Let Others Speak for You
Letting someone else say your nonprofit is terrific can break through to potential donors better than any of your well-crafted appeals. We all like to make good decisions — and knowing that So-and-So thinks a donation to your organization is a smart investment can be the tipping point for some potential donors. Endorsements can “just happen,” but more often than not, they are the result of proactive effort on the part of the nonprofit.
Start small, medium or large — just start!
Sure, we would all like to have the huge name endorse our nonprofit. “If only” is fine for the first 10 minutes of an annual strategy meeting, but then it’s time to get to work. Realistically, who can you secure an endorsement from?
Think about local elected officials, community leaders or respected members of the faith or business community. Who came to your recent events? Who can identify with your mission because of a personal or family situation? Who is a friend of a board member?
Often, having a few respected endorsements paves the way for more (and bigger) ones. So begin where you can, and continue to expand. Different voices communicate better with different people, so the more endorsements you have, the more likely you are to connect with a potential supporter.
Be prepared to work for it
Getting an endorsement may be as easy as five words: “Will you endorse our organization?” But more often than not, you have to invest some effort.
Review any speeches the person has made and see if he or she mentioned your organization. What about editorials or other printed materials? In conversation with you, did he or she say something that was a great endorsement? If so, memorize it and write it down as soon as possible.
Some people will write an endorsement, but many prefer you to give them a suggested paragraph that they can (but often won’t) edit. That’s where your earlier work comes in handy. Using words that came right from their mouths establishes a level of comfort and often minimizes editing. Be realistic, though; you’re more likely to get someone to agree to say you are a good organization that is worthy of support than that you are the best organization in the entire universe and that only a fool wouldn’t support you.
Use terms and phrases that the person normally uses. Capturing his or her pattern of speech leads to the feeling that, “This is exactly what I would say.” One of the “highs” for me was hearing a major celebrity endorse an organization using the exact words I had written; it was obvious I had captured his voice and the nuances of his speech.
Ask, thank, ask again
Once you have written or extrapolated an endorsement, ask permission to use it. Then ask again every so often, perhaps with an updated version if desired. Don’t just assume that saying “yes” now is a blanket approval for the rest of time.
Treat your endorser like you do a donor; send an appreciation letter from time to time, and if you send out a calendar or other small token gift, make sure your endorsers get one with a personal note of gratitude. This helps keep the bond they feel with your organization strong, and will help you stay top-of-mind throughout the year.
Having more endorsements than you can use at any one time is a terrific problem to have. Even a non-famous person can be a great endorsement in the right circumstance (for example, to confirm that your work is best practice in a particular field), so cast your net wide.
Having many endorsements also means you aren’t caught short if one of your endorsers gets in the press for all the wrong reasons. The more famous they are, the more likely controversy will spring up, it seems. So be ready to yank an endorsement if the situation warrants.
Letting others speak for your nonprofit can be a big boost to your fundraising. But remember: You can’t get them and forget them. FS
Pamela consults with nonprofits, helping them develop their fundraising strategy and writing copy to achieve their goals. Additionally, she teaches fundraising at two universities, hoping to inspire the next generation of fundraisers to be passionate about the profession. Previously, Pamela led the fundraising programs for nonprofit organizations. Pamela is a member of the Advisory Panel for Rogare, the fundraising think tank at Plymouth University’s Hartsook Centre for Sustainable Philanthropy, a CFRE, a graduate of Wheaton College (IL) and Dominican University, and holds a Doctorate in Business Administration from California Southern University. Contact Pamela at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @pjbarden.