Do you want to acquire more new donors?
Do you want to retain more existing donors?
Do you want to upgrade the support from more of your donors?
Do you want to get more planned gift commitments?
To achieve any of those goals, there’s something essential you must first do. You need to build trust. Trust is the cornerstone of all fundraising success.
Consider what noted philanthropy researchers Dr. Adrian Sargeant and Dr. Jen Shang have written on the subject:
There would appear to be a relationship between trust and a propensity to donate…. There is [also] 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.”
In other words, the research demonstrates that the level of trust one has in a charity affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.
Sadly, many nonprofit professionals think that trust is automatic. If your organization has existed for a reasonable period of time and if it has had some demonstrable success at fulfilling its mission, fundraisers may be lulled into the belief that trust already exists. Therefore, organizations spend little effort building trust and, instead, focus their energies and resources on making funding appeals. Unfortunately, the result is usually underperformance and occasionally disaster.
As I mentioned in a recent post, a cancer charity in Scotland was involved in a major scandal several years ago. Unfortunately, the fallout from that scandal negatively affected many unrelated charities throughout Scotland as public trust in the charity sector suffered greatly. As a result, some charities reported a 30 percent downturn in contributions in the months following the controversy. To restore the public trust, Scotland’s charities and the Institute of Fundraising joined forces to get people meaningful information and provide them with assurance about the trustworthiness of the charity sector. It took several months to rebuild trust. As trust was restored, giving began to return to normal.
By investing in efforts to establish and grow trust, nonprofit organizations will yield far greater fundraising results and protect themselves from an unforeseen public relations challenge.
So, recognizing that building and growing trust is essential for success, and fragile once established, what can charities do to develop trust?