Tell It! (Or Better Yet ... Don't!)
There’s no better way to build interest, increase engagement and get gifts than letting your supporters, beneficiaries and partners do the talking via testimonials. You’ve seen testimonials for every type of program, issue and organization imaginable. They’re brief quotes from members of your nonprofit’s network — donors, beneficiaries, clients, volunteers, members or community stakeholders — that clearly and briefly express how your organization’s work has benefited their lives or those of their families or communities. Still, few organizations use testimonials to full effect.
Take a look at these model testimonials that could be the lynchpin of your next appeal. These powerful examples are drawn from nonprofit fundraising campaigns and websites:
Donor: I had the opportunity to witness the growth and development of children in need when I volunteered at Berea Children’s Home and Family Services while in college. The children had experienced so much hurt from the past. This season, our families just really wanted to make a difference … so we all made gifts to BCHFS. [We] could not be more satisfied and confident knowing that our gifts positively impact children’s lives.
Client: I came into the hospital a very nervous hip replacement patient. I left confident and relaxed, comfortable with my ability to care for myself and my family … You cared for me intensely when I needed care, and let me care for myself when I was ready. What more could a rehabilitation patient ask for?
Volunteer: The hours that I spend volunteering for HOM are the best part of my week. I always look forward to coming into the office and seeing other volunteers and the delightful staff, and I especially cherish the times when I go visit patients. I feel that discovering Hospice has been one of the greatest events in my life.
Adding a name, title and employer to a testimonial really powers it up. Adding a headshot, as well, sends it over the top!
Why testimonials work
For prospective donors, volunteers, partners and others, there’s nothing more valuable than hearing from peers on what their experiences have been with your organization and its programs and services. Testimonials carry more credibility than anything you could say yourself. And, others speaking about your nonprofit may have glowing comments about your work that you would be embarrassed to share yourself.
Your prospects expect you to go on and on about the impact of your nonprofit or the importance of your new program. However, when you have someone who has experienced that benefit firsthand, those comments are much more convincing and effective!
Keep this in mind though: The most powerful testimonials aren’t about your organization; they’re about how someone much like the prospect has benefited from involvement with your organization. So the more specific and genuine the testimonials, the more they’re likely to move your prospects to give or give again.
How to get and use testimonials
Here are some tips on getting and using testimonials for all they’re worth:
- Follow up regularly with donors, beneficiaries, volunteers and others, asking for feedback. Doing so via a personal call or e-mail is best for donors, while online surveys can work well for large numbers of program participants or volunteers. You can even use mini-polls via Facebook and Twitter. Follow up as soon after your interaction with your audiences as possible, while the experience is still fresh.
- Ask for one or two sentences describing the value of the experience with your organization, whether it be donors, program participants or the families of those who graduated from your GED program. Tell people what to focus on (i.e., what point is most useful to you in motivating donations). To be really proactive, build that focus — when possible — on an objection your prospects are likely to have.
- Provide an example to make it easier for your supporters to craft useful statements. You can even draft a testimonial to be approved or revised.
- Request permission to use the testimonials in your fundraising campaigns and other marketing content.
- Take the testimonial you get and shape it into a brief but powerful statement. Limit testimonial length to one or two brief sentences, with a photo whenever you can get it.
- To ensure credibility, include the name and title of the person contributing the testimonial and the name of his or her business or organization, if relevant. In some cases, issues of confidentiality make attribution impossible. If this is the case, create a profile to serve as an attribution, e.g., “Donny R., 30 years old, and WHR dental patient for more than 10 years.”
- Integrate testimonials in general and more targeted communications, both online and offline — not just your ask content.
- Make sure to refresh your testimonials on an ongoing basis to reflect current programming and campaigns.
Start your testimonial collection campaign today. Yes, get out there and start soliciting testimonials from audiences right now. Remember to ask for testimonials whenever possible, and use them often and wisely!
In addition to great marketing content, you’ll get useful insights to strengthen the way your organization does business. Bonus!
Nancy Schwartz is president of Nancy Schwartz & Co. and author of the Getting Attention! blog. She also is a member of the FundRaising Success Editorial Advisory Board. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org