stories vs. testimonials - are you getting it right?

You've probably heard me talk about the importance of stories in fundraising. You've probably heard other fundraisers and experts talk about the importance of stories in fundraising.

Stories are THE foundation to good fundraising. That should not be news to you, but if it is, go back and read this blog post: stories vs. stats.

However, I see a lot of organizations confuse stories with testimonials and they are not the same thing.

So here are some ways to discover if you're organization is using stories effectively, or if you're using testimonials.


Stories have a clear journey. There is a before and after, usually a natural arc. Testimonials usually just focus on the after.


Most testimonials I've seen are more of an endorsement - "I loved this program" or "this program changed my life". A story will give you some examples of impact. How specifically did the program "change my life". What am I doing now that I wasn't doing before. How is my life (or the world) different? The more specific the better.

Less is More

Often, people feel like they need a series of testimonials to showcase the breadth or depth of their impact, but you actually just need one really good story to convey the impact of your organization's work.

So, tell me, are you guilty of using testimonials instead of stories?