By Saad&Shaw

There are many ways to increase the number of people who are aware of your nonprofit organization and its fundraising activities. These include your website, social media, events, participating in conferences and gatherings, advertising, participating as a panelist at a community event, or sharing information on radio, tv, podcast, or other media. Another way is through the use of an “honorary chair.” This is a strategy for affiliating your work with the work of others, and in so doing, increasing awareness of your work. Here’s how it works. 

When you have an event or a fundraising campaign there are roles for volunteers to play that are important in getting the word out and inviting people to participate and/or to give. These include a chair(s) and an honorary chair(s). Here’s the difference: the chair of an event or a campaign plays a major role in cultivating and soliciting donors, sponsors, and funders; they are actively involved in managing the event or campaign; and they have a feeling of responsibility to do all that they can to ensure the event or campaign meets its goals. 

An honorary chair, on the other hand, plays a more ceremonial role. They are typically individuals who believe in the mission, vision, and work of your nonprofit and who are known for that commitment. This could be a former board member, an author, a professional, an activist, a parent or grandparent. They could be locally known or have an international reputation. What’s most important is that when people hear their name, they have a positive response. This is important because as an honorary chair, their name will be linked with your nonprofit. This provides visibility for your work amongst those who know the honorary chair, but who may not (yet!) know your nonprofit. Their reputation lends creditability to your organization and its vision, and it attracts attention. Likewise, the reputation of your nonprofit adds positively to their profile.

Ideal honorary chairs are people who are loved and respected across the community. They are people who others want to identify with, and who have a history of relationships with donors and prospective donors who you would like to engage. Their role as an honorary chair is simple and straightforward: You want to use their name in your fundraising materials and you would like for them to attend your event or campaign celebration, if possible. That’s it. Once they agree, you want to include their names in all your fundraising and marketing materials. It would be ideal if they would personally open doors for your nonprofit, introducing potential donors to your work, and encouraging them to become involved and to provide funding. Another added benefit would be their willingness to serve as a spokesperson. But again, these are not requirements. Their name alone should catalyze people to want to know more about your nonprofit – and ideally to make a gift. Honorary chairs can be secret superpower to propel your fundraising.