One of the most incredible qualities of our nation is its citizens’ can-do attitude and willingness to come together for nearly any noble purpose or cause, whether that means fighting cancer, adopting homeless pets, helping a community succeed economically, or something else.
Individuals aren’t the ones making a difference—many nonprofits and organizations are dedicated to people in need, too. Fortunately, there is no shortage of boards to serve on and doing so allows people to give back to their community while also aligning with something positive. In my opinion, doing good not only feels good; it’s also good for business.
Other than giving time and treasure, what else can people do to bring value to an organization? What isn’t often discussed is how to be a good ambassador for the group. It doesn’t matter if a person sits on the board or is a highly engaged donor/investor or volunteer, whatever that alignment is, actively promoting the organization is a great way to up that contribution.
Go beyond the minimum of what’s required as a board member. The modern-day version of being a brand ambassador means empowering a brand to increase customers, referrals, and revenue by leveraging and scaling the power of word-of-mouth. Essentially, by being a passionate super-fan, members are inspired to tell their friends, families, colleagues, neighbors and networks about the brand. Big brands hire people to be this kind of ambassador, or “influencer.” These could be celebrities or social media stars with a large following. Whether it is a brand, a public company, or a nonprofit, an ambassador embodies the identity of an organization in every way including appearance, values and ethics. Competition among nonprofits is strong, which means it can be challenging to get the public’s attention. Any ambassador needs to understand the vital position he or she is in and how to develop ways to stand out in the crowd.
Get Out There
To be truly effective, members of a nonprofit board must engage directly and deeply, and this often includes field travel. Take Helen Keller International, for instance, a recipient of the 2014 Kravis Prize, which honors leadership in the nonprofit sector. The organization asks all its board members to visit their programs in Africa and Asia at least once every three years because there’s no better way to understand the challenges that individuals with the mission face on the front line. While travel abroad is a bold step, involvement often starts closer to home. Whatever it is that members can do and wherever they serve, whenever possible, they should take the tour, go to the school, attend the grand opening and be present. Take advantage of opportunities to see the impact the organization has made. When an invitation is offered, go!
Stay On Message
Consider messaging. It’s important that everyone is on the same page and fully understands just what they are promoting and how they should go about it. Get together and discuss which essential facts the community should know about, what misconceptions should be addressed, and the clearest and most appealing way to deliver information. If the group hasn’t provided a simple one-page fact sheet, ask it to do so. Ambassadors should be able to easily answer questions about what’s going on at the organizations, what challenges it’s up against, the cost to help one person or do one good deed, what issues currently are being tackled and – of extra importance – what’s at stake if supporters don’t get behind the organization’s cause.
Keep information on the organization handy. If, in a social setting, someone shows interest in your organization, take the opportunity to share a brochure, DVD or other type of handout. Keep a portfolio, such as a binder or folder with recent newspaper clippings, programs and statistics on hand for easy reference when talking to people. Many organizations have business cards with quick facts, a mission statement and other important information that can be easily carried.
Talk About It
When the opportunity arises, members should talk about their work with the non-profit. They also should add a line to their bio on their firm’s website or add the organization to their LinkedIn profile under jobs. Other ways to promote the organization are to share photos of events or like updates on social media pages. Write a blog about the organization and their role with it. Then, consider practicing an elevator speech. Develop a compelling 30-second speech to get others interested in supporting the non-profit. A good place to start? Think about how you, as a member, first became aware of the organization and what “hooked” you. Discuss an aspect of the organization’s work that stands out from other non-profits in this sector or makes it special. Share an unforgettable, heartwarming memory then mesh that with the organizational mission statement and you’re on your way. Always have an impressive statistic or two to share or an emotional or personal story to that relays why the organization’s work deserves everyone’s support.
All things being equal, people do business with those they know, like and trust. This also holds true for non-profits. There is tremendous power in using personal influence to support a group’s mission. If people know a member that gives or supports the cause, donate or attend events, they will follow suit.
These tips are a few ways to start being less of a member and more of an ambassador. Head back here next week for more easy-to-implement suggestions on how to make the most of your board involvement. The organization you’re already so passionate about will thank you!