What is the most important thing a donor can give you?
If I were to ask that question at an Association of Fundraising Professionals conference, I suspect most members of the audience would respond by saying, “A big check!” If I were to pose the same question at a National Association of Charitable Gift Planners convention, participants might shout out, “A Charitable Remainder Trust!”
In other words, we tend to think that the most important or valuable thing a prospect or donor can give a charitable organization is money, and preferably lots of it.
However, do we have the wrong goal in mind?
Amy Cuddy, a psychology professor and researcher at the Harvard Business School, says that successful professionals must first earn an individual’s trust and respect. “Psychologists refer to these dimensions as warmth and competence, respectively, and ideally you want to be perceived as having both,” according to a report in the Business Insider. The article continues:
Interestingly, Cuddy says that most people, especially in a professional context, believe that competence is the more important factor. After all, they want to prove that they are smart and talented enough to handle your business.”
However, Cuddy’s research demonstrates that earning trust is more important than proving competence. She shares her findings in her book, Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges. She also provides plenty of proven tips for engendering trust.
So, we see that the most important, valuable thing a prospect or donor can give you is their trust. Still not a believer? Keep reading. Cuddy’s research findings are in alignment with the studies completed by professors Adrian Sargeant and Jen Shang, of Plymouth University, who have stated:
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 and its representatives, affects both willingness to give and the amount of giving.
If someone you’re trying to influence doesn’t trust you, you’re not going to get very far; in fact, you might even elicit suspicion because you come across as manipulative. A warm, trustworthy person who is also strong elicits admiration, but only after you’ve established trust does your strength become a gift rather than a threat.”
If you’re like most fundraising professionals, you instinctively understand the importance of establishing a trusting relationship. However, what are you doing to build and maintain them?