Two Tactics that Make Ambassador Programs Work

The idea of an “online ambassador” program is simple - find supporters who use social media, send them content to share on your behalf, and voila! …you have yourself an acquisition-driving, retention-boosting, peer-to-peer program.

Well, if I’ve learned anything since launching my first online ambassador program in 2011 with Florida State University, ambassador programs are anything but “simple.” Finding the right ambassadors, incentivizing social media sharing activity, building touch points beyond a giving day … myriad complications make ambassador programs great in theory, but tough in practice.

But there is a formula for ambassador success. Two specific concepts or tactics are showing real promise in the ongoing pursuit of long-term and sustainable ambassador programs:

  • Look inside yourself - build your internal ambassador program first

  • Produce content for ambassadors that features those ambassadors


In The Most Powerful Brand on Earth, authors Susan Emerick and Chris Boudreaux explain how IBM’s internal brand ambassador program outperformed ALL other marketing channels by a factor of 7x. Several other studies have shown that rank-and-file employees are some of the most trusted voices when it comes to advertising and communications.

So we know your staff, faculty, program administrators, doctors, etc. can be effective advocates online and via social media for your mission. Another benefit to building an ambassador program with your internal team? They are a captive audience. You are guaranteed near 100 percent participation when you hold internal ambassador workshops, trainings, and happy hours. Even more importantly, when you send a request to share news and fundraising solicitations, your rate of sharing with internal ambassadors will almost certainly far exceed any external groups (because it’s viewed as part of the job with internal groups).


Content really is everything. In a recent Abila Donor Loyalty survey, 72 percent of respondents said “poor, vague, or irrelevant” content was the reason why they stopped giving.

So yeah, we’re not kidding when we say “content reigns supreme.”

Feature ambassadors in compelling content, such as Facebook Lives.


Of course, asking ambassadors to produce their own content - regardless of whether they are internal or external ambassadors - is often an exercise in futility. It’s one thing to share a Facebook post. It’s another thing to produce a photo gallery or video on behalf of the organization you support. This is true of both internal and external ambassadors.

To solve this problem, Groundwork Digital is launching “Student Content Teams” with our higher education partners. With Student Content Teams, we are hiring about a half dozen students who fit the ambassador profile and have the on-camera charisma to become social media stars. Then, we work with the students to fill a strategically-aligned content calendar with video that is produced in the students’ voice, while reinforcing development and advancement priorities. This way, we are ensuring the necessary volume of content, while maintaining the authentic voice of students. And giving student ambassadors (and all ambassadors) engaging content to share online.

The ancillary benefit to the “Student Content Team” is the power of creating recognizable names with a small group of students. We know, beyond any doubt, that recognizable names lead to higher email open and conversion rates. With the SCT, we are creating those known names that can be used to communicate with donors throughout the year via email and text message, as well as through social media.

Think of it as a modern version of the phone program. Instead of connecting donors with students over the phone, we make those same connections online, in a more personalized way.

And this is not a concept confined to the world of education. Volunteers and staff, doctors and nurses, program administrators - anyone with on-camera charisma and social media reach can be an effective content team member for a nonprofit organization.

Peer-to-peer is more critical than ever before. It’s also more complicated to effectively deploy. We hope the above recommendations help you launch or grow an online ambassador program in the near future.

Do you still feel like you could use some help growing an ambassador program? Groundwork Digital is here for you. Click the button below and fill out the SUPER short form to ask for a free phone consultation.

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