On Being An Ambassador

Being an ambassador is a critical role for board members of nonprofits. But, what, exactly, does that mean? Simply telling others about the good work the organization does is nice, but is it effective? Does it make any difference? It can, of course. As a board member at an organization where I was the ED told me a long time ago, “They can’t hug you if they don’t know you.” But knowing you doesn’t ensure hugging. And hugging doesn’t ensure that they will stay close.

So what is it that you might want to accomplish as an ambassador? I’m a big fan of always asking what the endgame is. If I know where I want to end up, it is much easier to figure out the root.

The endgame for an ambassador is to engage others in your community with your organization. As an ambassador, you represent your organization in such a way that you garner respect and interest.

To be an effective ambassador, you must involve others so that they become supporters.

It’s not necessarily your job to ask others to support the organization. It is your job to show and tell them why your organization merits their support.

Part of your ambassadorship is to ensure that the organization learns about those with whom you’ve spoken. Making sure that you alert the staff about a prospect—whether this be someone brand new to the organization or simply someone you have helped to move along the track to making a first, second, or 50th gift, documenting what you’ve done is crucial.

You don’t need to do anything fancy. A phone call would work. So would an email. In fact, in this case, an email might be even better.

In the subject line write: Contact Report—and then add the person’s name

Then, in the body of the email, copy the information off the person’s card (assuming you got one). Note where you ran across this person. If it was a pre-arranged meeting, note that, adding the purpose of the meeting.

In a few short sentences or bullet points, say what occurred at the meeting. If you learned something new about the person, particularly (but not exclusively) their philanthropic self, put that down.

Did you promise them something? Information about the organization? A tour of your facility? A call from the Executive Director? Make sure you very clearly write that down and indicate who owns that move. And then finally, write what your next step is and if you believe someone else needs to also make a move.

This may sound daunting, but after you’ve done a few, you’ll discover how easy they are. Easy, but important.

As board members and staff begin to regularly document all contacts with prospects and donors, more complete profiles will be created. Now, when someone is being considered as a major donor prospect, there will be enough information to justify (or not!) that decision. And, with this sort of paper trail, you will be better equipped to know when and for how much this prospect should be solicited.


Janet Levine works with nonprofits, helping them to increase fundraising capacity and build stronger, more committed boards. Learn more at www.janetlevineconsulting.com or email her at janet@janetlevineconsulting.com