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How Nonprofits Can Earn Trust and Build Donor Engagement

By May 24, 2019

Building trust with donors starts with giving them first-hand knowledge of the needs in their community.
By: Molly Boncaro, VP of Configuration, Implementation, and Account Management, United Way Worldwide

People today are more aware and passionate about social issues than ever before. And yet, as the Edelman Trust Barometer recently found, they’re also less trusting than ever before. There’s distrust of government, business, news organizations, NGOs, and even socially shared news. So how can nonprofits grow in a marketplace rich with individuals who want to do good but who distrust a system that is perceived not to serve the best interest of the world?

Here are three ways to build trust with your donors and grow as a nonprofit:

1. Provide personal, authentic experiences

It is not enough to tell people that you are doing good — not if you really want to develop trusted, long-term relationships with your donors. The best way to change the way individuals interact with nonprofits is by providing them with first-hand experiences that expose them to people in need, so they can see for themselves what’s needed and how they’re making a difference.

For instance, spending a day with a homeless person will give a far more personalized view of homelessness than, say, packing meals with other volunteers. Talking to middle-school students about what they want to be when they grow up (and finding they have no idea) will provide far more insight into the education gap than donating supplies to your local school district.

Nonprofits often offer volunteer activities that are “safe” or “second-hand” in that they keep the volunteers separate from the very people they’re trying to help. Volunteers may go home feeling that they’ve done some good, but their perspective won’t have changed. Their lives will carry on as usual. It’s time to open the curtain on the issues we work on every day. It’s time to trust that our volunteers are willing and able to get involved in meaningful ways and not just easy ways. The difference between offering a “safe” volunteer event or a tour of your nonprofit and giving a volunteer an opportunity to engage with those in need can be life-changing. It’s the difference between donating toiletries and walking a family through the front door of their new home after they have been homeless. When you give people opportunities to authentically engage in personally helping another person, you will have a donor, advocate, and volunteer for life.

By letting volunteers get close to the people they’re helping, they build connections and empathy that they cannot get with more hands-off volunteering opportunities.

2. Offer expertise and start a dialogue

In this era of distrust and “fake” news, people need help understanding what is true within their communities. As nonprofits, we can play a larger role in consistently delivering that truth. That means providing relevant data (when you have it) on the issues that matter to people. But it also means telling authentic stories and inviting others to join the conversation. We don’t need to have all the answers, but we should trust that we have more experience in issues than the average person and share our truth with our communities. In fact, sharing the issues and inviting people to be a part of creating the solution can be a more compelling path to building trust. We need to shift from selling ourselves as the only answer to inviting others to join us by sharing our knowledge and ideas.

As a nonprofit, it’s important that you establish yourself as an expert in your community. Even if your organization is small, you probably still know more than most about the community you serve.

3. Make it easy to connect

Intuitive online experiences are table stakes for nonprofits today. Your online presence represents how connected your brand is to today’s world. If users see that you’re connected to your community online, they’ll get the impression that you’re equally connected in your outreach and be more likely to invest in the future with you.

Philanthropy Cloud lets people tell their stories. It’s not always about asking for donations or volunteers. Sometimes, it’s just about telling a survivor’s story to let donors become genuinely interested in causes through the people in their communities.
Philanthropy Cloud lets people tell their stories. It’s not always about asking for donations or volunteers. Sometimes, it’s just about telling a survivor’s story to let donors become genuinely interested in causes through the people in their communities.

One way to accomplish this is with a philanthropy platform. Such platforms enable nonprofits to tell their story, provide an easy way to give, sign up for volunteer opportunities, and connect with nonprofits and other people who share an interest in the same causes. In the spirit of helping people engage in their community, the innovative Philanthropy Cloud provides the best user experience for year-round philanthropy, and because it is built with the technology and innovation of Salesforce, it brings a sustainable solution to the market.

Building trust takes time and a little more work than it used to, but by providing authentic experiences, sound expertise in an open dialogue, and a platform on which to connect, we can harness the growing desire from individuals to engage in the social issues they care about.

Want to learn more about how Philanthropy Cloud can encourage connection and help build trust among donors? Download this data sheet!


About the Author
Molly BoncaroMolly Boncaro is Vice President of Configuration, Implementation and Account Management at United Way. Molly works with companies using Philanthropy Cloud and likes to share best practices on how nonprofit fundraising is evolving. Her areas of expertise include nonprofit management, fundraising, marketing, CRM, event planning, strategic planning, and volunteer management. Learn more about the and United Way partnership, or connect with her on LinkedIn.