You are currently viewing Building Advocates

Building Advocates

Five years ago when I would mention our Social Media Ambassadors Program, I would most likely get a puzzled kind of look. People didn’t quite understand the objective. I’d explain the benefits of having volunteers use their voice on social media to extend the reach of our audience and boost the impact of our mission. They thought it was kind of cool. But in the nonprofit world with so much else to do, it was not on the priority list for many regional organizations.

Understandably, it was still early in the social media game. Facebook launched to public users in 2009 and Twitter launched in 2006. By 2011, both had gained hundreds of millions of users (600 and 100 respectively). Even so, people were still figuring it all out. Back then, my colleagues giggled when I said I was “tweeting.” Luckily management trusted my digital strategy.

Since 2012, organic reach has been declining rapidly on Facebook and the digital space is more crowded than ever. Facebook now has 1.4 billion active users and Twitter is at 320 million. Brand advocates and social influencers are vital to a marketing program, particularly for nonprofits.

This week, I’ll be presenting at the NC Recreation and Parks Association’s Marketing Summit about this very topic! You can view my presentation on Slideshare about the value of an ambassadors program and how to go about starting one for your organization. Some of the highlights and resources are below.


  • Organic reach is the number of people that see your posts that are not paid for. Conversely, paid reach is a boosted post or a paid ad.
  • In 2012, brands had 16% organic reach on Facebook. This year it’s expected to be just over 1%.
  • 83% of people trust the recommendation of their friends versus 30-40% who trust ads.
  • Influencers can help drive awareness of your mission while advocates drive action.
  • I recommend a healthy mix of advocates and influencers. If stewarded correctly, many influencers become advocates and ultimately friends.
  • There are four steps to creating an ambassador program:
    • Determine the foundation of your program. A simple program could be a corkboard and flyers. More complex programs might involve a website signup form and landing page, welcome packets, certificates, or monthly emails
    • Identify potential ambassadors. Start with close relationships: volunteers, employees, program participants. Extend beyond these groups by searching on social media.
    • Recruitment. (In 3 steps…)
      • Determine the objective of your ask. Do you want more participants in events, volunteers or donors?
      • Outline the action. Will they share on social media or distribute a flyer?
      • Extend the invitation. Schedule a meeting or offer a personal invitation by email or social media.
    • Engage and Retain. Make your ambassadors feel special and keep them as friends.


Through the years, our Social Media Ambassadors Program has grown to 60 active members. Most of them are influencers, many are advocates, and several have become my very good friends. I’m proud and honored to stand beside these super-volunteers. They make a tremendous impact and ultimately help us get more food to more people who need our help.

Social Media Ambassadors at a Food Bank Planning Party
Social Media Ambassadors at a Food Bank Planning Party