Sounds like something to do with death, or late-night commercials. Testimonial is Bruce Jenner on the Wheaties Box. What you’re looking for is a story.

Current fundraising refers to these gems of praise and endorsement as “telling the story,” a much more attractive and upbeat definition. To develop these stories to describe your offerings requires art and skill.

You are asking your sources to put into words their feelings about your organization which they have not yet fully formulated in their minds. It’s not an easy thing to do, but your efforts in helping them to do this will provide you with words and ideas that ring true and that focus on what a prime member of your audience (and potentially others) consider important.

So how do you find/elicit these gems?

  • First of all, not with a box request in your newsletter. A general Call for Testimonials will produce, if anything, general testimonials from the choir.  Instead, ask new contacts/donors/volunteers. You want to know what is attracting interest at the current time. You’re looking for something New to say, not more of what you already have.
  • Ask specific questions, something requiring a thoughtful and potentially original response. The question “Why do you give to the SPCA?” elicits answers like “I like dogs” or “I don’t like to see dogs injured.” Asking “When you called to volunteer, what specifically lead you to make the call?” sounds more like a personal question of interest and is more likely to elicit the sort of personal story you are looking for.
  • Ask for three things the person likes about _(whatever their action was)___.  This leads to a more thoughtful answer, and you may strike gold  in the answer #3.
  • Ask what the person thinks the greatest value/benefit of your work is.  This way you learn what is important to people who take part and new prospects.
  • Ask what is the greatest benefit to them personally.  This question alone might deliver exactly the “pitch” you’re looking for.

Once you’ve gathered the new ideas from your source and massaged it to best effect, don’t forget to get permission to use.  Send the edited version with attribution to the source for approval, showing them exactly how it’s going to look with the attribution (or not) included. Save the confirmation email you receive in return. In about 20% of cases, you’ll be gifted with a revised (testimonial) story that’s even stronger than the original.

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