Your donors don’t trust you, and here’s what you must do about it

Your donors don’t trust you.

Okay, that’s a bit of a blanket statement, but there’s some disturbing evidence for it in the form of the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer which shows crashing level of trust in public institutions in the US.

The Agitator is agitated about this. You should be too. See Why “Trust” Matters in Fundraising. And What To Do About It.

The thing about trust is that seemingly small things can damage it. The Agitator post has two great examples:

  1. …you acquire a first-time donor using a powerful message to save the baby seals…. What you shouldn’t do is acknowledge the donor’s original gift with an equally powerful message about the dangers of climate change and then follow up with a well-crafted appeal to help stop fracking.
  2. … [a donor named John Smith] sends in his first contribution. His acknowledgment reads, “Dear John Smythe.” He calls and requests the spelling of his surname be corrected and is met with the uncaring voice of a rude clerk.

To succeed at fundraising in an atmosphere of distrust is harder than ever. But getting the “small stuff” right can help.

And if your organization is involved in anything underhanded or unethical … a pox on your organization!. I hope you get caught and that every last one of your donors abandons you. Bad behavior is what’s killing trust for vast majority that deserve trust.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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Jeff BrooksJeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 35 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com. More.


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The future of fundraising is not about social media, online video, or SEM. It’s not about any technology, medium, or technique. It’s about donors. If you need to raise funds from donors, you need to study them, respect them, and build everything you do around them. And the future? It’s already here. More.

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About the blogger

Jeff Brooks has been serving the nonprofit community for more than 30 years and blogging about it since 2005. He considers fundraising the most noble of pursuits and hopes you’ll join him in that opinion. You can reach him at jeff [at] jeff-brooks [dot] com.

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