Build Trust With Your Donors: 5 Best Practices

Tina Jepson
Tina Jepson

Successful fundraisers all have one thing in common- their donors trust them, and their organization enough to make a monetary donation.

Trust is key in any relationship, both personal and professional, and this also includes the relationship between a donor and fundraiser. A donor’s confidence in you and your cause are especially important in our information-rich society because donors are looking for more and more information about the services and spending habits of their favorite charities.

Building trust with your donors is a fairly straightforward process. It requires you to be open about how your organization/charity operates. But, trust also builds on itself as you develop a genuine and long-term relationship with donors.

Check out this list of 5 best practices that will help you build trust with your donors.

Practice #1: Keep Your Message Clear and Consistent

Consistency in messaging is essential in building and maintaining your donor’s trust. This starts with having a clear brand.

Chances are, you are working with a limited staff. If you have a marketing and communications department, then rely on them for the right messaging. If not, you’ll have to take some time to develop your brand and get your team on the same page.

Your messaging needs to remain consistent in all of your donor touch points, including your website, social media posts, newsletters, mailings, special event promotions, etc. Familiarize staff with the appropriate language to use in communications. Also, fonts, colors, logos, etc. should be the same in all materials.

To stay organized, consider putting together a communication plan. This living document outlines a donor correspondence schedule for both online and offline touchpoints.

Practice #2: Be Upfront About Your Financials

Donors today can easily research your financial status. Now, more than ever, nonprofit transparency is key.

There are a number of ways that you can build trust with your donors by keeping your financial situation open and available.

  • Publish or otherwise make available your Form 990
  • Consider a board-approved executive compensation policy
  • Accurately track and reimburse travel and other per diem expenses
  • Provide detailed information about your costs of fundraising, administrative, marketing and services.
  • Include a conflict of interest policy in your board policy manual
  • Use nonprofit guides like Guidestar and Charity Navigator to publish information about your organization

Transparency can also be used as a tool for fundraising. Skeptical potential donors are likely to appreciate all forthcomingness.

“You can build trust with your donors by keeping your financial situation open and available.” tweet this

Practice #3: Regularly Report Your Results

Accountability goes hand-in-hand with transparency. You know to keep your financial information ready for distribution at all times. Now, consider whether or not you are able to defend all organizational decisions including funding and services provided.

To begin proving accountability, it is imperative that you regularly compile an annual report or other factual impact-related document. You’ll need to report immediate and long-term accomplishments, as well as your intended outcomes.

Use this document as a way to build your donor’s trust. Share information about your organization, the past year’s highs and lows, and who was essential in making change happen.

Donors appreciate when they can see the direct impact of their dollars. So, if you are able to calculate a return on investment (ROI), then by all means do so!

Likewise, this is the place to tout the lives impacted, volunteers mobilized and other statistics your organization knocked out of the park.

Practice #4: Don’t Be Pushy

Fundraisers are notorious for being pushy, and if your fundraising method starts going down this path, it is bound to cause some negative effects. Many fundraisers use the term ‘pleasantly pushy’, and even this term feels slightly hostile. Donors should NEVER feel pressured into a donation.

When you build trust with your donor, you need to remember that sometimes they simply can’t give at the time you are asking. They could have recently fallen onto hard financial times, have family troubles, or have already committed to another organization.

Of course, you want (or possibly require) that donation to keep your organization operating. But don’t risk a potential long term relationship over one “No.”

Here are a few things to keep in mind when asking for a donation:

  • Have your facts straight. Be able to tell your donor exactly how the money will be used.
  • Remain humble and thankful for your potential donor’s time
  • If you haven’t heard back after the initial request, follow up in one week.

If your donor says no to a monetary donation, offer another option. Consider asking them to check our your website, provide their contact information for future campaigns or connect via social media.

This just may not be the right time or campaign for them but that doesn’t mean they won’t be able to give the next time they are asked.

Practice #5: Show Donor Appreciation

Build trust with your donors by continuously focusing on donor appreciation.

Keep in mind that donors don’t just want to be acknowledged for their gifts, they NEED to be acknowledged. After all, you want to cultivate a long-term relationship with your donor, and not just their dollars.

Start by learning the art of a proper ‘Thank You’. Make it personal, unique, and heartfelt. Your donors should never be made to feel like just another one of the masses. Explain to them the impact of their dollars. Your thank you note should:

  • Be handwritten, if possible
  • Personalized
  • Offer a sincere thank you
  • Suggest a next step but do not request more donations at this time (For example, ask your donor to connect with your organization via social media)
  • Simple and straightforward without jargon or generalities

Keep in mind that there’s more to donor appreciation than just thank you notes. Don’t shy away from really getting to know your donors. Learn about their values and inquire as to what motivates them to give. This can be done through a special event, social media post, phone call or even with a survey. The more you know, the easier it will be to develop this relationship well past that initial donation.

“There’s more to donor appreciation than thank you notes. Don’t shy away from getting to know your donors!” tweet this

It is completely appropriate, especially if you live in a tight-knit community or are connected via social media, to recognize significant events that happen in your donor’s life. Make it a point to regularly read the newspaper or read newsfeeds on social media to for events such as marriages, property purchases, and job promotions. If you happen to hear good news about one of your donors, reach out to them and send a simple congratulatory note.

Like all relationships, the bond between a donor and a nonprofit takes some time to develop. But, once that trust is earned, a fundraiser is likely to have not just a lifelong donor, but a lifelong friend of the organization.

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