Transforming Nonprofit Staff Into Brand Ambassadors on Social Channels | Beth's Blog

Transforming Nonprofit Staff Into Brand Ambassadors on Social Channels

Social Media Policy

Today I presented on a “featured session” at the United Way Community Leaders Conference in Grapevine, Texas.  The conference theme was “Working Together in the Era of the Individual.”   I facilitated an interactive featured session on why and how leaders should be engaged on social as well as other insiders (employees, board, and volunteers).

This post goes into more detail and provides some resources on planning and implementing an employee champion program.

A champion is an individual that supports a nonprofit organization or cause.  They are passionate about your organization and social change, and will talk about it to anyone who will listen.  Nonprofit staff members, volunteers, and board members are some of your best champions.  They are most likely already sharing great stories about your organization on their social media streams and making suggestions to their friends and followers about how awesome your organization’s programs are.

A Staff Champion is a socially engaged employee who creates and shares the organization’s content on their social networks and engages with their network about the organization’s good work.     A formal champion program provides the training and support for all employees to engage in this activity with much more impact than having it happen organically and informally.

Many nonprofits have limited capacity and staff resources when it comes to implementing marketing and communications strategy, especially social media.   But many have not fully leveraged a significant resources they already have:  their staff, board, and other volunteers.    When a nonprofit empowers “insiders” to become champions for its programs, it can be one of the best ways to take advantage of social channels.

Why?  It expands your organization’s social footprint and presence beyond what the lone communications director or marketing team is capable of reaching on their own.  (According to Social Chorus, there is only 8% overlap between employees’ Twitter followers and the brand’s Twitter followers.)  There are some other benefits as well.  Your nonprofit’s staff, using their personal brand on social, are more trusted because they are real people who want to help other people and have build a relationship with their network.

What’s holding many back?  Fear.  Some nonprofits are concerned that staff may use poor judgment when posting online that can cause damage to the nonprofit’s reputation or worse.  However, nonprofits can mitigate these risks and reap the benefits with making sure that their social media policy is aligned with nonprofit mission and objectives and that staff understand the policy as well as to provide some training on how to find, create, and share appropriate social content and engagement that supports the organization’s mission.

Nonprofit Examples

Here’s a few examples:

1.  One Person Communications Department: Arkansas Advocates for Children has a one-person communications department.  The communications director, Gerard Matthews, set up a champions program for staff to help expand reach and his capacity to do social effectively.

2.  All Staff on Twitter In Support of the Organization’s Communications Strategy:   Human Rights Watch has all staff using Twitter as their personal brands to share content from the site and build their networks in support of the overall goals.

3.   Talent Acquisition:   NPR uses social media channels to help with staff recruitment and talent pipeline development.

You can find a few more examples from the list of resources compiled by Farra Trompeter from Big Duck.

How To Get Started

1.  Internal Advisory Group: This group would represent key departments in your organizations — not just the communications department, but representations from fundraising, human resources, and programs.   This group would advise on the social media update (see below) as well as help figure out which department could serve as a beta for an employee champions program.    It is easier to start in an area where employees are already using social as part of the organization’s strategy such as communications or fundraising.  Or, maybe your organization is using social to recruit for talent.

2.   Social Media Policy Is Aligned with Key Organizational Goals:  Evaluate and update, if needed, your social media policy to include guidelines that encourages all staff members to use social as their personal brands in support of the organization’s goals and that important internal stakeholders have reviewed the policy (like the legal department.)    The policy should include a list of simple dos and don’ts to mitigate risks (see this excellent example from TNT).  Here’s some tips on how to write or revise a social media policy that empowers your employees.

3.  Design and Plan Training: To build an effective training, you need to do some assessment of the current skills, knowledge, and comfort level of employees.  Here’s an example of some survey questions you should ask. You will want to determine the best way to deliver training.  Will you do brown bag lunches, internal webinars, or one-on-one coaching?  Also, you’ll need plan out your training materials – fact sheets, tips sheets, and slide decks.  Some training topics that would be covered — of course starting with the basics and building on those – would include.

  • Social Media Policy: Building Good Judgement
  • Power of Staff As Champions
  • Social Media 101
  • How to Build Your Personal Brand
  • How to Build Your Network
  • How to Practice Good Content Curation:  Seek, Sense, Share
  • The basics of LinkedIn,Twitter, Facebook
  • Instagram and Device Photography 101
  • Beyond the Basics – Listening, Power User Tips, Video Streaming Apps
  • Social Fundraising Basics

4.   Train the Trainers: Along with the training materials, you’ll want to identify and set up a small group of staff who can train or coach others.  They can also help with feedback on training materials and gaps, mentor and coach employees who are brand new to social media with getting started, or answer questions on the intranet or internal communications channels.   Most of all, they can help recruit people in the organization as champions.

5.  Review, Reflect, and Replicate: Once you have piloted the champions program in one department, review what you’ve done, reflect on how to improve, and test in another area.  Be sure to look at the strategy and results that the employee champions are supporting.  Did it help move the needle?


1.  Social Chorus:  Social Chorus is an enterprise platform tool to support employee engagement and champions programs.  They have a robust resource section.

2. Building Employee Advocacy on Social:  This free e-book by Neil  Schaffer offers excellent tips for implementing an employee champion program on social channels.

3. Empowering Staff to be the Voice of Your Organization:   Big Duck’s Farra Trompeter has put together this comprehensive resource list of resources, examples, and articles.

Has your nonprofit designed and implemented an employee champion program on social in support of your organization’s mission and goals?  Share it in the comments.

9 Responses

  1. […] Transforming Nonprofit Staff Into Champions on Social. This is a super useful article from Beth Kanter about how to empower staff to become more socially […]

  2. […] Beth Kanter talks about Transforming Nonprofit Staff Into Champions on Social. […]

  3. Great post as always Beth!

    Did you have any time to explore Grapevine? I visited in January and had a great time.

  4. I/we are in the thick of the “championing” phase but not necessarily for our own nonprofit only. With our local giveday coming up we think we need to “showcase” and “champion all those nonprofits working for the same cause or at least in our community or county etc. we’ll be helping “our cause” tremendously by elevating others’ work in the community…

  5. […] all Facebook PR on the shoulders of your communications director, you can ask all your employees to share the efforts, said Beth Kanter. It's likely the majority of your staff already uses social media on a daily […]

  6. Patricia says:

    As someone that worked for half a year in a non-profit, this is fundamentally important as in the age of social media it is imperative non charitable causes gain access to more exposure. When I worked at this non-profit social media was the biggest of their concerns yet no one was on it. I think the second point Staff on Twitter In Support of the Organization’s Communications Strateg is highly important both internal and external. Additionally the presentation and report are very informing

  7. […] Fabulous post from Beth Kanter on Transforming Nonprofit Staff Into Champions on Social. […]

  8. […] Transforming Nonprofit Staff Into Champions on Social […]

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