Do Your Donors Trust You?

A 2015 report shows your supporters may be losing faith in your nonprofit organization, but have no fear. Here are nine ways your online presence can win them back.

By Maddie Bro

From friendships to business partnerships, trust is an essential element in any successful human relationship. When you have faith in someone, you often feel a sense of confidence in his or her reliability, honesty, and credibility. To maintain a relationship, however, this confidence needs to be mutual—you must also exhibit these qualities to make you worth others’ trust.

Philanthropy Today recently shared a study conducted by the 2015 Edelman Trust Barometer that found public trust in the nonprofit sector has fallen to its lowest rate in five years, from 66 to 63 percent.

Although nonprofits remain the most trusted sector, critics are concerned that non-government organizations are focusing too much on money, have lost touch with the public, and are corrupt or incompetent.

What does this mean for your nonprofit? How can you avoid falling into this business-sector trap?

David Hartstein, contributor at GuideStar and partner at Wired Impact, a webdesign company specializing in nonprofit organizations, identifies nine simple changes you can make to your online presence that will help to ensure long-term relationships with your supporters.

  1. Make financial data easy to find. Your site’s visitors want to see your financial records before they give. Make finding this information simple and easy before they change their minds.
  2. Make reaching out easy. List relevant contact information that actually helps a supporter find the information (s)he needs–not just a phone number that goes straight to voicemail. Although the donor has chosen to give online, providing contact information that offers human interaction is appreciated.
  3. Be specific. Transparency is a good policy. Be clear with donors and share with them where their donations go.
  4. Stay true to your word. Following through with the information you shared with your donors will help prolong your relationship with them.
  5. Give concrete examples of past success. This is a great way to demonstrate credibility. On your website and social media, highlight awards, certifications, and other accomplishments your organization is proud of and other things it has done well.
  6. Send progress reports regularly. Continue to acknowledge your success and illustrate your honesty by sharing updates with your audience via email and social media.
  7. Include thoughts from past donors. Ask your donors to share why they decided to support your organization in a short quote or blog post. It may be the spark a future donor needs to make a donation.
  8. Include thoughts from the communities you serve. Utilizing the feelings of community members can illustrate the support you have from a large group of people.
  9. Include endorsements from experts. Asking qualified people in your field to speak on behalf of your organization or write a guest blog will bump up your credibility—and (s)he will appreciate the attention!

Incorporating Hartstein’s methods in your nonprofit’s digital communication will help to maintain and potentially grow your support base and put your organization back on track for long-term success.

About the blogger – Maddie Bro is a third-year undergraduate student studying journalism and gender/women’s studies at the University of Iowa. Following graduation, she aspires to attend law school to pursue her interest in studying civil rights law, free speech issues, and equal opportunity policy. Maddie enjoys swimming, running, reading, and catching up on CBS’ The Good Wife in her free time.


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