How to encourage donors to trust you

People don’t trust you.

It’s not just you, but pretty much all institutions. People are widely cynical and distrusting of all of them. (And who can blame them?)

But trust is one of the most necessary elements of fundraising. So overcoming that pervasive distrust is critical.

From Fired-Up Fundraising, here are 5 Ways to Overcome Declining Trust and Wary Donors:

  1. Talk about the WHY of the work instead of the WHAT. When you focus on how you do what you do, you’re not talking about the donor’s values and concerns. Talk about the difference they can make. Talk about the values you share. That will get through far more than the most detailed seminar on your methods.
  2. Obsess about your donor retention. It’s the measure that matters most. And most of the things you can do to improve retention are things that help them see you are trustworthy.
  3. Ask your donors about their communications preferences. Give them some control.
  4. Use good old-fashioned donor-centered language. Say you a lot. Talk to the donor about her part in the world; don’t focus on your own amazingness.
  5. Try a gratitude report. Instead of a look-at-us annual report create a piece that shows them what they accomplished.

These things will break through the cynicism and improve your fundraising revenue.


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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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