How to Make Them Compelling!
By Jennifer L. Hipple, Communications Consultant & Writer
What’s better than crafting great messaging to promote your nonprofit and describe the benefits you bring to those you serve? A great volunteer testimonial! While donor and client testimonials are very effective ways to personalize the work you do, your volunteers not only choose to invest their time (and likely their resources!) in helping your organization function, but they also have greater knowledge of what it really takes to bring your mission to life. They can be some of your most passionate ambassadors!
Sometimes it can be challenging to get just the right testimonials. Whether you “interview” a volunteer or ask them to fill out a short Q&A, you want them to help you tell a story, to share their personal experience. Stories make information easy to relate to and much more interesting. You can approach the process as a “customer feedback” opportunity.
Ask volunteers to select three or four questions they would like to respond to:
- What interested you in becoming a volunteer with us?
- What is the best part about volunteering with us?
- How do you feel after you’ve finished your volunteer shift?
- What have you learned (about yourself, someone you’ve served, or about our organization?) as a result of volunteering with us?
- What do you want others to know about our organization?
- Is there anything that has surprised you (related to your volunteer experience with us)?
The next question you won’t include in the testimonial, but rather, as an internal tool you can use to measure volunteers’ satisfaction and potentially for helping identify improvements you can make to your volunteers’ experience with you. This question emphasizes how much you care about feedback and provides you with insight into any problems that need to be addressed.
- Is there anything about your volunteer work with us that you would like to see improved or changed?
Always ask for permission to use volunteers’ comments in your communications. If possible, ask about using a photo of your volunteer as well.
A Little Polishing
Can you edit your volunteers’ testimonials? Yes. Editing is perfectly acceptable and will likely make your volunteers feel more at ease about their responses. Just be sure not to change the intention of the testimonial. Here are some points to bear in mind:
- Make sure your testimonials all don’t say the same thing; they should cover a range of “selling points.” If your volunteer hasn’t given you enough to work with then ask for more specific information. Remember that potential donors (or volunteers) choose to get involved for different reasons.
- Focus on one or two benefits in each testimonial otherwise you’ll minimize the strength of the message. Keep the testimonials fairly short (one or two paragraphs).
- Keep the messaging positive.
- In terms of the tone of your volunteer testimonials, go for a conversational feel which is more engaging to the reader.
- Come up with a good “headline” for each volunteer testimonial to capture your readers’ attention. The headline should highlight the value or message of the testimonial.
Once you’ve finished editing, send it to the volunteer for approval and be sure to include an attribution.
Remember, volunteers can be great ambassadors for your mission and the ways you are supporting your community. Employing their voices can go a long way in garnering more attention for your organization.