This article is excerpted from Andy Robinson's book, What Every Board Member Must Know, Do, and Avoid
Who’s talking about your organization . . . right now? If the answer is “nobody,” you have a problem.
Every nonprofit needs some buzz. Yes, you can create cute videos and organize publicity events, but the best strategy is the oldest strategy: people talking to people.
Those who initiate these conversations are your ambassadors. As a board member, one of your most important titles is “ambassador,” and you may need training to fully embrace it.
A client recently recruited me to lead a board fundraising workshop, with the caveat that most of her trustees didn’t believe they needed to learn about fundraising. We invited the board chair to help plan the event and discussed different ways to focus the content.
When I suggested we treat this as an ambassador training, the chair jumped in. “We really need that,” he said. “We’re not very good at talking about our organization.” So we built the agenda to help develop the nonprofit’s message, improve listening skills, and engage in meaningful conversations—a great way to identify and cultivate potential donors, volunteers, and allies.
Here’s a simple tool you can use to encourage ambassador outreach. Create personalized business cards for board members, with their names and the organization’s contact information. On the back, include the mission statement or perhaps a few bullets describing the impact of your work.
These business cards are great conversation starters. When a friend asks, “What have you been doing?” pull one out, hand it over, and say, “Well, I’m on the board of….”
How about you? As a board member, do you make an effort to talk about your organization? Do you bring up your nonprofit in conversations with friends, colleagues, and co-workers? How comfortable are you describing its programs or asking engaging questions that relate to your mission?
Most trustees can greatly benefit from some sort of ambassador training—for example, developing and practicing an “elevator pitch”—so include this topic in your board development calendar.
Andy Robinson provides training and consulting for nonprofits in fundraising, grantseeking, board development, marketing, earned income, planning, leadership development, and facilitation. Over the past nineteen years, Robinson has worked with organizations in 47 US states and Canada. Robinson is the author of six books, including Train Your Board (and Everyone Else) to Raise Money (with Andrea Kihlstedt), How to Raise $500 to $5000 from Almost Anyone, and The Board Member’s Easier Than You Think Guide to Nonprofit Finances.