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For any personal relationship to be lasting, effective, and rewarding, there must be trust. It’s no different with your nonprofit. Your donors must have a firm belief in the ability, truth, reliability, and strength of your organization. If that wavers, so does their commitment to you.

How can you intentionally build trust with donors?

Donors must be confident you are doing work that makes a difference. The key way that perception is built is by showing them the efforts and outcomes they are making possible. Demonstrate role competence and good judgment. You have to show your donors you value their contributions and are not using them lightly; that they are part of the larger goal which they can rely on your ability to accomplish, and make donor relationships a top priority.

3 Steps to Build Trust with Your Donors

  1. Be Proactive. If we truly want to have a relationship with our donors, we should plan to communicate with them in an appropriate manner. They should be the first to know the news in good times and in bad. It’s a sign of respect toward those who care enough to give.In those times, timeliness of response is really a function of readiness. Do we have proactive plans and possibly pre-written press releases for how we’ll respond in a crisis? Do we have succession plans and a communication strategy to stay ahead of turnover, especially with key leadership? Do we celebrate success with our donors?Our core communications job, as a function of donor-centric fundraising, is to maintain credibility and trustworthiness.
  2. Be Transparent. We live in a world where things go wrong; where even the most prepared and thoughtful people and organizations sometimes make mistakes. You need to be completely open and direct with your donors when things do go wrong.This may come as a big surprise to many organizations, but donors know we are human… and they’re okay with it!So often we operate in extremes assuming that donors will leave us if we make a mistake. Of course we have to be competent professionals, but how we handle a mistake often says more about the nonprofit and its commitment to its donors than the mistake itself.
  3. Be Personal. A flaw in a traditional fundraising model is the practice of determining our strategy by gift amount, treating donors like a number.It’s shortsighted to expect donors to be motivated by what we haven’t yet revealed to them. But that’s exactly what we’re doing when we steward a $10,000 donor differently from a $100 donor.Lower level donors have no idea what’s waiting at the higher levels of commitment, so what’s enticing them to give more? Instead of assuming that a smaller gift indicates a decreased likelihood to give more (which is a defeatist perspective), we should strategically over-steward those lower level donors in an effort to move them to a higher level. Donor-centric fundraising should be based on the donor’s potential, not on a dollar amount.

Building trust is a critical component of donor-centric fundraising. To build that trust we should start by putting ourselves in the shoes of our donors. What would we want to know? How would we want to be treated? That authenticity and human touch is the first step to relationship fundraising.

To learn more about putting the donor first in your fundraising, download the free resource Demystifying Donor-centric Fundraising.