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How to collect and use donor testimonials for your nonprofit

December 12, 2022
Two nonprofit professionals plan how to collect and use donor testimonials.

Testimonials are an opportunity for your nonprofit organization to affirm its impact and inspire meaningful support. These written or spoken statements come from members of your nonprofit’s network—donors, volunteers, staff, members, or community stakeholders—and express how your organization’s work benefited their life, family, or community. 

Most importantly, donor testimonials provide insight into your cause and can inspire your audience to donate or lend their support. 

With the right testimonials, you can evoke emotion in your current supporters and recruit prospective donors by sharing first-hand accounts about the issues that you tackle every day. But first, you have to learn how to collect and use testimonials to your nonprofit’s advantage. 

How donor testimonials work 

For prospective donors, volunteers, and partners, hearing firsthand experiences about your nonprofit organization can be an invaluable tool in deciding whether to support you. Testimonials add credibility to your nonprofit organization’s message by letting people give tangible examples of your organization’s work. 

The most powerful testimonials show how someone benefited from their involvement with your organization. The more specific and genuine the testimonials, the more likely they are to persuade potential supporters.

How to make the most of your donor testimonials 

In addition to requesting donations, stewarding volunteers, and collecting feedback, you should actively ask your supporters for testimonials.

Follow these steps to gather donor testimonials and use them to support your cause: 

  1. Follow up regularly with constituents, volunteers, donors, and other supporters to ask for feedback via an online survey or a social media poll. These questions should be positioned to evoke specific, emotional responses such as “What is your fondest memory about volunteering for our organization?” or “Has attending this event experience impacted you in any way? If so, how?” Avoid using leading questions that may evoke exaggerated stories like, “How amazing was your time with our organization?” 
  2. Request that they provide a one to two sentence statement describing their involvement with your organization, whether they volunteered, donated, or attended an event.
  3. After receiving donor testimonials, look for ones that have a perspective that isn’t commonly shared in your marketing materials or one that could be particularly helpful for other donors to hear. 
  4. Request permission to use your chosen testimonials in your marketing and fundraising campaigns
  5. Depending on how you want to use a given testimonial, it can be helpful to create both a long and short version. The long version would be the entirety or most of a supporter’s response whereas a short version may be a few select quotes. You can also request a photo or video of the supporter to personalize their statement. 
  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, supporters will prefer to remain anonymous or be addressed under a pseudonym. In this case, create a profile to serve as an attribution; for example, “Donor A, 30 years old, homeless shelter resident for more than 10 years.”
  7. Integrate testimonials throughout your online and offline channels, campaigns, and communications. By using a multi-channel marketing approach, prospective donors are more likely to come across your testimonials.
  8. Refresh your testimonials on an ongoing basis to reflect current programming and remain relevant. 

Donors, volunteers, and constituents are involved in your organization because they believe in your cause. Chances are they’ll want to share their experiences with others, especially if it means driving more support to your nonprofit. To gather their stories, you just need to ask!

Powerful examples of personal nonprofit testimonials 

The more testimonials you have, the more complete a story you can tell about your organization’s work. Here are some strong examples of the type of testimonials that you should look for when sorting through feedback:

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.

Constituent: 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.

Program leader: “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.

Testimonials like these explain key aspects of your services and convey how meaningful they are for participants. When looking for testimonials to use in your marketing efforts, choose those that offer fresh perspectives and tell the story of your hard work and dedication. 

Start your nonprofit’s testimonial collection campaign

Just like any other nonprofit marketing outreach, you should request testimonials through a variety of channels such as email, phone, direct mail, and social media. 

Choose the methods that your audience are most likely to respond to, and get started with collecting donor testimonials to fulfill your organization’s purpose.

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    Donor Engagement
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing