Successful Online Fundraising is a Matter of Trust

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When choosing which organizations to support, donors say it’s a matter of trust. (And those aren’t just lyrics to a Billy Joel song, though now you probably have it stuck in your head.) It’s a fact from the Millennial Donors Report issued earlier this year.

If you’re familiar with the report, you may remember it states that approximately 77% of respondents said they’d trust an organization if it was endorsed by a friend or family member (see page 10 and 11 of the report).

It further breaks down the “trust issue” with an analysis correlating trust with giving habits; for example, 60% said they were “very likely” to support a cause if they fully trust the organization.

So, what does this spell out for nonprofits?

Ya Gotta be Trustworthy

You’re probably thinking, “Well, of course we’re trustworthy!” and I’m sure you are. You could have great programs that really make a difference in your community. But when 90% of millennial donors say that they’d stop giving to an organization they didn’t trust, you have to realize your donors’ trust needs to be earned in order to build long-lasting relationships with them. You can do that with two things: by being clear and transparent.

Ya Gotta Communicate Effectively

To be considered trustworthy, you should be able to help your donors understand everything about you effectively. Help your supporters understand—better yet, know—the kinds of things you’re doing to help the community.

Factors That Influence Trust, from Millennial Donors Report 2011

Communicating success stories doesn’t require a larger staff but it does require a little more time than it takes to post bullet points on your website. It’s time worth investing. Here’s an easy approach to improving how you communicate your success stories:

  1. Find the stories: If you’re helping a group of people, you’ll have stories to tell. Call up members of your community and jot down notes about them: How did they come across your organization? How did your organization help them? What was their life like before? Where did they grow up? Etc.
  2. Write down the stories: Some nonprofits do this well (like Peace Players International) so yours can do it, too. If your organization doesn’t blog, consider starting one. Also think about plugging it into your other electronic communications, or pitching it to media.
  3. Tell the stories: Get creative and out of the box. (See how the COPD Foundation had 50+ patients give their testimonials in front of a camera.) Use all sorts of mediums to tell your supporters how you’re putting their money to good use. Post it on your organization’s Facebook page and start a conversation about it.

Connecting with donors through social media is essential for online fundraising; as traditional giving has gone down, online giving went up. (Promise me you won’t be one of the 64% mentioned here.)

So, as a nonprofit, you can gain more support by showing your donors how you put their money to good use with real examples, pictures, audio, and video presentations. (This StoryCorps audio link shows how easy it is to effectively convey a story with a simple recording.) This could help you gain new supporters, too.

Ya Gotta Be Transparent

70% of donors consider financial reports on how their support is helping, and 42% consider reports on financial conditions as important factors that influence trust. If you put yourselves in your donors’ shoes, this makes perfect sense.

Give your donors the perspective into your financials they deserve. According to Guidestar’s recommendations, annual reports, audited financials and an IRS letter of determination should be posted on your website. Keep your staff list, contact information, and program descriptions updated as well.

How else do you think nonprofits can build trust in their community?