Category Archives: Fundraising

The power of Testimonials

When your organization is searching for consultant, where’s the first place you look? For most of us, we turn first to our trusted colleagues and peers for ‘inside’ stories and perspectives of people we may be considering. But what if a potential recruit doesn’t overlap with our professional networks? In addition to reviewing that recruit’s own CV and bio, many of us then turn to testimonials from past clients or employees who may have similar needs to our own.

That’s why testimonials are one of the most powerful tools in an organization or consultant’s promotional toolbox. Knowing this, I’ve gladly written many short endorsements for others over the years.  Yet so many of us feel too shy, too busy or just never get around to ensuring we have a steady supply of these first-person endorsements of our own work. And I was one of the worst offenders!  Finally, shamed into action when a close colleague recently pointed out that I have no client testimonials on either my website or my blog, I got into gear.  Over the course of a couple of weeks, I asked a number of past and current clients if they’d be willing to write a few sentences about their experience of my work. To my astonishment, every single person I asked readily agreed.  So, finally, I’ve taken the minimal step of posting those testimonials on a separate page on my blog, and put together a few tips for others to consider:

  1. Just ask.  Ask nicely, of course. Clarify that there’s “no pressure” and that you won’t be offended if they don’t respond, don’t have time or don’t feel comfortable – and be sure you mean it!
  2. Make it easy. I took the liberty of dashing a few short bullets to each client outlining the work I’ve done for them (I have a number of long term repeat clients, so it can be easy to lose track). Several used those points as a springboard to their own short paragraphs.
  3. Develop a system. Make it easy for yourself, as well, by ensuring that, once you’ve determined that a client is pleased with the work, you follow your final invoice and/or client evaluation with a request for a short testimonial – while it’s fresh on their minds and yours. Some consultants offer short on-line evaluation surveys, using tools like SurveyMonkey, and include a request for a short endorsement right in the survey.
  4. Share your testimonials! Make sure you publish and use them well. For now, I’ve simply added a single page with all the testimonials I’ve gathered so far in one place.  But the fact is, this is a bare minimum. It’s far more effective to ‘scatter’ your testimonials throughout your site, blog or through other promotional material so that prospective clients, donors or allies have ready access to the good things others have said about your work.

So gather up those testimonials, people!  And check this out: I just stumbled across another fantastic and far more thorough article on using testimonials for marketing, by John Sternal. It’s full of tips on how to gather and use testimonials for small businesses, but just as applicable for many not-for-profits and other organizations.

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Filed under Communications, Fundraising, Marketing, Tips & Tools

Digital philanthropy: Study shows organizational websites trump social media & giving portals

Almost all the charities I work with either have fully developed social media strategies, or plan to develop and implement them in the next year.  Many are wrestling with how to integrate fundraising into all of their outreach and communication efforts. Nowadays, that includes fundraising using social media, as well as using third party websites such as Canada Helps.

A landmark seven –year (2003-2009) U.S. study by the cause marketing organization Network for Good and U.S. fundraising leader True Sense offers some groundbreaking analysis about the most effective approaches to digital philanthropy.

Some of their main conclusions:

  • The majority (over 64%) of charitable on-line giving comes via non-profit websites
  • Donors who give to those non-profit websites give the most over time, and start at the highest level
  • Donors giving via third party giving portals and social networks like Facebook start at the lowest level and give less over time
  • Most giving happens during work hours, especially 9 – 5
  • A third of all giving happens in December; giving also spikes during disasters

The upshot:  solid fundraising strategies tend to be multi-pronged, and there’s no good reason to not use multiple approaches to connecting donor’s values and passions with your organization’s services.  But if your staff or volunteers are strapped for time or skills, clearly your organization’s own website donation portal should be your top focus.

To see the whole study, including easy-to-read charts, see

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Filed under Communications, Fundraising, Organizational Development