A reader of my newsletter asked me:
“How do I most effectively integrate a participant story into an annual campaign ask letter? What effective ways do you see participant stories being told in a letter? Could a story/profile be attached separately after the letter? I really believe that the stories of the participants who are served by my agency should be highlighted front and centre in our annual direct mail campaign. They are stories of life change, personal courage, and perseverance. At a recent fundraising conference, I heard how donors build their most lasting commitments with agencies when their hearts/spirits are touched by the cause of the organization. Speaking to hearts wins over speaking to “heads” almost every time. In my mind, there is no better way to speak to hearts than to present a participant success story.” Brian
Well, Brian, there are four ways to include what you call “participant stories” into your direct mail fundraising appeals. I call these stories “client testimonials.” A client testimonial is either a statement made by someone, or a story told by someone, who has benefitted from the services your charity delivers. Here’s how to use testimonials in your direct mail appeals.
1. As a short quote, incorporated into a paragraph. Used for quotes that take up no more than two lines. Example: “Alison and Edgar Whalin are grateful to you for your support of Habitat for Humanity. ‘Since moving into our home two years ago, our quality of life has improved by leaps and bounds,’ they say.”
2. As a block quote. Used for quotes that take up somewhere between three and eight lines. Example:
“Since moving into our home two years ago, our quality of life has improved by leaps and bounds. We are now planning things that only seemed like wishes before, and our faith in all things possible has been restored . . . . We’ve gained a new respect for our neighbourhood, we take pride in ownership and best of all we can extend an invitation to “come to our house.” These things might seem foolish to some people but we are bursting with pride and joy at what we like to call our “Little piece of Paradise.” ― Alison and Edgar Whalin.
3. As a lift note. Used for lengthy testimonials. Usually a sheet of paper, roughly eight-by-five inches in dimension flat, and folding to form a booklet measuring four inches wide and five inches tall.
4. As a letter in itself, where the author of the letter essentially gives one long testimonial, and requests a donation as well. Testimonial letters that are written by the client are particularly powerful when the story is emotional, riveting and told well.
The main drawback of these letters is that the writer, being a client of your charity and not a person in leadership, cannot speak authoritatively on behalf of your organization. The client cannot speak about organizational needs or strategic plans or your case for support, for example, or thank your donor for her last gift.
The easy way to overcome this challenge is to include with the client testimonial a supplementary letter written by your executive director (or the person who usually signs your fundraising letters). This extra letter introduces the client, says something about the client’s relationship with the charity, describes why the charity has sent the donor the client testimonial letter, requests a donation, and says what they donation will be used for.
Read “How to Use Testimonials to Inspire and Persuade Your Direct Mail Donors.” Find, feature and format other people’s words to overcome donor skepticism, prove your point, build trust and attract donations. www.raisersharpe.com/handbooks/H25-Testimonials.htm