Influencer Marketing for Non-Profit Organizations

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A tweet can change the world.

That might sound hyperbolic, but for JJ Watt and the city of Houston, hyperbole became reality in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. In response to the hurricane’s devastation, Watt set up a YouCaring.com relief campaign with an original goal of raising $200,000. He then shared the campaign on Twitter, promptly crashing YouCaring’s website with a surge of donor interest.

Once restored, the campaign took off. It received six-to-seven figure donations from fellow athletes and franchise owners, but the majority of money raised came from donations of $20 to $100 from more than 65 thousand individual donors. And It was just getting started.

As the campaign grew, Watt set a new goal of $10 million. He and his teammates began sharing more photos of relief supplies to social media. The $10 million dollar goal was quickly met and continued to rapidly grow. 

The campaign ultimately raised more than $40 million for Houston hurricane victims, a record for a crowdsourced fundraising campaign. Behind Watt’s and his teammate’s social media influence — and the generosity of thousands of donors — the campaign will reportedly rebuild more than 600 homes and 420 childcare centers in the Houston area.

All of this was made possible because an extremely influential person in JJ Watt connected with a worthy cause.

Influencer Marketing for Non-Profits

While Watt’s campaign may be the most successful, he’s far from the only athlete or influencer to make a positive impact with their social channels. 

Social media has proven to be an effective, affordable strategy for non-profit organizations and cause marketing movements. It has provided organic, authentic avenues to build communities of users who deeply care about the organization or cause. It offers flexible and affordable advertising tactics that can drive awareness and action from a specific audience. 

One social advertising avenue that is becoming increasingly common and effective for non-profits is influencer marketing. By partnering with an athlete or influential person, organizations can connect with a large audience that otherwise may be difficult to engage. 

These audiences aren’t just made up of followers — they represent a passionate fanbase that hangs on the athlete or influencer’s every post. And by aligning with these highly influential individuals non-profits and cause marketing organizations can tap into that fandom. They can collaborate with those who match their mission and have unrivaled access to a specific target audience. By partnering with the right individuals; increased awareness, credibility, and fundraising outcomes are more obtainable than ever before.

How Influencer Partnerships Benefit Non-Profits

Influencer marketing can carry negative connotations. It might conjure images of unmeasurable vanity metrics and unwanted skincare routines. Truth is, most influential people don’t fit the “influencer mold” that social media users may be accustomed to. They’re not hawking scam products; they’re public figures. Instead, we consider influential individuals to be athletes, business leaders, celebrities, and social media users who have established valuable, attentive audiences.

In reality,  there are levels to influence. From local to national, and even global. But whether they have one thousand followers or one million, what makes these influential people powerful is their connection to a group of fans.

Levels of Influencers

+ Nano-influencers: 1,000-10,000 followers

+ Micro-influencers: 10,000-50,000 followers

+ Mid-tier influencers: 50,000-500,000 followers

+ Macro-influencers: 500,000-1 million followers

+ Mega-Influencers: 1 million+ followers

No matter their level, these individuals have unmatched attention and excitement from their fans on social media — and with an authentic connection to your cause, this attention can bring remarkable levels of awareness and action to your non-profit organization. Look to influencers who have a natural connection to your non-profit or cause — from where they live, to their personal interests and passions — establishing a genuine connection is the best way to earn their support and drive real value and outcomes for your organization, including:

1. Credibility

There are thousands of excellent non-profits and causes out there and the reality is that there’s a limit on donations and assistance that the public is willing to give. By partnering with a credible athlete, influencer, or public figure, you will signal that your organization is a cause worthy of support. The support of an individual with built-in trust with your audience is doubly important if you’re launching a new vertical in your organization or entering a new locale.

2. Awareness & engagement

If you consider your social media channels as your organization’s megaphone, adding an athlete or influential individual to the mix is like setting up a sound stage. You’ll be able to reach a much larger, more engaged audience — and potentially do it with a smaller investment than purchasing traditional social media advertising. 

