Cultivating Advocates

    You already know that every penny counts when it comes to nonprofit communications. You have limited time and limited funds to devote to spreading your message, so you almost have an obligation to make use of every possible technique to get the most bandwidth out of the least investment. Fortunately for you, one of the most powerful tools in your arsenal for spreading your message is completely free and involves things that you should be doing anyway. I’m talking about cultivating advocates.

    Advocates are your loudest and most passionate supporters. If you’re lucky enough to have active advocates among your constituents, steward their advocacy as if it is a gift. Because it is. When these people tell their friends about your organization, or share your content to their network, or encourage their co-workers to volunteer for you, they are using their social capital to give you some of the most valuable advertising that there is, and they’re doing it for free.

    You may be thinking: ‘sure, must be nice, but I don’t know anyone like that.’ The formation of advocates is not as immutable as the tides; you have more control over it than you might think. There are several ways to increase your chances of creating advocates. Since you’re reading this, I assume that your mission is important and worthy of support, so I’ll skip that step.

The first thing you can do is to get more people into your ecosystem. Gaining followers, adding facebook likes, telling more people about your organization; these are things you’re likely already doing. Every person who finds out about your organization is a potential advocate. Once someone is in the communication network of your organization, you can encourage advocacy by converting some of your calls to action from requests for funding to requests for shout-outs. This might seem counter-intuitive, but many more people are willing to shout out your organization than are willing to give money. (As an added bonus, someone who passes on information about your organization is more likely to give in the future.)

Once you see advocates in your social network (here I am using the term broadly, offline as well as online), steward their gift of energy and passion. If they use social media, thank them on social media. If you see them in person, make sure they know how much you appreciate them! Much like making friends, cultivating advocates is all about making a connection with someone on a personal level. These small interactions add up to a relationship that is valued by you and valued by your advocate.

To conclude: bring people into your network, incentivize and reward advocacy and practice good stewardships. All skills that you have already that, when applied toward the cultivation of advocates, net your organization benefits that far outweigh the cost of your time investment.