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Insights from Karen Climer about fundraising and nonprofit organizations

You Need Your Donors To Trust You. The Way To Earn Their Trust Is Simple.

March 13th, 2014 by Karen Climer

Our donors don’t trust as much as we think they do. Back in the day, donors were more trusting. They donated to Great Big Nonprofit, and didn’t worry about it. They knew the Great Big Nonprofit was a do-gooder organization, and that was all that mattered.

Today, donors don’t trust nonprofits. (I know your organization is different, but I’ve seen the research. Trust me on this one!) Think about how often we hear about a nonprofit scandal. The CFO has been embezzling money. An organization paid an overpriced consultant instead of spending the grant money on the new playground. Sometimes it’s not a scandal, it’s that people don’t think we are good at what we do. (i.e. an organization spends millions of dollars on eliminating poverty, but their clients are lifelong clients).

It’s not just nonprofits we are leery of – it’s everyone. Only one-third of American say that people can be trusted. The other two-thirds say, “You can’t be too careful.” (General Social Survey 2012) Trust is at its lowest point since we began tracking it 40 years ago.

How do you increase trust at your organization? By treating donors better.

Consider this…I’m sitting in my office in Orlando, Florida. If I send a check to organization that is building homes for people in Africa, I have absolutely no way to judge how much that organization is helping homelessness. I can’t even accurately measure that for an organization located in Florida, much less on the other side of the world. So how do I judge the organization? By how well they treat me.

I don’t consciously say, “That organization does a great job keeping me in the loop. They must be doing a good job at ending poverty in Africa as well.” A normal, reasonably intelligent person (I consider myself to be in that category) would not consciously think that. However, on a subconscious level everyone thinks that. If a company does one thing well (deliver sandwiches freaky fast), we assume they do everything well (sandwiches taste good).

If you have excellent donor communications, your donors will assume you are doing a great job accomplishing your mission. The opposite is also true: no matter how good you are at your mission, if your donor relations suck, the donor assumes your organization sucks.

Posted in Communication, Cultivation, Retention

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