We’ve all heard about the influence of ‘word of mouth’ on consumer purchasing these days. Commercial marketers regularly place word of mouth above advertising, PR and other marketing as the most trusted — and consequently most significant — influence on consumer behavior.

There are books on the subject. Try this one — Word of Mouth Marketing: How Smart Companies Get People Talking — to which marketing gurus Seth Godin and Guy Kawasaki have contributed. [BTW, it has 113 five star reader reviews.]

And even a trade association: the Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA). Check out their WOMMapedia … with stats like these:

  • When asked what sources “influence your decision to use or not use a particular company, brand, or product,” 72% claim reviews from family members or friends exert a “great deal” (39%) or “fair amount” (33%) of influence.
  • 72% of consumers worldwide trust recommendations from friends and family more than any form of advertising, up from 74% in 2007.

So, how are you as a fundraiser tapping into word of mouth recommendation?

Most would probably point to your social media efforts as the primary vehicle, hoping for the eureka day when that special message, video, photo goes viral.

But I would suggest you start first by looking at the donor testimonials you already (hopefully) have on hand, and how well they are featured and utilized on your website.

Those testimonials are your nonprofit’s equivalent of ‘user reviews’. The commercial world is awash in user reviews, and consumers use them like crazy (see this NY Times article, There’s Power in All Those User Reviews).

As we’ve reported before (Google This!), many donors go online first when considering a contribution … in most cases directly to a nonprofit’s or charity’s homepage. And what do they usually find there? A heap of general ‘blah blah’ info about the organization and its programs, maybe with a prominent ‘Donate’ button.

What if instead they were greeted by three testimonials confirming how great those donors felt about contributing to that organization?

Are the ‘powers that be’ at your organization too donor unfriendly (one might say: too precious) to put such ‘crass boosterism’ on your homepage? Then at least get evidence of satisfied donors upfront on your Donate page(s).

This is just one more example of where commercial marketers are both reflecting and then massively compounding expectations by promoting this consumer-led behavior.

Go with the flow, folks! Pretty soon the vibe will be: No testimonials? Must be a pretty lame organization.

The Agitator would love to see some examples on nonprofits prominently using donor testimonials on their websites. Can you help us out?


This article was posted in: Communications, Online fundraising and marketing, Social media.
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