Thar’s Gold in Them Thar Testimonials!

September 6, 2011

Are you making it a practice to collect testimonials?

“Say what???”  Testimonials?  What are testimonials?

Testimonials are snippets of conversations that you’re probably having on a daily basis.  They’re pure gold and chances are you’re letting them slip though your fingers!

  • When a guest at your recent event raves about the work your organization is doing.
  • When, in the course of your phone call to a donor, thanking them for their gift, the donor relates a story about how your organization helped her mother.
  • When a mother calls your offices to tell you that her son’s English grade has gone from a D to a B+, thanks to the work your organization has been doing with him.
  • When a foundation funder sends a special note along with their grant check.

Testimonials attesting to your good works can come from a variety of sources, from donors, to clients served, to board members to staff members to volunteers to Facebook fans.

And a pithy, well-crafted testimonial can give life to all of your nonprofit marketing copy – from your website, to your appeal letters, to your monthly giving campaign, to your grant proposals, to your email communications, to your social media.

When you make it a habit to listen, you’ll find collecting testimonials coming second nature to you.

  • Make a practice of making regular thank you calls.  Spend just 30 minutes a day on the phone connecting with your donors.
  • Spend time “in the field.”  Whether you’re raising money for a human service agency or a museum, spend some time on a tour, listening to the questions.  Take a seat at the one of the tables at your soup kitchen
  • What are your Facebook supporters saying about you?
  • Could you conduct a contest to gather reviews on a site like Great Nonprofits?  Check out the phenomenal testimonials The Telling Room has gathered.

Use your imagination.  Compile a drawerful of testimonials for copywriting magic!

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Jacobwith September 7, 2011 at 7:50 pm

I also call these “mission moments.” Having real, tangible stories to share about your clients, donors and volunteers makes a regular conversation become memorable and can help an organization stand out from the crowd. Thanks for this post, Pamela!

Esther James September 8, 2011 at 11:41 am

Great advice, as always! I do notice that testimonials tend to be less powerful when they’re not attributed to a specific person. In cases when privacy is an issue, the quote could still be made less anonymous by citing a source as, for example, “mother of a 15-year-old program participant.”

Pamela Grow September 8, 2011 at 11:44 am

Thanks Esther!

Gail Perry September 11, 2011 at 7:35 pm

Hi Pamela, what a terrific reminder! I think testimonials bring a sort of “social credibility” to a nonprofit’s work. And the perspective both of donors, “friends,” beneficiaries – are all great to weave into materials.

Tony Martignetti September 11, 2011 at 9:38 pm

People are typically very willing to help. It’s rare you’ll be turned down when you solicit a testimonial. The occasional donor will prefer anonymity, and, as mentioned above, that weakens the message.

Outside fundraising, I ask for them all the time for my radio show. Including short video testimonials.

Ask proudly and you will receive.

Sherry Truhlar October 2, 2011 at 10:04 pm

Pamela, more great marketing advice. I am waiting for part two from you where you touch on the best structure of a testimonial. I have found that clients get good results when they can ask just 2 or 3 questions that point people in the direction of a concise testimonial.

And I\’d add emails to your list of places that are frequent feeders of testimonials. I am often delighted by a forward of an email when someone took time to share the impact of a nonprofit.

Gary Bukowski CFRE February 12, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Pamela,you are right on target… testomonials are truly a lot more important than one can believe,having been in this calling for years I have seen the incredible power they can play in one’s fundraising program and the good will that is woven into your non profit through the use of them.

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