writer at Micro Startups, your go-to place for charity news and insight. She loves writing about all the great nonprofits, startups, and entrepreneurs that make waves in their industry. For more of her work, check out the blog today @getmicrostarted.

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Growing your nonprofit can be tough. Aside from competing for attention against so many other worthwhile nonprofits, making  donors  care about a cause is a big task. Thankfully, influencers are here to make all of that a breeze.

Kristi Porter, founder of Signify

I’m Kristi Porter, and I help cause-focused organizations understand and execute effective marketing campaigns so they can move from stressed to strategic. Your resources may be limited, but your potential isn’t. Whether you’re a nonprofit, social enterprise, or small business who wants to give back, I’ll show you how to have a bigger impact.


Make It Easy For People to Talk About You

This month we've been talking about building your business, lessons to learn from, and making it look more professional. Today I want to give you one of my top tips for getting the word out about your organization, a new product or service, latest initiative, or some other big news you want people to know about.

Make it easy for people to talk about your organization, your latest initiative, a product or service, or your latest big news with this one, simple, but powerful tip.

I first heard about this strategy in an interview Jon Acuff did years ago with Connect Faith magazine. It certainly wasn't the focus of the article. It was just sort of a side note in the feature, but it stopped me in my tracks. I think I literally quit reading and exhaled, "hmmm," aloud. It was so simple, but so remarkable for me as an event marketing professional. I started implementing it immediately, and never looked back. It was an incredibly effective tool for the organization I worked for at the time (that they still use), and it's proven itself time and again for the clients I work with now.

So, what is it?

Provide social media samples and images for your network of influencers.

Let me explain. You likely write emails, blogs, and social media posts for your organization's latest, greatest, and next big thing. You spend a lot of time crafting exactly what needs to be said, sending it out to your database, and posting it on your social outlets. If you have a staff or board, maybe you even give them a nudge to forward and share it. You're excited, and you know they will be too. You're gearing everyone up to shout this message from the rooftops! Perhaps, if you're a real go-getter, you even send a reminder.

But after the launch, you look back and hear . . . crickets.

Few people shared the message.

They said they would. They were excited. They had every intention. But, in the end, time or writer's block or a Netflix binge got in the way.

They'll do better next time, right?

Maybe. I'm not usually a cynic, so it's entirely possible. But I'd rather you provide all influencers with sample social media posts and images to make it as easy as possible for them to talk about what you've got going on.

In the interview I mentioned above, Jon stated that when the events he was speaking at provided him with posts he could literally copy and paste on his social media outlets, it removed any barriers to his good intentions slipping away. 

Sure, you'd probably rather someone gush in their own words about your organization, but what's better: the slim chance that they might do it, or the high probability that they will? I think most of us would prefer the second option.

So, that's what I started doing and it worked BIG TIME! Awareness and engagement increased. Influencers thanked us for supplying them with exactly what they needed, and in the end, we reached more people, sold more products and event tickets, and gained a larger base of supporters.

What's an influencer?

This might all sound great to you, but perhaps you're asking yourself exactly who an "influencer" is and how you find one of these mythical creatures. Probably the purest definition from a marketing perspective would be someone with a large and established network. They influence crowds. These are usually big name folks. 

Maybe this is the person who started your organization, a spokesperson, a celebrity affiliation, well-known speaker, author, or personality, and people like that. To work with them on the level I'm talking about here, you'd already need an established relationship. It's highly unlikely that you can just email George Clooney and tell him that your organization provides relief to third world countries, and by the way, you have a new product coming out, and would he post it on Twitter if you wrote him the samples . . . Ummmm, sadly, probably not. (But if you try it, and it works, please let me know!)

In addition to the types of men and women with large networks, I believe you should also include all others already in your circle. The "low hanging fruit," if you will. After all, everyone has a network of some size. And sometimes grassroots movements are the most effective. So, be sure to include staff, volunteers or interns, board members, event speakers, and anyone who has a vested interest in seeing your organization or event succeed. When you've made it this easy for them, you might just be surprised who ends up sharing.

What should you include?

As mentioned, you should include pre-written social media samples and images. The three I am typically asked to write for include Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. But you'll need to determine if those are right for you.

Here are a few other tips:

  • Make sure all pre-written text is the correct length for each outlet. For example, don't send people copy that should be Tweeted about, but extends well beyond the 140 character count. #annoying

  • Ditto with images. They aren't a one-sized-fits-all. Make sure you provide images that are correctly sized for wherever you're asking them to share.

  • Write it from that person's point-of-view, when necessary. At times, it may be fine for everyone to say the same thing in the same way, but with some easy tweaks on your part, it will be far more effective. For example, if you're sending these items to event speakers, write it as "I'm speaking at..." rather than just general event info. (Or include both)

  • Try writing two to five examples for people so they can use whatever fits their voice/brand, or can say different things at different times without just sounding repetitive.

  • Encourage people to customize the text for their own voice or brand, but don't expect it. Some will, but most won't.

  • Always provide a deadline or schedule, and always send a reminder. Again, people are busy, so if you're on a timeline, they need to be made aware of it.

  • Deliver it in whatever way works best for you and your crowd. This may be via email, Dropbox, Google Drive, Google Site, a hidden webpage, or something else. I would not suggest sending huge, mass emails, though. Segment the group as needed. For example, send an email to staff only, and don't include event speakers unless they are staff members.

Want to take it a bit further?

  • Include videos for sharing as well.

  • If the people you're sending these items to are also bloggers, you might even consider writing some blog posts they can copy and paste as well. (Don't forget images or video!)

  • Ask people if there is anything else you can provide them with for sharing. Maybe their website has a banner image that can be used, or maybe they have an email list and would be happy to send something out that is customized for them.

  • Host this "spread the word" kit on your website so that other fans can share it.

  • Include a "spread the word" kit or just one or two samples and images in confirmation pages and emails to event attendees. (Don't give them too many items or they'll get overwhelmed.)

Anything else to remember?

Hopefully, you're excited about this strategy. In fact, you're mind is probably already buzzing with the different items you can put together, and how you can utilize it for your next launch. I can't wait to hear about how it goes!

The other added benefit of this technique that we haven't really talked about yet, is that this strategy allows you to control the message. Maybe you've asked someone to share about your event before, for example, but they got the details wrong, or didn't make it sound very exciting, or just missed the mark somehow. This trick ensures that your message is said exactly as you wanted. No more guessing. (I have a PR background, so this this method means a lot! ;)

Before I go, I do want to give you one note of caution: use this strategy sparingly. You want to save it for important things, not a coupon for $5 off an next order. Definitely don't wear your people down, or they'll be less likely to share when you really need it.

Other than that, there are lots of ways you can tailor this strategy for your cause and organization. And if you find a way to improve upon it, let me know!



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Mobilize influencers, fans, and insiders to spread the word about your cause or organization. This one tip makes it simple and effective. Plus, receive other free and cheap marketing ideas for your nonprofit or social enterprise.

Kristi Porter, founder at www.signify.solutions

I'm Kristi Porter, and I started Signify to provide writing, consulting and strategy services to nonprofits and for-profit organizations with a social mission, primarily through copywriting, marketing and business communications. I believe that cause-focused organizations like yours are the future of business. You're proof that companies can both make money and do good. And I'm here to help you get noticed and grow. When you succeed, we all win.