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How to elicit testimonials that get donors giving

Want donors to give liberally and with joy? Then connect them to the effect of their giving through testimonials

There's just one important caveat here. When asked for testimonials, people who are inexperienced in giving them can often be vague.

You need to know HOW to ask the right questions to get the details you need.

Details that paint a vivid picture of what your organisation's work actually looks like.

Here are some simple steps for getting the most out of testimonials.


Review your aims and objectives

Your organisation's aims and objectives should be in the back of your mind when drafting questions for beneficiaries who are willing to provide a testimonial. They are an excellent springboard for crafting questions that will get your beneficiaries to share specific details about their experiences (and your outcomes).


Who, what, when and where

Whether it's through email or a face-to-face interview, ask these types of questions first. They will help focus the beneficiary's thinking and will make the task of giving a testimonial less overwhelming and more specific.

Some example questions could be:

  • What programme, service etc have you found the most helpful?
  • When did you use this programme/service and why?
  • What situations/issues did this programme/service help you with?

'Painting-a-mental picture' questions

Now, choose one or two of those programmes/services (if they provide a number of them) and focus on them. Ask the beneficiary to describe in detail a specific moment in which they were helped and empowered. Tell them their answer should paint a picture in someone's mind.

It's also important to ask the beneficary to share the thoughts and feelings they were experiencing in that moment.

Here's a good question to start with:

  • Can you tell me about a specific moment in which this service/programme helped you? 

Some subsidiary questions could be:

  • What was the situation? Where were you? (And other questions to get details on place, setting and location)
  • Who helped you? What did they do? (And other questions to get details on the specific form of the help they received)
  • How did you feel when you had the problem you had? (Phrase question according to specific beneficiary experience)
  • How did the help you received resolve the problem?

The final clincher question

End with the following question:

  • If you were to speak face-to-face with the donors who helped fund this change in your life, what would you say?

Their response could be a powerful way to connect your donors directly to people who their support has helped.


Putting it all together: storytelling and narrative

You now want to sort through the information and weave their answers into a flowing narrative that applies basic donor-gripping storytelling principles.

One powerful writing tool for making the most of testimonials is the 'Show! Don't Tell!' technique. Use the details provided by the beneficiary to paint a vivid word-picture in a donor's mind. You can do this by using the 'Show! Don't Tell!' Brainstorming Tool.



Here are some examples of how charities are using testamonials:

Further information

Nicole Schmidt contributed to this how-to guide - she is a fundraising copywriter, speaker and storyteller. With a background in literature and secondary education, she uses her creative writing and public speaking skills to help charities infuse their donor communications with passion and energy.

Follow her on Twitter @CopyPhilanthrop


Page last edited Jul 20, 2017 History

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