Build a Culture of Ambassadorship
If you have spent any considerable time in the nonprofit space, you have undoubtedly heard the phrase, “culture of philanthropy.” In short, in organizations with an evolved culture of philanthropy, every single person in the organization is engaged in securing financial support and agrees that it’s an important priority.
The reason consultants like myself are worried about whether or not an organization has a strong culture of philanthropy is because without one, an organization can’t have a sustained successful development operation. As revealed by the 2013 CompassPoint Study funded by The Evelyn and Walter Haas Jr. Fund, UNDERDEVELOPED: A National Study of the Challenges Facing Nonprofit Fundraising, “the factors that influence successful fundraising are strongly linked to a nonprofit’s culture of philanthropy, meaning that all stakeholders must be aligned and working together toward a successful fundraising program.”
I also want to make the case for a culture of ambassadorship. For membership organizations, this is a vital necessity. For others, ambassadorship is still crucial to attract volunteers and donors.
Every board and committee member, staff and volunteer needs to contribute in attitude, mindset and behavior to being both inviting and welcoming; inviting to new external people and welcoming to those who have come in. Imagine how different your organization would look and feel if every single person engaged in ambassadorship and agreed that it’s an important priority? You can make this happen.
Here are seven rules to creating a culture of ambassadorship:
- It All Starts with the Board: Make ambassadorship an expected role and responsibility for board members. Board members must model the culture of ambassadorship.
- We’re All In: Everyone bears some responsibility for ambassadorship and conveying a positive attitude about your organization. All staff and volunteers should seek opportunities for engagement, build relationships and share excitement for the organization.
- Gain Confidence: Provide training to ambassadors including storytelling, social media, word of mouth marketing, and the power of inclusion or as Ron Wolfson calls it “radical hospitality”.
- Provide the Tools: Give your ambassadors the tools they need for engagement: ready to share information about events and programs, opportunities for people to get involved with low levels of commitment, an up-to-date website, active social media channels, newsletters and other collateral.
- Create a System: Once someone new comes into your orbit, you need a system for data collection and tracking. This should include at a minimum their contact information, who their point of contact is, demographic information, interests, engagement with the organization and next steps. This information should be reviewed at the appropriate board or committee and/or staff meetings regularly (preferably weekly).
- Model Behavior: Create and follow cultural norms such as: everyone wears a name-tag at all events, no one sits alone, board members do not sit with each other, follow-up calls for prospects who attend an event, newcomers receive a “buddy” etc.
- Celebrate Success: Track new members, volunteers and donors. Reward your best ambassadors!
Creating a culture of ambassadorship can transform your organization and as a bonus, many of the same mindset, attitudes and behaviors will double count toward creating a culture of philanthropy as well.
Nanette Fridman, MPP, JD, is founder and principal of Fridman Strategies, a consulting firm specializing in strategic planning, financial resource development, governance and leadership coaching for nonprofits. She is a frequent trainer, workshop presenter, speaker and facilitator. Nanette is the author of “On Board: What Current and Aspiring Board Members Must Know About Nonprofits & Board Service.”