The GuideStar Blog retired September 9, 2019. We invite you to visit its replacement, the Candid Blog. You’re also welcome to browse or search the GuideStar Blog archives. Onward!

GuideStar Blog

6 Tips for Turning Advocates into Donors and Vice Versa

Advocacy —
noun | ˈad-və-kə-sē | ad·vo·ca·cy — Publicly recommending or supporting a particular cause

Given the definition of advocacy, it’s odd that it isn’t more regularly paired with nonprofit fundraising. The two are so closely connected and, yet, rarely spoken about in conjunction with one another.

Well, let’s change that!

If you think your donors are disengaged and disinterested in future gifts, you could have a problem when it comes to effectively communicating your cause. Invested donors are often moved by your cause and your work.

That cause connection goes hand-in-hand with advocacy. Advocacy is all about causes. Representing them. Fighting for them. Supporting them. It’s cemented in the term’s definition.

Recognize the relationship between advocates and donors and use it as a two-way street to leverage support. Re-engage your donors through advocacy opportunities and find new donor prospects in your advocate pool. It’s symbiosis; it’s forward-thinking philanthropy.

With these six tips, you’ll have no shortage of chances to convert advocates into donors and donors into advocates:

In case you want to skip ahead to certain points, here’s a brief overview of what we’ll be covering:

Part One — Turning Advocates into Donors

  1. Align advocate interests with fundraising opportunities.
  2. Promote donating during advocacy outreach.
  3. Incorporate fundraising into your advocacy events.

Part Two — Turning Donors into Advocates

  1.   Explore why donors give to your organization in the first place.
  2.   Offer engagement activities for your current donors.
  3.   Ask your social influencers to get involved.

For an extensive resource on all things advocacy, examine Salsa’s in-depth advocacy guide.

Part One — Turning Advocates into Donors

1. Align advocate interests with fundraising opportunities.

When people advocate for your cause, similar causes, or aspects of your cause, they’re showing an interest in the work you do…even if they don’t realize it. That’s where you come in.

If you can find people in your network whose advocacy mirrors the work you’re doing to serve your mission, that’s a pairing worth exploring.

Think of the process as a form of prospect research. Add advocacy interests as a data type in your list of potential donor indicators.

After you’ve found the advocates whose interests align with your cause, consider the traditional indicators of giving capacity like philanthropic history and wealth markers. 

Imagine a Venn diagram with one circle dedicated to giving capacity and the other dedicated to advocates who align with your cause. The overlap is your ideal prospect pool.

Segment that list and match prospect groups with various fundraising opportunities that would most appeal to them.

Those opportunities could include:

  • Your major giving program.
  • A capital campaign you’re in the process of launching.
  • A crowdfunding campaign you’re organizing.
  • Plus, many more!

As long as you’re proactive about tracking advocates in your contact management system, you can be empowered to locate donors among your advocate pool.

2. Promote donating during advocacy outreach.

While advocacy should be the primary focus of your advocacy campaigns, there will be plenty of opportunities to market giving within your outreach.

Incorporate donation information and links into your various outreach materials, such as:

  • Emails
  • Dedicated web pages
  • Tweets
  • Facebook posts
  • Online petitions
  • Direct mailings
  • Newsletters
  • And more

There’s no reason to exclude a few lines of copy that remind advocates that donating is a great way of supporting your cause.

Asking for donations is always going to be a high-priority for any nonprofit (check out this guide for some great advice on that front). It’s built into the organizational structure.

So take advantage of the promotional channels you’ve already set up for advocacy outreach.

3. Incorporate fundraising into your advocacy events.

In a similar vein to promoting donating during outreach, you can incorporate fundraising into your advocacy events.

This multi-purpose promotion can occur in a variety of ways, including:

  • As a note within an event invitation: Like you would do with the various marketing materials mentioned in the above point, simply add a few lines of text or even just a ‘donate’ button to the invitations you email out.
  • In collection jars at the actual events: It might sound a little old school, but you should never underestimate the “spare-change donations” you can gather if your group of event attendees is large enough.
  • Via mobile giving opportunities: Using a mobile giving platform, you can encourage attendees to text-to-give.
  • As a follow up to the event itself: First and foremost, it’s important to follow up with acknowledgments after any advocacy event. Once you’ve done that, though, you’ll want to keep your supporters engaged. Recommending fundraising involvement is a great suggestion.

