The Power of Testimonials: Inspiring Action for Your Nonprofit

September 13, 2016

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

The art of persuasion is a science that everyone has the ability to improve upon, according to psychologist Dr. Robert Cialdini. An important principle of persuasion is “social proof” — that people, when faced with a choice they aren’t sure about, look to others around them for guidance, whether consciously or not. Enter the testimonial.

As a nonprofit, you can use this concept to your advantage to motivate action for the benefit of your work. Testimonials are highly influential to that end, and account for the success of many businesses whose livelihoods rely on consistently positive reviews — found on their own website and materials, as well as on unbiased, public forums such as Yelp, Google, the Better Business Bureau, and more.

Testimonials are perceived by many potential supporters as the most reliable source of information about the work of an organization and its impact on the community. As they should be — want to hear from our own peers, whose objectivity and experience we trust. Furthermore, testimonials tell relatable, personal stories about your nonprofit that would be difficult for your organization to compellingly convey from its own perspective. Potential supporters look for themselves in testimonials, and when they find one that they can personally relate to, that can clinch the deal.

The long and the short of it is, testimonials work! But you have to make the best use of them. Read on for what keep in mind when developing your reputation though the influence of testimony.

There is strength in the number of positive reviews, as well as the status and regard of the reviewers.

The best set of testimonials come from a wide variety of people involved with your cause, including volunteers, staff, donors, benefactors, and community leaders. On your Yelp page, the quantity of good reviews is important, while on your website and print materials, you should focus on highlighting only your strongest and most relevant quotes. 

Make your reviews come to life.

For the most effective use of your testimonials, include (where possible) a headshot along with the name, title, and employer of the person giving the review. This will help bring the quote into context and make it feel as if it is coming from a real, live, genuine person. A short video clip is also a great format for the same reason. 

Help out with examples and good leading questions.

If you want general reviews about your organization, providing example statements can make it easier for supporters to know where to start. You can segment your prompts and examples according to the role of your testimony writer (volunteer, donor, client, and so on), and you can also create prompts as follow-ups to recent events and campaigns that are still fresh in the minds of those involved.

It’s okay to edit!

With, of course, the original writers’ permission, pair down your testimonials so that if they are too lengthly or unclear, they can be used as concise and powerful statements across your communications. 

Create simple surveys.

Writing testimonials can be difficult and time-consuming, so it is always good to create simple surveys for those whose feedback you value but don’t have time to write something out. You can then later summarize this data in your marketing assets.

Solicit for testimonials on your public profiles and social networks.

Some testimonials you can’t curate yourself, but these are often the ones that potential supporters see as the most objective. A well-reviewed, five-star Yelp page is a highly coveted marketing asset for any business. If you don’t yet have reviews online, kick off the process by asking those with whom you have cultivated relationships, such as your volunteers, staff, and favorite clients. You can even do what the organization Help A Reporter Out (HARO) cleverly executed: ask for testimonials on Twitter (which would conveniently make them short and sweet), and then retweet them, instantly reaching all of your followers.

Whether it’s to cultivate a great reputation or get useful feedback, testimonials and reviews will greatly benefit any business or organization.

What method does your organization have for collecting testimonials, and what suggestions do you have for growing nonprofits looking for good reviews? Please let us know in the comments!

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