In addition to awareness on social, public figures tend to be press magnets. If your cause is worthy of coverage, a partnership with a credible public figure could be what it takes to earn that front-page feature or an interview with a valuable media outlet.

3. Donation & action

As a non-profit, your ultimate goal is likely to drive donations and action to support your organization. Whether it’s providing school supplies or bringing traffic to a food drive, you need to turn awareness into tangible support.

By activating your public-figure partners, you will be able to do just that. Whether you need to drive traffic to a website donation page or push attendance to a physical event, you can build influencer social media campaigns tailor-made to achieve your goals. 

Finding the Right Influencer for your Non-Profit Organization

If you’re ready to add influencers or ambassadors to your non-profit marketing strategy, it’s important to start from the bottom up. Understand your goals, audience, and what you have to offer prior to starting your outreach.

1. What are your goals?

Finding the right influencer for your strategy isn’t as simple as selecting the individual with the most Instagram followers. To best align with your needs, you need to understand what it is you want your influencer(s) to help you achieve. 

If you’re looking to add star power and awareness, celebrity and social followers are a great place to start. But if you’re interested more in driving specific outcomes for your organization, public figures with credibility on a local or cause-specific level may be more effective in achieving your goals.

2. Who is your target audience?

An all-too-common mistake in influencer marketing is deciding, “we want to reach everybody,” and pursuing the individual with most followers. As the saying goes — if you’re trying to please everybody, you won’t please anybody. 

It’s best to hone in on a core audience and work your way out. Make a small group of people love what you stand for, and more will follow. This mentality can translate to finding the right influencer: you’re likely to find more value when working with individuals who have high engagement rates and a passionate core audience. 

3. What can you offer?

While athletes, public figures, and celebrities often partner with — or launch their own — non-profit organizations, you have to know what you’re willing to offer. Ideally, you target influencers who are already passionate about the cause you support. 

For some influential individuals, that may be all it takes. Others may want a board seat, sway in decision making, or branding recognition. In unique cases, nonprofits are even willing to pay for influencers to become brand ambassadors. 

Regardless of your offer, it’s important to pitch your target influencers on the value of partnering with your organization. Why is it a win for them? How will their goodwill work in their favor? And how will it help them further a cause they care about?

Securing an Influencer Partnership

Once you understand your goals, audience, and offer, you’re ready to hone-in and make the ask of your target list of influencers. But these people are busy. They can receive thousands of requests per day. So how do get in touch?

1. Direct Messages

Unless you’re messaging from a verified account or credible “brand name” organization, this might be a moonshot. We mentioned how influencers receive thousands of inquiries earlier… the DMs are where those requests come in. 

If you still want to give it a shot, craft a powerful message to grab their attention. Be direct in what you’re asking and emphasize the value that you are bringing to them.

2. Influencer Database Tools

Using influencer database tools can not only help you get in touch with your preferred partner-to-be, many let you dial-in your search based on followers, interests, demographics, and other variables. Some also show what other brands and organizations the influencer is currently working with, allowing you to eliminate those who are partnered with competing organizations.

These tools still require you to lead the contact and negotiation process on your own. You’ll be supplied with the email or phone number of the influencer’s preferred contact, but the legwork is still up to you.

 

3. Marketing Platforms and Publishing Tools

Platforms like Opendorse can provide the all-in-one experience for non-profit organizations aiming to identify, secure, and activate influencer partnerships on social media. 

The platform uses demographic, interest, and historical social media analytics to identify influencers who fit your goals, audience, and if applicable, budget. Once partners are secured, non-profits can use the platform’s social media publishing tools to design and track social media programs with their participating influencer partner(s). All the influencer has to do is approve content suggestions with a single tap, allowing seamless social media collaboration between the non-profit and individual. 

Start Building Your First Influencer Campaign

Influencers can bring help non-profits produce real results with added credibility, awareness, and engagement on social media. While the process may be foreign for many organizations, companies like Opendorse make it easy to get started. 

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