Over the past few days, I’ve been thinking about trust. This was spurred in part by a couple of pieces of mail I received.
One looked like business mail from our garbage collectors. I opened it, because you can never tell anymore what might be a bill and what might be another sales pitch. It was the former – sort of.
They were writing to tell us about their partnership with a nonprofit organization. It didn’t really say much at all, just that they thought this organization was swell and they would be supporting them. There was no call to action at all.
Now, the organization they mentioned has received a fair amount of negative press in the past couple of years. I think they earned every bit of it – first by getting aggressively litigious with smaller nonprofits and second by supporting positions that would negatively impact the people they claimed to serve. Needless to say, they won’t be getting my support, whether my garbagemen like them or not. And honestly, while I applaud the company for supporting charity, their support of this particular one leaves a negative impression. I’m certain they were hoping to be seen as good guys.
The second looked like an appeal from an organization I’ve donated to in the past. I opened it and started reading… only to discover that it was really a pitch for insurance. Very odd. Does anyone really make a decision about what insurance to buy based on a pitch from a nonprofit?
Two pieces of mail, both of which missed the mark, I think. They reminded me how important trust is in our work. In both cases, a business was hoping to benefit from its connection to a nonprofit. They were hoping to transfer some of the trust they imagined the reader had for a nonprofit to themselves. In the first case, they might have succeeded with people who liked the organization. But it was a failure with me. I think they chose poorly. In the second, an organization so blatantly sold their good name for an insurance pitch that it undermined my trust in them. I hope they were paid a lot of money for it. But it feels wrong to me.
Trust – in what we say, in how we act – is the most important currency we have. Once we spend it foolishly, we might never get it back.