5 Types of ‘Proof’ That Will Help Legitimize Your Organization

Hi! Welcome to the latest episode of The High-Five Nonprofit Marketing Ideas. I’m Julia McDowell, Marketing Strategist for Five Ones. The High-Five is my video series of marketing strategies and tactics for nonprofits and associations. Last year I gave my top tips for gathering testimonials and how they can boost your organization’s credibility and lead to the good stuff – more donors and members. The short version is: sharing stories and testimonials from the beneficiaries of your organization provides proof of the impact you’re making. There are a few ways to collect these stories, whether it’s from social media, or by asking directly.

Today, I’m taking it a step further and discussing how proof on channels you DON’T own is the next step. This “off-site” proof further legitimizes your organization and its efforts because it’s less tied to you and feels more authentic.

What constitutes off-site proof? Let’s get started:


Yes, testimonials can also be on your website, but it’s equally—if not more—powerful for people to see the organic thoughts of those impacted by your organization. This could be a Tweet talking about an event you held, an Instagram story about how they were helped by your organization, or a blog post talking about someone’s volunteer experience—all of these are great examples.

But, how can you leverage them? Repost them on your own channels, whether that’s sharing the Instagram story, creating a post about the blog or in your newsletter, or creating a graphic from the Tweet to post natively. While technically, these are now on your owned channels, it’s clear that the content is user-generated and unfiltered.

Media Coverage

The media isn’t exactly unbiased, but it’s still an expert source covering your organization and helps to widen your audience and show your cause. Set up a Google Alert for your organization’s name so you can see whenever you’re mentioned. Re-post these links to your social media, and you could even make an ‘in the news’ page on your website to curate these types of links.

To secure media coverage, invite them to your next event or send PR pitches when you have something new going on.


Getting an endorsement from a trusted source, whether it’s a person, group, or another organization, is incredibly valuable. People tend to trust the opinions of people they already trust, so if someone is publicly endorsing your organization and its efforts, you’re quickly opened up to a whole new group of people.

Endorsements can be paid, using an influencer or celebrity, or not. If you’re paying someone to endorse your cause, do your research. Make sure they are aligned closely with your values and goals because the public understands when someone is paid to talk about something, and they will align their values with yours.


Many companies and media organizations release awards for all types of things. Research awards that fit your cause, organization, or industry and understand how someone is nominated. Going through this process, being nominated, and (hopefully) winning an award is a great way to validate your organization and show your legitimacy.

And if you win, shout it from the rooftops! Post about it on your social media, put out a press release if the award is big enough, and add the award’s badge to your website. People trust award winners, so put it front and center.


People want to be a part of what everyone else is doing. That’s why the fear of missing out exists. So, if you can create FOMO so your next round of results can be even better.

But how do you create FOMO? Rely on your donors or members to post about their experience and then repost them. User-generated content is key here because of its authenticity. People believe other people, especially if they have a loyal social media following, so tap into that and encourage social posts at your next event.

In the end, all of this comes back to trust. Gaining people’s trust is invaluable but you have to be smart about how you do it. Tap into these ways and slowly but surely you’re bound to gain a loyal donor base that will only continue to grow.