When in doubt, tally up all the touchpoints your organization has with your advocacy event attendees. Then, work through that list with an eye for areas where you can include giving promotions.


Turning advocates into donors is not about funneling all your advocates into your donor pool. It’s about recognizing opportunities to engage your advocates in new ways.

Between the three tips mentioned above, you’ll have no shortage of chances to find donors among your advocates.

Likewise, there’s an equal advantage in turning donors into advocates. Let’s explore that opportunity now.


Part Two — Turning Donors into Advocates

4. Explore why donors give to your organization in the first place.

In many ways, advocacy is at the core of why a donor contributes to begin with. If you can determine the exact cause root of a supporter’s decision to contribute, you’re well on your way to turning that donor into an advocate.

Your mission and the work you do is likely vast. You certainly have concrete goals, but not every fundraiser and organizational activity is going to appeal to every donor.

Donors financially support the work that they specifically care about. Not everyone is interested in donating to a general fund.

For example, if you’re organizing a capital campaign to pay for renovations to your university’s library and someone chooses to donate, they’re choosing to donate to a highly-specific endeavor.

By looking into what inspires your supporters to donate, you can leverage that knowledge to give them opportunities to advocate for those very reasons.

You can do so by studying their giving habits.

Just like the capital campaign example, you can use a donor’s past giving history to find trends in why they give in the first place. Then, your team can approach those donors with customized appeals for how they can get involved as advocates.

Increase the likelihood that a donor will get involved by asking them to advocate for campaigns that line up with their interests.

5. Offer engagement activities for your current donors.

In terms of engagement, advocacy can go a long way towards deepening the bond between your donors and your organization.

You’ve likely heard the advice that you should encourage your donors to volunteer. It gives them a first-hand perspective on the work you’re doing on a day-to-day basis.

The process can work similarly with advocacy.

Think of advocacy as another avenue through which you can show your donors what their funds have helped with.

The sky’s the limit as far as engaging donors as advocates goes.

You can:

  • Ask a donor to sign or deliver a petition.
  • Invite a donor to attend an advocacy event.
  • Request that a donor shares promotional advocacy materials.
  • And so much more.

For instance, imagine what it might mean to a major gift donor to see how their sizeable donation is affecting the work you’re able to accomplish.

A big accomplishment in terms of advocacy, like the successful passing of a bill, is going to get more press and news coverage than some of your other, equally relevant and important work.

Let your major donors in on those huge moments. The joy from such moments is contagious and can prove incredibly effective in helping to convince major donors to continue to support your organization in such a financially substantial way.

Aim to give your donors the kind of advocacy experiences that will help cement powerful memories of your organization’s service in their minds.

6. Ask your social influencers to get involved.

A big factor in the success of any advocacy effort is the campaign’s ability to grow and reach new audiences.

Get your social influencers involved early and you’ll see that spread happen far sooner and far more effectively.

What do we mean by social influencers?

In the most simple of terms, a social influencer is a trend-setter. They’re the kind of people whose posts on social media have sway. They can motivate public opinion by giving something a stamp of approval.

How does social influence factor into advocacy and donors?

One word: momentum.

Productive advocacy campaigns rely on momentum. They capture public support across social media and build on that enthusiasm in order to accomplish their aims.

To help kickstart said momentum, ask your donors with social influence to reach out to their respective networks.

That way, the donors get to see a new side of your organization, and your organization’s work reaches a whole new range of prospects for various activities from donating to volunteering to advocating.

Empower your social influencers to promote your advocacy efforts by giving them the tools to succeed.

That could mean you do anything from making sure your campaign’s marketing materials are mobile responsive to inviting those social influencers to an educational meeting where you explain your advocacy goals.

Advocacy campaigns require the assistance of social influencers. And you have plenty of social influencers waiting in your donor pool. It’s a perfect match in waiting.

Well, there you have it: six ways to turn donors into advocates and vice versa.

The relationship between being a donor and being an advocate is fluid. The more fluid the relationship, the more your organization benefits. It’s as simple as that.

Blake_Groves.jpgThe preceding is a guest post by Blake Groves, Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at Salsa Labs. With more than 20 years in technology solutions and consulting, Blake comes equipped with hands-on knowledge of sales, consulting, product management and marketing. 

Topics: Fundraising Donors