Influencer marketing has been a buzzword for a while now and for good reason. Fashion and beauty brands in particular were quick to discover the benefits of working with both well-known and up-and-coming influencers in a bid to reach new audiences online, yet surprisingly, when it comes to not-for-profit organisations, this approach is still in its infancy.

Statistics continually prove that consumers are more likely to trust third party recommendations, and bringing influencers into the mix is a great opportunity to amplify a message and reach an audience that might have gone undiscovered using your normal tried and trusted strategy.

As a charity, you may already have one or two patrons of celebrity or notable status that you could draw upon to help promote your cause, but the first step is to assess whether they truly are the right fit for your organisation based on a number of key criteria.

Actor Stephen Fry, who is a patron of the charity Missing People, is one of the few celebrity patrons who regularly turn to social media to help raise awareness. Stephen supported their latest Christmas campaign encouraging those who are missing to send a letter to their loved ones using the Freepost Missing People address. He, helpfully, has a following of over 12 million people and is well-known for actively supporting charities that are close to his heart.

It’s imperative that whoever you choose is passionate about your cause and relevant to your target market – by this we mean their own audience should match the one you are trying to connect with.

Savvy audiences can tell when someone isn’t being genuine. And if they’re writing about something they love and advocate then others are more likely to sit up and take notice.

While the likes of Angelina Jolie and Kate Middleton are well-known for their work as patrons and ambassadors for various organisations, the truth is you don’t have to turn to traditional celebrities to engage new audiences. It’s no longer enough for patrons just to be papped at fundraising events – reaching audiences online is key.  At the time of research, Angelina Jolie did not have her own verified Twitter account, while Kate is sharing hers with hubby William and Prince Harry (@KensingtonRoyal).

This is perhaps why it’s important to decide whether your current patron, or one that you are considering approaching, is likely to generate the reach you need. Their name and status alone cannot guarantee to get your message out to new audiences unless they are active on social or in the blogosphere.

The power of influence

By their very nature, influencers have a large and loyal fan base, normally amassed from their expertise in a certain area. They are looked up to, and in some cases, as soon as they endorse something, their community will go out and buy it.  As Jay Baer, Author & Business Strategist says, “True influence drives action, not just awareness.”

Some charities are starting to take note of the benefits of using influencers, bloggers and vloggers to get their message out there in ways that they may not have been able to before. YouTube woodworking sensation Steve Ramsey used his influence to encourage people to make a toy aeroplane and raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation – allowing the charity to be visible to a whole new demographic.

Another YouTube star, Zoella, became the first Digital Ambassador for mental health charity Mind. But this was no unusual partnership; ‘Zoe’ has been very public about suffering from anxiety, so for her audience – she has over 11 million subscribers alone on YouTube – the partnership felt natural, so it was perhaps little surprise that the #DontPanicButton Campaign generated a huge social reach and had over 1.5 million interactions thanks to her involvement.

A charity relies on engaging new and existing donors and a social media influencer is one way to ensure success, but before diving straight in, you need to give some thought to who would be the perfect partner.

Influencers don’t necessarily fit a certain mould – they could be industry experts, up-and-coming photographers, make-up artists – the list is endless – and the more creative the collaboration, the more successful it is likely to be. For example, Refuge UK teamed up with a popular YouTube artist Lauren Luke to produce a poignant video on how to cover up bruises to the face and neck from domestic violence. The video has over 2.5 million views and over 21,000 likes on YouTube and is one such example of a clever collaboration between an influencer and a charity.

You may already be a well-known charity, but the more influence you have online, the more appealing you will be to an influencer, especially if you are a cause they care about. Be aware that the majority of influencers and bloggers expect an incentive for their time and efforts. Many of them already have daytime jobs and while they remain as passionate as the day they began, they have probably spent hours building their community and reputation.

When you approach an influencer, you need to make them feel valued. Take time to consider how you can make the partnership mutually beneficial. As a charity, you may not want to part with your precious funds, but be aware that some influencers will already have media packs and rate cards which can be requested in advance.

From the very outset you should be thinking of ways to help the partnership evolve and become long-lasting:

–          Will it help raise their profile? You never know, it might present the ideal opportunity if they’ve not been linked to a charity before.

–          If you’re working to tackle something they have an interest in, then the likelihood is they will be more willing to lend a helping hand. They may want to be involved first-hand which opens up opportunities to collaborate. By their very nature, influencers are creative and know their audience and subject matter inside out so don’t be afraid to sit down and brainstorm – the end results could be a very impactful campaign.

When it comes to identifying potential patrons, mummy bloggers are very popular with readers and brands alike and they can be the ideal fit for children’s charities. Helen Wills, blogger of Actually Mummy, writes regularly about diabetes (her daughter has Type 1 Diabetes), attends conferences, fundraises and raises awareness of the illness. Helen states that she is happy to be contacted regarding ambassador status. It can be very beneficial for both parties when the blogger is personally affected by a plight which your own charity is closely aligned with.

Other bloggers may already have a vested interest in charities, for example Kate Davis-Holmes of Striking Mum, says she is ‘keen to raise awareness of charity services, campaigns and fundraising initiatives’ and has a whole section dedicated to charity on her blog.

Whether searching for bloggers who are interested in promoting charities in general, or going more granular and reach out to the influencers of a chosen target market, any charity is bound to find that influencer marketing can provide the credibility and amplification you need to raise the profile of the organisations’ cause, either as a standalone strategy or part of a more integrated campaign.

Julie Venis

Julie Venis


Julie Venis, Content & Social PR executive, equimedia.