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The Future of Fundraising: Influencer Marketing for Nonprofits

Published by Zoe Allen on

social media

Influencer marketing leverages the power of popular figures to engage new supporters and lend authority to your nonprofit.

Influencers: global word of mouth marketing

If you know the term ‘influencer’, it might conjure up images of selfie obsessed girls promoting weight-loss shakes and bikinis. However, the world of influencers is rapidly expanding, and influencers now come in all shapes and forms. Every brand from car fresheners to package holidays is now leveraging influencers as a key advertising tool, and nonprofits should be too.

What is an influencer?

Influencers are people with a wide reach on social media, with dedicated followers who trust their opinions and recommendations. You may have people already promoting your nonprofit (known as brand advocates) online but this is slightly different. While the line between brand advocates and influencers is blurry, influencers are generally understood to have a larger following (i.e. have a significant ‘influence’) than a brand advocate.

On their social media channels, influencers will share their experience of your nonprofit, promote your work and cause and encourage their fan base to donate.

This type of social media marketing is built on the trust that people have for a well-known figure, so makes supporters more likely to trust and believe in your cause than if they simply saw an ad. It’s like receiving a word of mouth recommendation from a friend.

How does influencer marketing work?

You need to start by having a decent online presence that influencers will actually want to be associated with. Start by making sure your website is professional and your donation system easy to use, so that your supporters can actually follow an influencer’s recommendation to visit these sites.

You should also be clear about what you want out of this partnership and how it fits into your digital strategy. This is especially key if your digital strategy includes outreach, such as increasing email subscribers or social media followers.

It’s also worth creating some SMART goals specifically for the influencer marketing too, such as achieving a certain number of website visits or click-throughs, in order to track if it is valuable for your nonprofit and make future decisions on nonprofit marketing.

Once your online (and particularly social media) presence is established, you can start looking for influencers that you need to contact. You can read below to learn about the different types of influencers and how to choose the right influencers for your nonprofit.

Contact a few influencers until you find one who is keen to promote your nonprofit and work with you.

As we will discuss more below, you need to be clear about what you want from your influencers. You’ll agree to them posting about a project on certain platforms, or perhaps attend an event or a project site to see your work and show their followers.

Their supporters will see and engage with the content and be encouraged to donate. Make sure you promote the content on your own channels too, to show you are working together and create a community.

Why use influencer marketing?

You might have already guessed some the benefits of influencer marketing, but here are our top reasons to integrate influencers into your digital strategy. 

Influencer marketing can:

  1. Help you reach a new audience who don’t follow you
  2. Make you seem more trustworthy than ads
  3. Turn well-known figures into lifelong brand advocates that last much longer than your partnership
  4. Provide more backlinks to your website
  5. Be very cost-effective or free
  6. Build your social media following
  7. Create a modern, professional reputation for your nonprofit
  8. Be more effective than regular ads at increasing donations
  9. Help influencers grow their brand and following in turn
  10. Might even result in press coverage, if figures are high-profile enough

It’s best to try a range of approaches in your digital strategy in order to work out what is effective for your nonprofit, analyse the results and use this to inform future investments.

Therefore, even if you aren’t convinced influencer marketing is right for you, it might still be worth a go.

What types of influencer are there?

There are three types of influencers, defined by their outreach and number of supporters.

  1. Top tier influencers with 200K to 1M (or more) followers, usually celebrities our public figures who do not rely on social media for their fame, and may have several commitments at a time
  2. Middle power influencers with 50 to 100K followers, ideal for partnerships as always looking to grow their brand and partnering with a nonprofit is good for their reputation. They have a large following and reach, too.
  3. Micro influencers with 1 to 45K followers, their reach might not be big, but their followers tend to be more passionate and invested, and more likely to follow their recommendations.

How do I choose the right kind of influencer?

There are several things to consider when creating a shortlist of influencers that you wish to contact. Throughout the process, remember that it is a two-way partnership and your influencer choice will reflect on you too – so make sure they truly reflect your brand image.

You don’t need to choose a particular tier of influencer to focus on, but just be aware of the different aims of each type and how likely they are to be open to brand partnerships. In fact, it is better to try influencers from each stage to see which works best.

What is more important is considering the goals and content of an influencer’s account and how well it matches to your nonprofit’s image. You should look at what it is they do that makes them valuable to their audiences – such as blogging, activism or photography – and whether this fits with your goals and the content you want them to create.

You should also consider your goals – if it is reach and awareness you are looking for, then a larger influencer might be better, but if you are looking for more engagement with your brand, then a micro influencer might get you more results.

Also, think about the platforms that influencers use, and compare this to where you already have good results on your own social media profiles. You may want to stick with successful platforms, as this is where your target audience is, or you might want to use influencers to tap into new supporters which you have not been able to access organically.

Most importantly, will they represent your nonprofit in the positive, real way you need them to? Do they seem likely to genuinely care about your cause and want to promote it? This will make their content more compelling and convincing to their followers. You want your influencer to seem genuine and passionate, as this will present your cause more positively. 

How do I create a partnership?

When you have carefully chosen the influencers you want to contact, follow them with your nonprofit’s account on social media and like and comment on some of their posts to make yourself known to them. This will allow you to suss them out a little more, too.

Next, contact them using an email address or direct messaging them on their most popular social media channel. Emailing usually makes your nonprofit seem more professional, but make sure you add links to your website and social media profiles in the email so that they can easily check you out.

When making initial contact, clearly lay out what you want from them and how this will help you. Start with a small request and aim on building up the partnership towards larger projects. Make it clear what your goals are and how they can help you with them, and provide any links they would need to direct their supporters towards donating. Provide information about your nonprofit too, and why you want to partner with them in particular.

If they agree, make sure you are both completely clear on the requirements and expectations of the partnership, and then wait for them to produce your content. Once they have published a post, make sure to like and share so your followers see it too.

However, be very careful when choosing and approaching an influencer. A good partnership is sure to see a boost in reach and donations but choosing the wrong one could really damage your image. If anything seems odd at any point in the partnership, consider choosing a different influencer.


Zoe Allen

Zoe Allen

Zoe is a writer and content creator for Twenti, a digital marketing consultancy for nonprofits based in London. As part of her work with Twenti, Zoe specialises in influencer marketing and nonprofit outreach.

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