pexels-photo-1059116 (1)Thought leaders are influential individuals who are recognised by others as leaders in their area of expertise. They are often seen as the “go-to” person in their field, and are typically seen as forward-thinking, visionary, inspirational problem solvers. Most nonprofits already have several in-house “experts” associated with their organisation that possess the skills, background and experience necessary to become thought leaders, but many NFPs fail to utilise this valuable resource effectively.

Positive Benefits of Thought Leadership

Thought leadership is necessary because it generates public interest in your organisation and its work, and enables you to define a strong brand identity for your nonprofit. It is more than generating positive PR and media buzz, however. It’s also a great way to establish your credibility in your community. As your authority on subjects relating to your work becomes recognised, it creates greater trust and stronger relationships. Each of these benefits combine to attract more volunteers, advocates and donors to your cause. This expands the reach of your messages, making it easier to achieve real progress in advancing your mission and helping your organisation grow and thrive in the long-term.

Identifying Your NFP Thought Leaders – What Each Type Can Bring to the Table

Thought leaders are often grouped together into three broad categories. To create a successful thought leadership program, your NFP will need to identify and develop leaders from each of these groups to broaden your range of support.

1. The founders of your organisation, and its board members, are the leaders that see the big picture when it comes to trying to come up with a unique approach to solve social issues. They can inspire others when they share their vision of what your NFP and its supporters can create together. Often, these future-forward thinkers come with large personalities and compelling personal stories that motivate others to pitch in and do their part to make things better.

2. Your nonprofit’s field leaders offer an insider’s look at what goes on behind the scenes in your organisation. Because of their familiarity with the challenges faced by your NFP and its community, they use their “real world” experience to offer practical solutions to problems. They typically inspire others to act with stories of how they have helped to change the lives of others while working one-on-one with others.

3. Your nonprofit’s executive director, volunteer treasurer, and counsellors are known for their close attention to detail. They are good at gathering and analysing information that can impact your NFP’s work. This type of expert is also able to translate this information into language that’s relatively easy for non-experts to understand. They are trusted because of their ability to analyse and report the facts and can influence others to act because they are great communicators.

Give Your Experts a Voice

Once you have identified your organisation’s experts, give them a platform where they can publicly share their unique insights, ideas and vision with others. Rather than having only one or two people create content for your nonprofit’s website, ask your thought leaders to weigh in on the issues that matter the most to your organisation and its supporters. Conduct interviews with your experts and post them on your NFP’s blog and ask them to create social media posts that offer their perspective on your nonprofit’s work. Host in-person events, such as seminars, expert panels, or conferences where your thought leaders can share what’s on their mind with your community. Allow your experts to investigate social issues and report back with their findings and their suggestions of how your NFP and its community can work together to make things better.

Reach Out to Media Contacts to Leverage Your Expert’s Voice

Keep in mind that you don’t have to confine your thought leaders to your NFP’s own media channels. Actively cultivate relationships with your local media, as well as other decision makers and key influencers that are interested in your cause. Look for ways to showcase the work of your experts and staff by pitching stories to media that allows your staff to show off the results of their hard work. Create a press kit, complete with high-resolution images, details of your latest news, and background information that will make it easier for reporters to give your story a higher profile. Even something as simple as encouraging your organisation’s leaders and staff to write their own stories, summaries and letters to the editor and submitting them to newspapers, journals and other media sources is a great way to start conversations that draw increased attention to your organisation and its work!