Most of us are good people trying to go through life doing the right thing. Admittedly, some of us have more success than others in this area. However, why should those of us who work for or volunteer with nonprofit organizations make some extra effort to consistently do the right thing? Here are just five reasons:
1. You should consistently do the right thing because it’s simply the right thing to do.
My parents used to tell me that doing the right thing is its own reward. They were correct. Unless you’re a sociopath, you will find yourself happier, with less stress, and a more restful slumber if you consistently choose right over wrong. If you believe in Karma, you know that doing the right thing will come back to benefit you. If you believe in Judaism, Christianity, Islam or any number of other religions, you know that God will reward the righteous. Nevertheless, consistently doing right is not always easy. So, here are four additional reasons why you should always make the effort:
2. People are more likely to donate if they trust you and the nonprofit organization you work for.
A study conducted by researchers at the Henley Management College in the United Kingdom found that “there would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate” (Sargeant and Lee, 2002). Non-donors place significantly less trust in charities than do donors. That’s likely one major reason why non-donors are, well, non-donors. If nonprofit organizations are to attract new supporters, they will need to develop methods to build public trust. One way to build public trust is to be seen as consistently making good decisions. When organizations and the people who work for them are perceived of as consistently doing right, public confidence will grow.
3. People will not only be more likely to give, they will give more if they highly trust nonprofit organizations and the people who work for them.
“It would … appear that where donors believe that the management of a particular organization exercises good judgment, higher levels of trust may result” (Sargeant and Lee, 2002). “There is some indication here that a relationship does exist between trust and amount donated, comparatively little increases in the former having a marked impact on the latter” (Sargeant and Lee, 2002). So, trust impacts both propensity for giving and the amount given. According to a report issued by Independent Sector, a United States based coalition of over 700 major nonprofit organizations, foundations and corporations, “…those who have a high confidence in charities as well as believe in their honesty and ethics give an average annual contribution of about $1800. This is about 50 percent greater than the amount given by those sharing neither opinion, who average just over $1200 in annual household contributions to charity, once again underscoring the strong connection between public trust and giving” (Toppe and Kirsch, 2002).
4. If public confidence in a charity or nonprofit organizations in general is allowed to erode, giving will suffer.
When trust is compromised, fundraising efforts can be negatively impacted even if the mistrust is unjustified. For example, in Scotland in May 2003, The Sunday Mail newspaper published a report highly critical of the professional fundraising company Solutions RMC and its work for a breast cancer research charity. The controversy had an impact throughout the charity sector in Scotland, even impacting charities that never worked with Solutions RMC. Some cancer charities saw a downturn in contributions as high as 30 percent in the months following the controversy. By year-end, as public trust began to recover, so did giving (Watt, 2004. Lecture delivered at the AFP International Conference). Simply put, when the public has less confidence and trust in individual charities or the sector as a whole, they give less; when confidence and trust increase, so does giving. So, we each have a responsibility to both the organizations we work for as well as the sector at large.
5. “Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.” — Mark Twain
Have some fun. Consistently do the right thing and surprise a great number of people! Along the way, you will enjoy greater personal satisfaction, greater success as you secure more donors and larger gifts for your organization, and enhanced career development as you are seen as a successful professional of great integrity.
Individually and collectively, nonprofit organizations can do many things to build public trust. In particular, nonprofit organizations must work to demonstrate to donors that the funds donated will get through to and have a positive impact on those receiving service from the charity. Individuals also want nonprofits to communicate more effectively and to solicit with less pressure; in other words, adopt a donor-centered approach. In short, organizations can enhance the public trust by maintaining the highest ethical standards and communicating this commitment to donors and prospective donors. One simple step in this direction is for organizations to adopt the Donor Bill of Rights as institutional policy.
That’s what Michael Rosen Says… What do you say?