The secret to writing a grant proposal that gets funded is to use testimonials to help tell your story. Testimonials help grab the grant reviewer’s attention and provide a compelling case for funding your proposal. They allow your staff, clients, volunteers, and sponsors to speak for you.
It is a rare proposal that has the ability to reach out and grab you. The secret to writing a compelling, funded grant proposal – or indeed any nonprofit piece, including your membership appeal or your website copy – can be distilled into one simple sentence, a testimonial from someone in your organization. Nothing makes a proposal more compelling than testimonials from the people your organization serves so include a picture with a quote from someone that has benefited from your nonprofit services.
Testimonials show why your donors keep coming back, year after year, and why your staff is so dedicated to your mission. Telling the story of your program through testimonials lets you bring a diversity of voices to your proposal in a way that numbers can’t and helps your application stand apart from the rest, long after the numbers have been forgotten. It personalizes and personifies your grant application all in one quote.
Testimonials are all around you. They are in the thank you cards your program receives, the messages on the machine in your office, in emails, conversations, and in speeches or evaluation forms from events.
If your organization isn’t in the habit of collecting testimonials, make it a top priority! Actively seek them out by sending surveys to your clients and donors via email. Get in the habit of video taping short commercials at your LIVE events, and set up a comment page on your website.
A good testimonial tells a story and presents a slice of life – it’s specific and real, alive and full of voice. Consider the following testimonial: “The 123 organization is truly unique. Their organization really helped me get this frustration handled.” The enthusiasm is clear here, but how did the 123 organization help?
See the difference here: “123’s FREE program allowed me a piece of mind about dealing with my Cancer in a strong, systematic way. 123 empowered me to live better. I appreciate the care I received from 123.” Jane Doe, 35 year old wife, mother of 2, business owner, and Cancer Patient.
Even this brief, one sentence testimonial tells a story, and the byline adds to the story by providing useful context.You can recruit stronger testimonials by asking specific questions in your surveys. Instead of asking questions like, “How was your experience in the program?” (- “It was great!”), ask: “What aspects of the program were most valuable to you? And why?”
If you don’t get the specific response you’re looking for in a testimonial, don’t hesitate to contact your client, colleague, donor or board member. Thank them for their response and tell them that you have a few follow up questions.
Ask permission to record their response and share their testimonial. You will find most people enthusiastic to lend their voices, but it’s a good idea to combine a thank you note with a simple permission form as well. You may set up a simple form as an attachment within the event registration.
Lastly, don’t ever try to polish the language in your testimonials. Outside of basic spelling and punctuation corrections, let your subject’s voice remain authentic, true, and distinct.
Make testimonial gathering an active, ongoing process, and encourage other members of your organization to keep an eye out for testimonial opportunities. Keeping a centralized inventory of testimonials will make each grant proposal process easier – and will allow you to use specific examples of your program’s work to match the goals and missions of foundations. Try titling the testimonials by common grant application categories.
But why stop there? Use your testimonials to recruit individual donors and new staff, and to spread the word about the good work of your program within social media, email marketing, and newsletters.