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034 Harnessing testimonials with Sam Davies, Head of Philanthropy, Girls’ Day School Trust

In this episode, I speak to Sam Davies, Head of Philanthropy at the Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST), the UK’s leading family of independent girls’ schools. During her career Sam has been responsible for annual giving activities at the University of Warwick, established a sustainable fundraising and alumni engagement operation from scratch at the University of Brighton and was awarded the CASE Crystal Apple Award for Teaching Excellence in 2015.

I draw on Sam's experience as an educational fundraiser to explore the subject of harnessing the power of testimonials: why testimonials work from a fundraising point of view and for other school activities.

Firstly, I ask Sam about how she uses testimonials from recipients in her fundraising at the GDST, how she overcomes the potential stigma of making an example of the situation of a current bursary recipient and about the key messages she aims to get across in testimonials. We discuss the power of storytelling and questions about the anonymity of those giving the testimonial.

I then ask Sam whether she uses testimonials from donors, how testimonials can help overcome objections from donors and what her insights are in the process of gathering testimonials from the rest of the school community.

Finally, we discuss Sam's top tips for school fundraisers looking to up their testimonial game.

Episode Highlights

  • Introducing Sam Davies (01:48)

  • How Sam uses testimonials at the GDST (05:00)

  • The importance of storytelling in testimonials (08:05)

  • Sam's system for testimonials (19:19)

  • Using testimonials from donors (25:30)

  • Top tips for school fundraisers looking to up their testimonial game (32:43)

Download your copy of the free eBook ‘The Strategic Independent School Leader’ at

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