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December 10, 2015

A non-profit organization is one that uses its proceeds to achieve a mission or goal. These well intentioned organizations often serve underprivileged sectors of society. However, in a day and age where trust is not so easy to obtain, breaking into these sensitive networks can be extremely difficult. This is especially the case for online start ups. Users are less likely to trust web-based nonprofits even if their online presence is solid as there’s not a lot of face-time with founders and/or grantees to attest to the fact that it is a legitimate organization.




To overcome the difficulty of garnering trust, nonprofits that rely primarily on the internet for their communication and operations have opted to use a particular non-traditional marketing method: the brand ambassador program. A brand ambassador is a personable, trusted and relatable figure who is employed to represent an organization. He or she typically works away from the premises of the organization and is usually a direct member of the target market. His or her goal is to interact with the target market, tangentially with traditional marketing techniques, and increase accessibility and reach to promote a brands products or services. By capitalizing on this word-of-mouth marketing practice, nonprofits are able to reduce costs while building trust face-to-face.


Brand Ambassador Programs have proven to be successful for several different types of industries. Take Lyft, for example. Lyft is a private transportation network company based in San Francisco, California. Lyft uses a mobile phone application to facilitate ride-sharing by allowing passengers and drivers to connect. Given the fear of getting into a strangers car and the fact that the connection between driver and passenger is virtual until they are in the same vehicle, Lyft had to establish its security and reputation to be successful.  It is a prime example of a company with a Brand Ambassador Program that does a great job of doing just that. Lyft targets the right ambassadors and convinces candidates to join its team by

 selling them on the perks and company culture. By promoting its brand so well to its ambassadors, Lyft is able to manage a solid base of brand ambassadors around different campuses who are well-informed and eager to spread the word about the benefits of signing up for Lyft.


Not only have Brand Ambassador Programs been successful for services like Lyft, but they have also proven successful in more sensitive industries such as banking and finance. PNC bank is an example of one such company with a successful brand ambassador program. Brand ambassadors for PNC serve as a trusting voice for those who wish to apply for loans, open checking or savings accounts, or ask other questions that can be daunting—especially for someone new to the banking world. Fear of the unknown is often what drives individuals away. Having a relatable figure come to you who is willing to guide you and answer your questions is comforting and helps make the brand friendlier, approachable and more personable.


Brand ambassador programs are especially important to nonprofits as they are a proven method with low risk and low cost. They also serve to build a community around a cause which is crucial for nonprofits that are trying to make a positive difference in the world with few resources but strong moral foundations.  Brand ambassador programs are widely used on college campuses, and since colleges are full of progressive millennia, brand ambassador programs are great opportunities for nonprofits to implement a marketing technique that leverage university students' interest in community involvement and social justice to promote their cause. It is especially great for online nonprofits because it gives a face to the organization and offers direct testimonial about how the organization affects the lives of others. 




Shreya Barthwal is a junior in the College majoring in Government and Economics. She is a Senior Consultant and has been involved in Hilltop Consultants for two semesters. In addition to Hilltop, Shreya is involved with The Hoya, GU South Asian Society, and dancing with the D.C. Bhangra Crew.


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