Recently, I was talking with my neighbors about the flooding in KY, fires in the Southwest and other hard hit areas (not to mention countless global atrocities). Questions naturally arose in the conversation: How can we help? Where should we give money?
One neighbor suggested the American Red Cross as an international organization well known for disaster recovery assistance. Another neighbor said, “I don’t know about American Red Cross because of what happened in Haiti.” Investigation Of American Red Cross Finances Finds 'Fundamental Concerns' : NPR. Stories of nonprofit impropriety–true or not, spread quickly by word of mouth, social media, and backyard barbecues.
In fact, a recent Independent Sector survey found that only 56% of Americans express trust in nonprofits — down from 2020. A Morning Consult poll released in June 2022, revealed a similar trust gap, with more than 4 in 10 respondents saying they had experienced a loss of trust in an individual nonprofit. Even more concerning, trust in nonprofits declined with each passing generation. Just 46% of Gen Z adults expressed trust in nonprofits compared with 67% of Baby Boomers.(Berman, Leaders Must Confront Declining Trust in the Nonprofit World — Before It’s Too Late (philanthropy.com)
Why does it matter? Because trust is the foundation of any relationship, and the highest performing nonprofits know that fundraising is all about relationships.
Donors continue to become savvier about the nonprofits they fund by:
· Volunteering with a nonprofit to learn more about their mission and impact
· Checking an organization’s GuideStar rating and 990
· Asking fellow funders and friends about where they donate
· Googling a nonprofit to see if there has been negative press
· Researching the nonprofit’s website
· Joining philanthropic giving circles to make a larger impact
· Creating donor advised funds to help steer giving under an umbrella organization
· Talking with their neighbors 😊
Trusted nonprofits work hard to promote their mission and vision. Successful organizations are transparent and use active marketing to communicate with current and prospective donors. Getting out in front of bad press is important. Alert your donors before donors question you and potentially stop donating. If a national organization is having an issue, it doesn’t mean all nonprofits under that umbrella are experiencing that same issue, but it is up to you to tell your story to your local audience.
What can you do as a nonprofit to bolster trust?
· Create/update your GuideStar profile and ensure your most recent 990 is uploaded
· Create and update your profile with community foundations/foundations offering donor advising funds
· Be clear and transparent in all donor communications
· Offer volunteer opportunities as an entry point to future donors
· Spend donations how they were intended and report impact
· Share your strategic planning summary on your website
· Hire a diverse workforce
· Report funding from government and foundations accurately
When you lead with transparency you help ensure that when your nonprofit comes up at the next neighborhood gathering, the chatter is positive and the desire to engage with your organization is high.