You’ve heard the phrase, “you have to spend money to make money.” And in the world of nonprofits and ministries, you have to spend money to raise money in many cases. Experts say that nonprofits should be spending anywhere between 5-15% of their annual budget on marketing efforts. And while we could talk all day about the paid tactics you need to consider for your marketing efforts, today we want to discuss a piece of the marketing puzzle that won't cost you a penny:


Your advocates.


Brand advocates are gold. They are the people who publicly support, encourage and spread the word about your brand/cause/ministry…for free.


If you’re a nonprofit, these are the people who post about your cause on their social media asking their friends to be involved in one of your projects and give. If you’re a church, these are your high-level volunteers, the attenders who invite their friends to church and those who use their platform for your capital campaign funding. Now you probably have several people coming to mind who fit this criteria. These are your advocates, and you need to build this tribe and cultivate more.


Turning volunteers and donors into advocates is what leads to exponential growth for your organization.

Both supporters and advocates are essential in reaching an audience and teaching others about your cause, but how are they different? Generally, supporters believe in your mission and want to see the organization succeed. They probably follow you on social media and pay attention to your updates, but they don’t actively promote your cause.


Advocates go above and beyond to get the word out, convert others to your cause, and show their loyalty to your organization in countless ways.


There are many things you can do, but here are a few of my favorites:


  1. Make your donors and volunteers feel like rock stars

People who don’t feel appreciated or acknowledged often don’t repeat their actions. If you want to create a culture where people actually want to be a part of your tribe, you have to make the experience an encouraging and inspiring one. Here are some examples:


  • Celebrate first-time givers
  • Find unique ways to honor donors and volunteers
  • Say “thank you!” And then say it again.
  • Share stories where your advocates are the hero
  1. Make inviting others easy

Imagine the nonprofit you give to asks you to post something on your social media to promote their cause. Sure, you'd probably be willing to do that. But at that point, you’re left to search the depths of your iPhone library for a relevant image, and then you try and crank out a caption that you hope does it justice.


Now imagine that the same nonprofit provides you with a social media graphic and a beautiful caption to include when posting about the cause. Which situation is more likely to result in you posting?


This is just one simple example, but you have to make it easy for advocates to be advocates. People are busy and even if they want to help invite people to follow your cause or ministry, if there are barriers of any kind, there's a good chance they won't engage that opportunity.


  1. Give them something to brag about

Celebrate your wins and communicate it to your tribe! Find ways to consistently tell stories (they don’t all have to be the big accomplishments in your annual reports). The more you can communicate your successes, the more your advocates can be your megaphone. Tell them how many people got baptized on Sunday. Tell them exactly what their last gift accomplished. Create a video for sharing, recapping an impactful story they were a part of.


Brag about the difference they are making, and there’s a good chance they want the world to know too.


  1. Create a campaign they can invite people to participate in

This is a big one. Sometimes it can be hard for someone to want to invite another person into an indefinite timeline of loyalty. Creating campaigns or project-focused initiatives will help your advocates feel like the “ask” is less risky for the other person to engage. For example:


“Hey, come to church with me” can feel a lot more endless and ambiguous than “Hey, come to this 3-week series about relationships with me.”


Or, “please give to XYZ Nonprofit” feels a lore more involved than, “XYZ Nonprofit is trying to build a well in a village of India, and we need $1,000 more to reach our goal. Will you help and donate to this project?”


Creating a campaign that is more concise and specific than just the nonprofit as a whole can help advocates share their heart for your cause, while also increasing the chances that they feel more confident about others wanting to participate. Providing on-ramps that are easily accessible will increase the chance that more people experience your work.



Developing advocates takes time. And there is a lot of intentionality and work that goes into taking a person from simply being aware of your cause, to donating, to then sharing your cause with others. But it will be well worth your time and ultimately will help lead your organization to scalable growth.


P.S. To listen in to this conversation and go deeper in Pete's experience creating teams of advocates, check out our latest podcast episode here.

5 Must-Do Non-Profit Marketing Strategies From the Pandemic.