Three Effective Ways to Use Testimonials in Major Gifts Fundraising


Maybe you’re stuck drafting a new appeal. Or perhaps your website looks a little flat. It may be that your social media is lacking engagement. When you’re unsure what to do next with your nonprofit messaging, the answer is usually: try a story.

Nonprofit storytelling using a testimonial leaves an impression on donors. But what is the best way to employ this tool? How do you find effective testimonials? Read on to discover this powerful fundraising strategy.

What is a Testimonial?

A testimonial is the personal story of someone connected to your nonprofit, told directly from that person’s perspective.

Testimonials can appear in so many different marketing strategies for fundraising:

  • Conduct an interview and include their story in an upcoming newsletter
  • Film the person telling their story for a social media video
  • Invite the person to speak at a fundraising gala

Who to Ask for a Testimonial?

Get creative when collecting testimonials to achieve a wide array of perspectives about the impact of your nonprofit.

Think about all of the people who intersect with your nonprofit and if you could ask them to tell their story. Review a month of meetings in your calendar and see how many different sectors of people you encounter.

Consider gathering testimonials from:

  • Fellow major donors
  • Key volunteers and board members
  • Staff members
  • Community partners
  • Fellow nonprofit organizations
  • County and state agencies
  • Current and former program recipients
  • Government officials, representatives

Why are Testimonials Important?

Testimonials provide one of the most powerful ways for a nonprofit to communicate their impact. The people most intimately connected to your mission can provide the clearest understanding of why the organization truly matters.

In addition to describing what you do, these personal stories also help illustrate the scope of your work. By highlighting stories from a diverse array of viewpoints, donors can appreciate how comprehensively your nonprofit is working to advance the mission.

Top Three Ways to Use Testimonials in Major Gifts Fundraising

Try these three testimonial ideas in your next major gift campaign to boost your fundraising potential.

Peer Testimonials

As John Steinbeck said, “If the story is not about the hearer, he will not listen.” One of the best ways to get the attention of potential major gift donors is by introducing them to fellow major donors at your organization.

Major donors are often community leaders. By featuring their personal stories about why they give, it lends credibility to your organization. This may convince other people within their social circle who have a high propensity to give charitably.

Expert Testimonials

Savvy fundraisers provide as much assurance as possible that major donors are making a wise investment. Try collecting an expert testimonial to deliver a strong endorsement to your case for support.

Consider asking one of your community partners for their testimonial. Government officials, scientists, educators, or other subject-matter experts are great sources for an expert testimonial.

While the content of these testimonials is often less personal than the other examples, the willingness for an expert to affiliate their reputation with your organization is its own highly personal statement.

Recipient Testimonials

Often the best source for testimonials is from the individuals who receive the services you provide. Because your work is uplifting their lives, a personal story from a program recipient will perk up any fundraising appeal.

Be sure to employ extra sensitivity when collecting and using a recipient testimonial. It is essential to avoid any appearance of exploitation of the person providing their story. Be sure the program recipient is the center of the story, instead of your nonprofit’s work.


Testimonials are a powerful tool for all kinds of fundraising, including major gifts campaigns. Be sure to collect these personal stories from a variety of sectors. You may never know where a great story may be hiding!

Find stories from your current portfolio of major donors, as well as experts and program recipients for three effective ways to use testimonials in major gift fundraising.

All of our blogs, products and services are proudly conceived, created, reviewed, and disseminated by real humans — not A.I. (artificial “intelligence.”)

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