Trend #4: 5 Ways to Overcome Declining Trust and Wary Donors

This is the fourth installment in my series on major trends that will impact your fundraising results: the huge issue of declining trust and wary donors.

Donors are losing trust in nonprofits – and giving less.

So how do we deal with the wary donors of today – who are not so sure they believe all your appeals and communications?

I’ve been worrying a lot about the issue of trust over the past few years.

Apparently, “trust” in society’s institutions – including nonprofits – has plummeted over the last decade.

I’ve been watching the Endelman Trust Barometer year after year show declining levels of trust in NGO’s.

Even more, a new Gallup survey showed that in the US, only 60% of respondents said they trusted nonprofit organizations.

A slim majority of the world’s adults (52%) express confidence in the charitable organizations and NGOs in their respective countries.

And the Chronicle of Philanthropy commented on the Gallup poll:

“In the United States, 60 percent of respondents said they trust charities, and 27 percent said they don’t. Those results are similar to a Chronicle poll in 2015, which found that 62 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of confidence in charitable organizations.

Clearly people who don’t trust you are not going to make gifts to help underwrite your work.

In addition to mistrustful donors, we also have wary donors – who are not so sure you are going to use their money for its highest and best use.

— These donors can’t decipher the jargon in your materials. They end up not understanding what you do.

— They try to read self-serving slick annual reports that brag about an organization’s successes, and they can’t make an emotional connection.    

— They see appeal after appeal, but don’t feel personally spoken to, so they don’t give.

Here’s what to do about your mistrustful wary donors:

1. The WHY Instead of the WHAT.

Talk more about the “why you do what you do” instead of the “what we do.”

Donors are so much more interested in WHY your work is important. That’s where you do your selling!

Too many nonprofit communications are all about the process, and not about the impact. 

Ask yourself – with every event, brochure, mailing – what do we want our donors to FEEL when they read this? Do they get “why” this is so important? 

2. Obsess About Your Donor Retention.

I would be laying awake at night dreaming up ways to show my donors some love.

Why? Because this is the way build sustainable fundraising revenue you can rely on.

Donor retention requires you to slather attention on your wonderful tribe of loyal supporters – throw them parties, honor them with Valentines, invite them into learn more.

Make them feel more and more connected!

3. Ask Your Donors About Their Communications Preferences.

There’s new research out there that shows terrific results when you ask donors HOW they want you to communicate with them – and you follow their wishes.

As a result, donors respond by feeling respected by the organization.

For example, some people these days can’t stand phone calls. Others dislike emails. Still others only want you to text.

Your best strategy is to find out how YOUR donors want you to communicate with them and you’ll improve retention.

4. Use Good Old-Fashioned Donor-Centered Language.

Use more language featuring the wonderful word “you” when you write to donors.

I know you’ve heard this before – but are you really practicing it?

How many times do you use the word “you” in your appeals? In your thank you letters? In your event invitations?

What’s in it for the donor?

Why should wary donors read your stuff? You have to give them a good reason!

5. Try a Gratitude Report

Turn your annual report into a Gratitude Report featuring donors and why they care. (Thank you wonderful Agents of Good and Sofii.)

Don’t make it so much about you and your work.

Feature your donors talking about why THEY believe in your organization.

Testimonials are a much more effective selling tool. Build on that peer-to-peer validation!

BOTTOM LINE: How to Overcome Mistrustful Wary Donors

I know a lot of these are basics, but you can ALWAYS do it better.

Stale, organizational communications habits don’t die easily.

You might be in a communications rut and not know it!