Tag Archives: testimonials

Is Bigger Better?

It makes sense that donors would conduct research on nonprofit organizations prior to making charitable donations. Those nonprofits with large operational budgets, those in existence a long time with numerous Form 990 tax returns and professional audits conducted, with well-known individuals serving on the Board logically inspire confidence and larger donations.

But do those factors actually mean the nonprofit is effective or efficient at meeting its mission? Sometimes.

I would argue smaller nonprofits – the majority of all nonprofits – are often more effective and worthy of meaningful charitable donations. Many of them operate almost entirely with “volunteer” staff. They achieve more through efficient volunteer management and incredible drive and initiative. They take their mission statements very seriously. They are also quite good at securing in-kind donations of equipment and discounts on goods and services.

“The majority of nonprofits (66.3%) have annual budgets of less than $1 million. From there, as organization size increases, the number of nonprofits decreases. For every 1 powerhouse (annual expenses more than $5 billion) nonprofit, there are thousands of grassroots organizations.”

GuideStar Blog (2017)

Follow the link above to view an impressive statistical chart.

What this means, however, is when donors and professional advisors conduct objective reviews of GuideStar profiles and tax returns, those somewhat intangible “commitment” factors are not evident. Hard budgets and data tell one story, but daily life with the nonprofit may tell another.

Smaller nonprofits can even the score and overcome this budgetary approach to evaluation to some degree. They would be wise to encourage volunteers and clients to write testimonials about how effective and reputable they are, and share those on social media and on the nonprofit’s website. GreatNonprofits is one helpful source, especially as it is linked to GuideStar. But also, many preset website templates include testimonial functions, if you choose to add them.

Volunteer hours also matter. I find it sometimes hard to get nonprofits to track volunteer hours. They have come to believe everyone should give of their time and talents without expecting compensation or credit of any kind: modesty is expected. But the truth is, in this era of data collection and evaluation, nonprofits need to be more savvy and track and share those hours.

Independent Sector notes, “Volunteers in the United States hold up the foundation of civil society. They help their neighbors, serve their communities, and provide their expertise. No matter what kind of volunteer work they do, they are contributing in invaluable ways.” Nationally this year, the value of a volunteer hour is $28.54. In Texas, the value is $26.43. To download a report of volunteer activity and values across the United States, follow this link.

Hence, if you measure the hours worked by your volunteers, not only will you be able to reward stellar volunteers, you can share the value of the volunteer hours “worked” on your website, on social media, in annual reports and with prospective donors who may give more based upon those impressive figures. Once you multiply the number of hours worked times the value of a volunteer hour, the tally is often impressive and can help philanthropists and professional advisors gain a better sense of your effectiveness and merit.

I would question the frequent request by potential funders for professional annual audits as well. Would a formal opinion by a reputable accountant or accounting firm be as helpful? Professional audits are expensive and small nonprofits are often unable to afford them, in my experience. There are other ways to gauge the financial effectiveness of nonprofits. If they simply take the time to hire an outside, objective professional accountant or accounting firm, and submit annual tax returns, that says a lot about them.

To donors and professional advisors I would suggest, look more closely at the nonprofits seeking funding. Helping a smaller yet deeply committed nonprofit succeed can be more fulfilling than funding one where you are one of a cast of hundreds or thousands of other contributors. Smaller nonprofits and their volunteers often work harder, they are more resourceful and dedicated. They are often more entrepreneurial in spirit and achieve more with less.

Engage Online Ambassadors

Nielsen conducted a study to determine the types of advertising and promotion people trust most. Justin Ware summarizes key findings for Bentz Whaley Flessner in, “Nielsen Study Shows the Monumental Importance of Online Ambassadors” (January 2013).

One of Carolyn's earliest posts, the need to engage digital ambassadors continues to grow.
Photo by Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com

“… if you want someone to know and trust your organization your best bet is having someone they know post something about your org online.”

Jenna Hanington notes for a corporate audience in Pardot, “The Importance of Customer Testimonials” (May 2013). “Word of mouth” is so important today, whether it be for business or nonprofit organizations.

“Think back to the last time you bought a pair of shoes, or researched the next book you wanted to read. Where did your search start? If you’re like any other consumer, it probably began with customer reviews. Why? Because reviews are candid. They’re not published by the company promoting the product; they’re not fluffed up with marketing lingo and meaningless buzzwords; and most importantly, they’re the words of people just like you.”

I always suggest nonprofits sign-up for GreatNonprofits, a nonprofit review platform that is allied with GuideStar. “These stories are submitted by people who know you best – your clients, donors, volunteers, and others – all those who have experienced the impact of nonprofit work up close!” To read testimonials about the effectiveness of GreatNonprofits, follow this link.

Do you have an online ambassador program?

My suggestion to nonprofit organizations is to include the role of “online ambassador” in the job descriptions for board and advisory board members who are active online. Can they set aside time once weekly, every few weeks, or monthly to share a positive experience, and to encourage their colleagues to support your nonprofit organization? This is a simple, but ultimately very helpful request to make – whether that be on Twitter, Facebook, GreatNonprofits, LinkedIn or other platform.

Certainly, you would expect leading volunteers and donors to be community advocates and to say positive things about your nonprofit’s work and accomplishments whenever and wherever appropriate. If your advocates are also active online, ask them to set aside time to share their opinions and experiences online.

Justin Ware suggests nonprofit organizations engage in:

  1. Ongoing identification of potential ambassadors for both awareness building and fundraising initiatives.
  2. Stewardship of those potential and approved ambassadors through good content and smart online conversation management.
  3. A plan for contacting potential ambassadors and officially bringing them into the program.
  4. A strategy for leveraging the support of your ambassadors.

I couldn’t agree more.

“Simply put, a robust ambassador program could be the most important thing your nonprofit can do from a communications standpoint.”

Geoff Livingston remarks in, ” 5 Ways to Engage Online Ambassadors” (2011),

“If someone is important to you online–as a passionate advocate or as an online influencer–then they are likely important to others. Give them shout outs and highlight their wares. This is authentic because you already think they are important. This is a demonstration of that value.”

You might enjoy reading an article I wrote a few years after posting the one you are now reading, “Social Media Stewardship is Essential for Your Development Program.” Somewhat surprisingly, nonprofits have not fully engaged with the concept, but it is a powerful way to recognize donors (who do not prefer to remain anonymous), and to show the world how valued your nonprofit and its mission are to them.

As I know first-hand from my volunteer work with NTEN: Nonprofit Technology Network, not everyone understands that older generations – and those inclined to make major gifts – are also interested and involved in social media, not just young people and the “general public.” See my blog article, “Baby Boomers and Seniors are Embracing Digital Media” and other discussions about older adults in the main menu of Carolyn’s Nonprofit Blog.

Photo by Belle Co on Pexels.com

MissionBox provides further insights in, “Why Social Media Matters to Nonprofits” (April 1, 2020).

“To be effective … your social media efforts can’t just be a side venture or a task randomly assigned to an intern. Your social media strategy should be integrated with your overall marketing strategy and aligned with your nonprofit’s goals and target audiences. Specific staff members, interns or volunteers should be dedicated to keeping up with social media. Frequent posts and interactions can promote visibility and community engagement.”

As social media becomes increasingly influential and essential in our world today, don’t let the cart come before the horse. Put social media to work for your organization in a thoughtful, concerted fashion.


You might also enjoy my article, “Mature Fundraisers Make Ideal Social Media Managers.”

This graphic was posted in January 2021 by The Board Pro on Facebook. Click to reach their profile!