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Learn how nonprofits can establish and enhance trust with donors, volunteers, and stakeholders. Discover strategies for transparency, consistency, and accountability to build lasting brand trust.

Trust is a critical component for the success and effectiveness of a nonprofit organisation. However, according to Edelman (2021) “recent scandals at several [nonprofit organisations] have rightly triggered calls for greater accountability and focused attention on more dynamic alternatives’’.

Now, more than ever, building trust with stakeholders such as donors, volunteers, beneficiaries, and the community is essential for a nonprofit to achieve its goals and make a positive impact. When people trust a nonprofit, they are more likely to support it with their time, energy and resources.

So what’s the issue? Surely, all nonprofits are trustworthy?

Whilst NGOs enjoy a much higher level of public trust compared to other sectors such as government and media, the sector has had instances where some nonprofit organisations have come under public scrutiny related to the misuse of public funds, abuse of power and misconduct. Whilst these are isolated cases and are not representative of the entire sector, they offer lessons to the sector on how to avoid these pitfalls. In 2013, the Tampa Bay Times, CNN and the Center for Investigative Reporting showcased the results of their year-long investigation to identify America’s worst charities after investigating over 6,000 organisations. This report highlighted issues of integrity, excessive spending on administrative costs and using donor funds for personal expenses.

These cases are a reminder that the social sector relies heavily on public trust and there is an expectation from the public and stakeholders that these core values are upheld.

To build brand trust, below are some strategies that your nonprofit can use.

How to evaluate your level of brand trust

To further build brand trust, it is critical to evaluate your internal processes and systems and identifying if there are any gaps that could hinder your nonprofit’s brand trust. In doing so, you can show your nonprofit as accountable and transparent. Below are some of our recommendations you should consider in evaluating your nonprofit’s levels of brand trust.

  1. Be consistent: Ensure that your branding is consistent and in line with your brand guidelines. Whether it be use of your logo, colour palettes or key messaging, ensuring your brand stays consistent builds trust with your audiences. Further, having a strong brand helps to differentiate your nonprofit from your competitors and can ultimately create a sense of familiarity and trust among stakeholders
  2. Be transparent: Share information about your mission, programmes, and financials openly and transparently particularly on how donations are utilised. This should ideally include publishing annual reports, sharing information on your website, and responding to inquiries from stakeholders. This demonstrates that your nonprofit is open and transparent, and it allows stakeholders to see how their donations are being used.
  3. Be open to feedback: Encourage feedback from stakeholders and be open to hearing and addressing concerns. This may involve setting up a system for stakeholders to provide feedback or hosting regular meetings or focus groups.
  4. Use impact metrics: Share information about your nonprofit’s impact and how it is measuring success. This may involve sharing metrics or data on your website or in your annual reports. In addition to this, ensure that you are sharing consistent metrics that will ultimately inform your future decisions such as how capture stories. By doing this, you are not only demonstrating that your nonprofit is making a difference but also showing you are accountable for your actions and making use of data to inform your decision-making process.
  5. Have an external review: Consider having an independent external review of your brand and digital footprint to uncover inconsistencies in messaging, identify gaps in brand strategy, reveal potential reputation risks, and assess website performance, enabling businesses to make informed decisions for enhancing their overall brand image and digital marketing effectiveness. In doing this, you are not only showing that you are transparent and accountable but also that you are interested in improving your processes.

Summary

It is important for leadership teams and board members of nonprofit organisations to be keen to check up on processes and internal systems and ensure that they are up to date. In addition, we recommend investing in having the right professionals such as branding and communications experts who can share key insights on strategies to further build your nonprofit’s brand trust. By constantly evaluating and restructuring these processes to improve them, nonprofits can become even more impactful in their communities.

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