On Trust…

I recently read an article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy entitled “To Keep People Giving in the Pandemic, Trust in Nonprofits is Essential” (Segar, B., 2020). I won’t go into detail about the article’s arguments because the title sums up my thoughts perfectly: a nonprofit’s fundraising success is built upon a foundation of trust, and without that trust, the organization’s long-term financial sustainability will suffer.

Each day, nonprofit leaders work hard to attract and retain funding. If they’re savvy fundraisers, these leaders seek a broad range of support — from individual donors, from corporate partners, and from private foundations as well. They tell heartfelt stories about their missions, the people they serve and the differences they make in their communities. With a good mix of skill and luck, the funding arrives and the organization is able to sustain its work for another year.

But, regardless of a nonprofit leader’s story telling abilities, and regardless of a donors’ affinity, wealth, or interest, donors must have a measure of trust in the organization and the people leading it in order for gifts to become reality.

Trust is the reason a nonprofit board delegates authority to its executive director to oversee the organization’s daily operations. It is the reason that I’m always preaching about the importance of nonprofits being open and transparent in communicating with their donors. And trust is the reason nonprofits should value every gift they receive, as the people or entities making these gifts do so because they trust our organizations to be good stewards of their contributions.

It is a responsibility that I have taken very seriously in each role I’ve held in my twenty year nonprofit career.

In the coming year, my greatest wish for my friends in the nonprofit sector is that we continue nurturing relationships of trust with our existing donor bases and make positive strides to establish relationships with new donors. I use the word “relationship” intentionally, as good philanthropy is not a transactional business. Transactions are fickle; we should aim to sustain.

Be open, be honest, build trust, and the gifts will come.