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Looking for a fundraising tool with untapped potential? You’ll find that your most committed supporters are willing to do more than give. Your advocates, volunteers and donors have amazing potential to contribute as champions of your mission.

Today’s donors want transparency, they demand accountability, and they expect to understand the impact their gifts make. No one can tell the story of support makes an impact better than your existing advocates. By engaging your organization’s advocates in a champion program, you can leverage their energy, connections and skills to expand the reach and effectiveness of your fundraising program.

Champion programs can take many different shapes with different levels of formality. At the end of the day, your goal should be to create opportunities for your organization’s most committed supporters to take more action to impact your mission.

Get your Champions on Board

Many of your champions will have already identified themselves in some way. Who is already an outspoken supporter? Consider who is already a strong contributor to your organization, a vocal supporter of your organization within your community, or highly engaged with your organization on social media.

Reach out to your colleagues for their ideas, too. They’ll be familiar with donors, volunteers and other program partners that may be willing to champion your organization’s causes more directly.

Don’t forget those who have been personally impacted by your organization. They can tell the story of your organization’s impact better than anyone, and their authentic voice will carry immense weight when asking potential donors to get involved.

Invite your potential champions through personal outreach, leveraging personal connections already have with your organization so that the invite comes from a trusted source. Spend time learning more about the potential champion and their passions, ideally through in-person meetings.

You can use this guide to identify the best way to reach out to specific units or groups on campus.

Equip Your Champions

Building the infrastructure to foster champion enthusiasm reaps long term benefits. Make clear from the start what you’ll expect from your champions and what you will do to support them.

As you define what champions do for your organization, zero in on how they should engage their own personal networks and also advocate broadly for the causes. Beyond advocacy, consider other ways they can lend support, like promotion for specific initiatives, sharing updates, and stewardship.

Educate them on the ways philanthropic support makes a difference on your insitution. Today’s donors want to understand exactly how their gifts make an impact. Provide champions with language to work from, identifying what should be said “as is” and what aspects they should put in to their own words.

Think of it as guidelines with lots of space for them to use their authentic voice. Develop a toolkit to organize messaging and any timelines they should be working against.

Ensure your champions are comfortable making an ask for support. Encourage the framing of their asks in terms of an invitation, an invitation to join them in making a difference for the organization. Fundraising can be intimidating. Recognize their potential discomfort and reassure your champions of the value of their efforts on the cause.

Before sending them off, let them know where to go for questions, and what to do with insights they gain from the connections they make.

Foster Enthusiasm

Just like for any supporter, it’s important to acknowledge the contributions of champions. Express gratitude for their commitment and remind them of their accomplishments as a champion. Ensure they receive thanks from different levels of the organization, including those most closely affected by their support.

Mobilize champions to act by setting clear goals and tracking their progress. Avoid vague requests like “spread the word” or “help us reach our goal.” Break goals down to tangible outcomes, and give specific example of what success looks like.

Stay connected with your champions. Pick up the phone or set face-to-face time to keep them updated, to learn from them, and keep their passion alive for a long and prosperous relationship.