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Expanding the Reach of Nonprofits Through the Power of Influencers [Guest Post]

Marcella Vitulli

Read on for insights from Roz Lemieux, CEO at Attentive.ly, on how your nonprofit stands to gain from better leveraging the power of influencers.


Nonprofit organizations thrive and grow by reaching new audiences that can share their message, take action, and help fundraise.

Recently we decided to take a deeper look at the data around engaging influencers across 90 of our nonprofit clients to see how important they can be to growing a supporter base.

Across these nonprofits, which represented almost 20 million supporters, we found that organizations could reach an average of 40 million people via their supporters’ social media networks. Organizations in the study had an average 72,000 socially matched email addresses and list size of approximately 150,000 supporters.

Why influencers?

While each supporter on an organization’s email has the power to spread the word about their great work, influencers are those who hold the greatest power to reach new audiences with actionable content.

Online influencers are individuals that have a large Twitter following, lots of Facebook friends, a blog, and/or another active social account like Instagram or Vine. In addition to their large network, these influencers also have a trusting audience.

By tapping into their power, an organization can be efficient and effective in reaching a wide audience of potential supporters.



See the infographic: The Amazing Network Reach of Nonprofits


Reach further than ever before

In our recent research, we found that the top 5% of influencers (those with the greatest reach) on an organization’s email list can reach an average of 34 million people, or 85 percent of the network’s total reach. This is 200 times greater than the number of people sitting in the organization’s CRM.

When developing an influencer outreach program, an organization needs to consider how many influencers are needed to spread a message across a requisite number of action takers.

On average, with just a 1% response rate from those top 5% of influencers, an organization would only need to engage with 36 people on average, which would have a network reach upwards of 338,000 people. If an organization had a 10% response rate, or 360 people on average, the reach could expand up to 3.3 million people.

Influencers may already be on your list

Engaging an influencer with your organization’s best content takes advantage of the most effective type of marketing – word of mouth.

A BzzAgent study found that not only are influencers 75% more likely to share great experiences about companies online, but 70% of their followers see them as a trusted source.

As we saw earlier, building a relationship with just a few dozen influencers can amplify and endorse your message to hundreds of thousands of people that are actually willing to listen.

How does an organization decide which influencers to engage? In our most recent guide, “How to Identify & Engage Your Influencers,” we found an equation that works best for us for identifying an influencer:

Influencer =

  • Klout

  • Connections

  • Relevancy

  • Prior Interactions

There is a good chance there are a number of influencers already on your organization’s email list. These are people that meet our four criteria: Klout, connections, relevancy, and prior interactions.

The higher the Klout score of a user, the more likely they are to regularly share content and have their audience engage with them.

This person is a great target for nonprofit engagement because there is a higher likelihood that people will respond to their request for action. This is similar for the number of connections a person has – people that are well connected often have followers willing to listen to them.

To understand if an influencer is relevant to your organization’s mission, take some time to listen to what they’re saying online.

What issues are most important to them? Do these issues intersect with your campaigns?

A social listening tool like Attentive.ly can help you make a more informed decision on whether or not this is the right person to promote your campaigns.

Another great option for better understanding influencers is Pulse, a new and free feature from EveryAction that works with Attentive.ly to show what your most influential contacts are talking about on Twitter in real time. Now it’s easier than ever to see what is driving progressive discussions online.

In addition to their interests, it’s far more likely that an influencer will respond to a personalized ask if they’ve already been involved or taken action for your organization’s previous campaigns.

When launching an influencer engagement program, go for the low-hanging fruit and look for influencers that have already signed a petition, attended an event, donated, or taken another action on your behalf.

It’s important to keep in mind that there are different kinds of influencers that can proliferate your actions – these include VIPs (i.e. celebrities), professionals, and citizen influencers.


Citizen influencers are an often overlooked but powerful force for good online.

From a marketing perspective, anyone who isn’t a professional or VIP is a citizen influencer, though they may have fewer connections.

Typically a citizen influencer has over 500 social media connections and a Klout score over 40. These are people that like to use social media to spread the word about important actions, and advocate for issues outside of their immediate professions.

The best way to engage a citizen influence is just to ask (and thank them for their support)!

When soliciting support from an influencer, the initial ask can make or break your response. Be sure to explain why you’re reaching out, recognize them for their importance to your campaign, and provide a simple action ask.

This first ask is usually about asking them to promote your brand or organization to their network, given that they are already talking about the issues your campaign centers around.

Save the ask for them to provide monetary support for a later date. If they are supportive, their help can be rewarded with promotion of their work or matching donations for referrals. Don’t be afraid to be creative with your rewards, but be sure to thank them!


Do you want to learn more about how to extend the reach of your nonprofit and engage influencers hiding out on your list? Sign up for a free social analytics report on up to 5,000 email addresses by visiting Attentive.ly/match.

You can also learn more about downloading our free Quick Guide, “How to Identify & Engage Your Influencers.”

About the author: Roz Lemieux is CEO & Co-founder at Attentive.ly. Follower her on Twitter at @rozlem for more great insights!


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Topics: guest post, engagement