You’ve seen testimonials for every type of program and service imaginable. They’re brief quotes from a member of your nonprofit’s network — donor, volunteer, client, member or community stakeholder — outlining how your organization’s work has benefited her life, or that of her community.
But you may not realize how potent testimonials can be. Nothing you can say or write has as much impact as comments from your audience, to their peers. Testimonials are as authentic as you can get. Yet, I continue to be surprised at how many nonprofits don’t put testimonials to work.
Take a look at these powerful examples, drawn from nonprofit websites:
“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.”
“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.”
“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?”
For prospective clients, donors, 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 prospect expects 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 first hand, their comments are much more convincing and accepted!
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 real the testimonials — the more specifics the better — the more power they have.
1) Follow up regularly with clients, volunteers, donors and others, asking for feedback. Doing so via an online survey such as Survey Monkey is the most effective approach. Follow up as soon after your interaction with your audiences as possible, while the experience is still fresh.
2) If you use a survey form or email, 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 an objection your prospects are likely to have, such as volunteering takes a lot but doesn’t give much back.
Provide an example to make it easier for your supporters to craft a useful statement. You can even draft a testimonial to be OK-d or revised.
3) 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 when space allows.
4) Request permission to use the testimonials in your marketing and fundraising campaigns.
5) 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, issues of confidentiality will 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 over ten years.”
6) Integrate testimonials in general and more targeted communications, both online and offline. I feel that spreading testimonials throughout your website or brochure has 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.
7) Make sure to refresh your testimonials so they reflect current programming and campaigns.
Yes, get out there and start soliciting testimonials from audiences today. Remember to ask for testimonials whenever possible, and use them often and wisely!
In addition to great marketing copy, you’ll be getting useful input on strengthening the way your organization does its work. Bonus!Read Part Two of this article series here.
About the Author
Nancy E. Schwartz helps nonprofits succeed through effective marketing. Nancy and her team provide marketing planning and implementation services to nonprofit organizations and foundations nationwide. She is also the publisher of the Getting Attention e-update and blog.
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