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How to Collect and Use Testimonials for Your Nonprofit

Are you searching for more effective ways to build interest and action for your nonprofit? There’s no better way than letting your supporters and partners do the talking with testimonials.

You’ve seen testimonials for every type of program, issue, and organization imaginable. A testimonial is a brief quote from a member of your nonprofit’s network—donor, volunteer, client, staffer, member, or community stakeholder—that clearly and briefly expresses how your organization’s work has benefited her life or that of her family or community. Few of us, however, use testimonials to full effect.

Take a look at what could be. These powerful examples are drawn from nonprofit 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 in 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 as 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.

Add a name, title, and employer name and the testimonial powers up.

“It is always wonderful to see what we accomplish during our projects. We really feel like we make a difference by improving the land and beautifying the urban wilds,”said Matt Lynde, a Boston Cares project leader who works with EarthWorks Projects to spruce up and landscape wildlife sanctuaries in Boston.

Add a headshot and the testimonial really comes to life.

Nothing you or your colleagues say is as strong as the words of your supporters’ peers, friends, or family.

Why Testimonials Work

For prospective donors, volunteers, partners, and others, nothing is more valuable than hearing from peers about their experiences with your organization and its programs and services. Testimonials carry more credibility than anything you could say yourself. Plus, others may have glowing comments about your nonprofit’s work that you may be embarrassed to share yourself.

Your prospect expects you to go on and on about the impact of your nonprofit or the importance of your new program. However, when others who benefit from your organization’s work share its value—the difference it makes in their lives—their comments are convincing and accepted!

But keep this in mind: 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. The more specific and genuine the testimonials, the more likely they are to move your people.

How to Get Testimonials and Use Them for All They’re Worth

  1. Follow up regularly with clients, volunteers, donors, and others and ask for feedback. Doing so via an online survey service such as SurveyMonkey can be effective, or try a mini-poll via Facebook. Follow up as soon as possible after your interaction with your audiences, while the experience is still fresh.
  2. Ask for one or two sentences describing the value of the experience with your organization, whether it be program participation, giving, or use of your counseling service. Try to focus testimonials on countering likely prospect objections, such as how volunteering takes a lot but doesn’t give much back.
  3. Provide an example to make it easier for your supporters to craft a useful statement. You can even draft a testimonial to be okayed or revised.
  4. Request permission to use the testimonials in your marketing and fundraising campaigns.
  5. Shape the testimonial into a brief but powerful statement. Limit testimonial length to one or two short sentences, and include a photo whenever you can get one.
  6. To ensure credibility, include the name and title of the person contributing the testimonial and the name of their business or organization, if relevant. In some cases, confidentiality issues will make attribution impossible. In this case, create a profile to serve as an attribution; for example, “Donny R., 30 years old, WHR dental patient for more than 10 years.”
  7. Integrate testimonials in general and more targeted communications, both online and offline. Spreading testimonials throughout your online and offline channels and campaigns has far greater impact than concentrating them on a single page. By spreading them out, prospects are more likely to see them even if they don’t read every page.
  8. Refresh your testimonials on an ongoing basis to reflect current programming and campaigns.

Start Your Testimonial Collection Campaign Today

Get out there and start soliciting testimonials from audiences today. Remember to ask for testimonials whenever possible—and ask, train, and support your colleagues, especially those on the frontlines, to do so as well—and use them often and wisely!

P.S. In addition to great marketing content, you’ll get useful insights to strengthen the way your organization does business. Bonus!

By Nancy Schwartz

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