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Direct Mail Fundraising: Use Testimonials To Boost Readability And Response In Your Donation Letters

Alan Sharpe

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Sometimes people will say the sweetest things about your non-profit organization, your staff, your volunteers, and the work you do. These compliments usually arrive unsolicited, and remain private. But you can use them to your advantage in your direct mail fundraising appeals in the form of a testimonial.

A testimonial is a statement made by someone that either recommends you to others, proves a point you are making, or pays tribute to you in some way.

Testimonials are powerful in fundraising letters because they help you awaken empathy in your readers. If you want your donor to empathize with your cause, one of the best ways to do that is to have a living, breathing, flesh-and-blood person tell your story for you.

For example, without a testimonial, your fundraising letter might say: “Here at The Soup Kitchen, we provide food, shelter and other basic services which help the needy in the Greater Manchester area to help themselves. ”

Or, you could have a street person who’s homeless tell her story. You could say, “Meet Janice. She is homeless and has two toddlers, ” and then you could quote Janice saying, “I live on the street; and it sucks. But The Soup Kitchen saves my life every day. I feel good about myself when I'm here. ” Facts inform donors. But testimonials move them, move them emotionally, and move them to give.

Testimonials get your donors to empathize with your cause because donors see and hear the person that you’re helping in that person's own words. That’s the reason to use testimonials.

Where should you use testimonials? Here are some ideas.

  • outer envelope teaser
  • headline at the top of the letter
  • first line of the letter
  • somewhere in the first paragraph of the letter
  • elsewhere in the letter
  • as a subhead in the letter
  • in the P. S.
  • on the front or back of the reply device
  • on the back of a photograph
  • as a caption on a photograph
  • as a call-out in a brochure or other package insert

Learn more by reading How to Use Testimonials to Inspire and Persuade Your Direct Mail Donors. Handbook Number 25 in the popular Hands-on Fundraising Series from Andrew Spencer Publishing shows you how to find, feature and format other people’s words to overcome donor skepticism, prove your point, build trust and attract donations. Details

About the author
Alan Sharpe is president of Raiser Sharpe, a full-service direct mail fundraising agency that helps non-profit organizations raise funds, build relationships and retain loyal donors. Sign up for free weekly tips like this, and discover other helpful resources, at

© 2007 Sharpe Copy Inc. You may reprint this article online and in print provided the links remain live and the content remains unaltered (including the “About the author" message).


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