Testimonials are an effective type of social proof. According to research conducted by planned giving expert Dr. Russell James, the likelihood of donors leaving a bequest improves by 15% when they believe they are "one of many supporters" doing so. Social proof is the idea that individuals desire to conform to the behaviors of their peers. And it's incredibly effective: when fundraisers employ this method, the amount of money donated through wills increases by about $6,000.
However, before beginning, you must understand what creates a compelling donation tale.
What makes a donor testimonial persuasive?
According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, the most successful kind of social proof for charitable giving is recounting an individual's story rather than a group's. A powerful testimony will detail the experience of a single donor. Consider that you'll want to spotlight various donations to emphasize your supporters' diversity. This will also ensure that any potential donor who finds your donor tales can identify with at least one. Make your donor the hero, and convey the impact their donation will have on the individuals you serve.
In the narrative, you must also:
- Start with a hook: Instead of starting with statistics and stats, catch your audience with a statement or quote that immediately places them in the heart of your donor's story. Keep it concise and intriguing enough for a potential donor to want to continue reading.
- Use emotional language: Use compelling, emotionally charged language to help your prospects empathize with the narrative they are reading. This might create a sense of urgency and encourage readers to create their gift. Use the list of power words provided by SmartBlogger while writing your testimonials.
- Show vs. tell: Use action-oriented language to take your audience into the world of the donor. Important are sensory details and robust verbs. Amy has usually observed with her sleeves turned up at our food banks. Over the past two decades, she has worked at more than 500 organizations, and her contagious laugh can be heard echoing through the halls as we organize our food banks."
- Incorporate a call to action: The objective of nonprofit storytelling is to inspire individuals to donate. Include a link to your intended giving page in your conclusion.
These approaches will help readers empathize with the donor you're writing about and, if executed effectively, will motivate them to make their own planned contribution.
Before you can begin writing, you must locate a donor who is eager and willing to share their tale. Follow these four steps to organize your space:
1- Determine how you will utilize the testimonial before approaching donors.
Before asking legacy donors for their stories, you must determine how to utilize the information. Most likely, they will ask you this question, and you should be clear about its destination and purpose.
You can utilize it in numerous locations and outreach methods. Since the objective is to persuade individuals to leave a legacy, consult your marketing department to see which outreach strategies have historically generated the greatest bequests.
Consider the following options employed by other NGOs if you're unsure where to begin. You or your team can determine which of the following will expose your donor's story to the greatest number of prospects:
- Your page for scheduled giving: Including donor stories or remarks on your page is a terrific kind of social proof, particularly for those who may visit that page to learn about planned gifts and your organization's impact.
- Include a donor story and targeted marketing for planned giving in your mass outreach. Include a link to your page about planned giving.
- A donor narrative can be an excellent way to engage your audience and drive additional visitors to your planned giving website if you have an active social media presence.
- Newsletters: Newsletters provide an excellent opportunity to educate prospects on how they can influence. A testimonial might also provide a welcome reprieve from impact updates and fundraising numbers.
Second Harvest's email newsletter contains an excellent example of an affecting testimonial. Maria, one of their long-time volunteers and legacy benefactors, is profiled. They describe her past connection with the group, why she appreciates their work, and why she wants to include Second Harvest in her estate arrangements. In addition, it does a good job of explaining why planned giving is so crucial and how it may safeguard the future of their work.
2- Nonprofit narratives
Request a testimonial from donors shortly after they have donated.
You should request testimonials from your legacy donors a few weeks after they have made a bequest to your organization. This is when their desire to donate is at its peak.
Your donors are likely quite occupied, so you should strive to make this as easy as possible for them. You or a member of your planned giving team can conduct brief (ten minutes or less) interviews with interested donors. You can also email them a list of questions if that is more convenient for the donor.
In a follow-up email, for instance, you can say:
"Many thanks for your generous gift. Would you be willing to explain to our other donors why you included us in your legacy? I'd love to chat with you if you have time for a ten-minute conversation. I can also send inquiries over email if you'd prefer."
If a donor agrees, let them know how you'll utilize their testimonial, and ensure they have their permission to distribute it.
3- Ask the appropriate questions to get the most persuasive replies.
To write a wonderful tale, you must ask questions promoting unique, specific, and honest answers when you or your team interview your donor.
Use the following questions to get started:
- Thank you so much for helping improve the future of our organization by putting us in your will. What drove you to donate in your will?
- Is there a program or initiative that you're particularly passionate about?
- What do you think would happen if our organization wasn't around? This question goes to the heart of why your nonprofit matters to your contributor.
- Have you introduced us to your friends, colleagues, and family? If so, why? Making a public recommendation declares who the donor is and their values.
- Is there anything else you would like us to know about why our organization is important to you? Give your donors a chance to provide valuable feedback.
Additionally, if you have long-time supporters who are very active in your organization, you can include the following questions:
- What types of activities or programming keep you involved with us?
- Have you been involved in any of our programs or initiatives? If so, how have they impacted your life, or what was your motivation for getting involved?
- How has your experience with our organization benefited your community?
- What are your favorite aspects of our organization? Why?
- By getting to the heart of your donor's experiences and values, you'll be able to write a testimonial that will inspire others who share the same drive to support your nonprofit's mission and those you serve.
4- Write up your donor story.
Once you've interviewed your donor, it's time to write their story. Remember the persuasive elements of good storytelling, and feel free to get creative. Play with structure, try out a few opening lines, and include any personal stories your donor offers.
Depending on where these stories will live, you'll want to keep them short. The ideal email length is between 50 to 125 words, resulting in response rates of over 50%. If they live on your website, they can be a bit longer. Keep your stories concise so that potential donors stay engaged until the end. Remember, by clicking on your call to action; the goal is to drive your readers to learn more about planned giving.
If possible, include a photo of your donor to help prospects put a face to a name. This also goes for other identifying factors, such as their professional title or geographical location. Social proof is most successful when people feel like they're reading stories about others like them, so any personal details that tell potential donors who this person is are helpful.
As a note, this photo doesn't have to be professional - a nice photo or one that shows them in an environment they're comfortable in will work well.
Once you've written it up, ask the donor to approve a draught of the story before it goes live.
Three examples of effective legacy donor stories
You can use donor testimonials in many different forms of outreach (such as your website, direct mail, social media, or email) (such as your website, direct mail, social media, or email). Here are some examples from other nonprofits for creative inspiration:
- City of Hope - Facebook post and video
If your nonprofit uses social media, consider posting a donor story on one of your pages. This post from the City of Hope was short and simple, linking to a separate page with a video interview and more details about Ron and his story.
- Santa Clara University - Donor story page
SCU includes "Donor Stories" in their gift planning dropdown menu. Each story is paired with a compelling headline, hooking the reader in with powerful quotes, anecdotes, and sensory details.
- Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation - Planned giving page.
If you can't decide between shorter quotes or longer donor stories, take a note from the Sioux Falls Area Community Foundation and do both. On their planned giving page, they paired shorter quotes with a link for readers to read more about a particular donor if they're interested.