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How to Partner With Social Influencers

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Published August 9, 2016 Reading Time: 4 minutes

You’ve likely heard about the rise of digital influencers—everyday people who build loyal audiences on platforms such as Youtube, Instagram, and Snapchat. Odds are you even follow a few yourself. Today, these micro-influencers play an important role in the distribution of information—even in the social impact space.

Your organization can build partnerships with these key influencers to raise awareness for your cause and serve your mission. In fact, many businesses and nonprofits have partnered with this new wave of influencers and digital leaders in creative ways.

Recently, charity: water joined forces with social media influencer @BrandenHarvey for a digital channel takeover campaign. Branden pushed storytelling content from his own Instagram and Snapchat accounts (150K+ reach), and then took over charity: water’s social media accounts during their huge annual charity: ball. Branden’s social media takeover at the event allowed supporters outside of NYC to get an intimate view of the gala and feel like they were participating from afar.

“Branden is one of the most genuine and authentic people you’ll ever meet and it’s reflected throughout his creative use of storytelling.

At charity: water, we believe stories have the power to change the world, and it wouldn’t be possible without collaborating with incredible storytellers like Branden.”

Cubby Graham

Social media strategist at charity: water

Last spring, UNICEF partnered with Snapchat influencers to bring awareness to the plight of the hundreds of thousands of children affected by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, through the #BringBackOurChildhood campaign. Snapchat was specifically chosen for this initiative because it’s “a social platform where messages disappear, [and it highlights] the plight of the hundreds of thousands of children who are missing out on their childhoods as a result of the conflict,” a press release from UNICEF states.

To tell their stories, UNICEF teamed up with top Snapchat users to send out snaps that were inspired by drawings created by children who’d been displaced as a result of the conflict in Northeast Nigeria.

Identify Your Social Influencers

If you’re wondering how your nonprofit can also tap into this new method of information distribution, have no fear. There are likely a few digital micro-influencers interested in your nonprofit’s work already. To discover potential partners, you can use a program like SocialRank to see which members of your community have large followings. Remember, you want passion over flash-in-the-pan activism. Someone with a following of 10,000 who knows and loves your work is more valuable than someone with 50,000 followers who isn’t a true advocate for your cause.

You can also review #hashtags (on Twitter and Instagram) related to your focus, and pay attention to the posts that have a lot of engagement to identify possible partners. A post with a lot of interaction is most likely by someone who has a large active following. Don’t forget to get creative with your potential partnerships. If your nonprofit works with animals, don’t just think about animal activists, consider famous pets, like Grumpy Cat, too!

Connect With Your Influencers

Once you have a few people in mind, think through some fun ways you might work with them. You can start with a simple social media promotion strategy for an upcoming campaign or go all out with a social media takeover, but here are a few ideas to get you started:

Create a Social Media Influencer Group

Create an invite-only group of supporters who are the first to hear about anything exciting happening at your organization. Give them special attention in the same way you would engage a large donor. They have the ears of thousands of people, so help them celebrate your organization’s work and make them feel like they’re part of the team.

Invite Your Influencers to Your Office

Have them come in for a day to get to know your team and see behind the scenes. You can even ask them to document their day and let them know that your organization will promote anything they share about their experience.

Plan a Social Media Take-Over for an Event

This can be an intimidating idea for any organization, but if it’s someone your team knows and trusts, it can be a great way to generate a lot of live content at your next fundraising event. Plus, delegating your social media for event coverage frees up your team to stay focused on interacting with supporters.

Recruit a Social Media Influencer Team for Your Next Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Event

If your organization hosts runs, walks, or even bake sales, consider pulling together a digital influencer team for your next event. You can designate influencers as team captains of your other fundraisers or ask them to participate as their own team with a higher combined fundraising goal.

Host a Social Media Influencer Trip

Consider bringing influencers together for a program trip experience. By bringing multiple people together, you help influencers increase their audience and create a community-learning experience.


No matter what, a great way to show your appreciation for an influencer’s support is to give them your support as well. As much as you can, find ways for them to cross-promote with your following or, better yet, with others’ followings. Social media influencers are always looking for ways to grow and invest in their own audience, so by bringing multiple influencers together you’re creating an opportunity that’s valuable for them and for your organization. That way, everyone is learning and growing their audiences together.

It’s also important to realize that many influencers get paid by companies to promote brands and products. Even though your nonprofit might workout a partnership that doesn’t involve any monetary promotion, the partnership they offer is a valuable relationship worth compensation.

If you’ve partnered with social media influencers, I would love to hear about it. Share what worked, what didn’t, and what you think you could improve in the comments below.

Sarah Hale is a freelance, marketing strategist whose passion is helping nonprofits optimize their brand, communications, and fundraising strategies. Over the course of her career she has cultivated numerous creative partnerships for her clients and employers, directly resulting in millions of new audience members, hundreds of thousands of active supporters, and over one million dollars in donations.

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The BIG Guide to Social Media for Nonprofits

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