As I write, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is answering questions in the Senate. He’s avoided this session to date. Today, he can’t.
And that’s because his business model and a sloppy thirst for income led to a frightening abuse of users’ information.
Yes, we’ve all heard it before: if you’re not paying for it, you’re the product, not the customer.
Some of us steered clear of Facebook (and Instagram, owned by Facebook). Some of us decided we’d take the risk. Some of us had no idea at all what joining might mean.
It will be interesting to see if the public scolding results in any meaningful changes at Facebook – or (less likely right now) meaningful legislation.
But this isn’t really a post about Facebook.
It’s a post about your organization. And trust.
Facebook is the 8,000 lb. gorilla of social media. That means the #deleteFacebook movement isn’t likely to hurt them much. Too many people have already invested too much in the relationships, pages, and groups to be found on Facebook.
But chances are, your organization does not have that reach. To your donors, you are not impossible to do without.
So you need to care about your reputation. Trust, once lost, is very hard to regain.
So how are you guarding the trust your donors place in you?
Things you can do to build trust
- Keep your promises
- Show as well as tell
- Be consistent
- Treat donor data as if it’s as important as money
Keep your promises
What’s your promise to donors? What is it you tell donors a gift will do?
Chances are, if your promise sounds outlandish, you’ll have a hard time persuading donors to join you.
This is a tricky line. Finding the center of it requires both a passionate belief in your mission and a cynical look from outside eyes.
Donors aren’t stupid. But we all want to believe we can accomplish great things. So will her $50 change the world? No.
But will it change one person’s world? That’s a promise you might be able to honestly make.
It’s tempting to wax poetic and fall in love with your own organization. But do the harder work: make honest offers that are also emotionally meaningful.
Show as well as tell
So you’ve create a great, emotional offer. And donors respond. You’re not near done yet, though. You have only begun!
Every step from that first gift will determine whether you donor feels the decision to trust you was wise is critical.
That first gift is a test. Your donor is wondering now whether she made a good decision. You need to persuade her that’s true.
So confirm her decision quickly with a grateful (not formulaic) thank you. You can even tell her she has made a good decision!
Then you have to show your work.
This is where impact reports and newsletters are so important. You can say “you’ve done a great thing!” But it’s more powerful to show it.
Tell human-scale stories. Not about thousands, but about one person. That one life you promised would change? Show how it did. And as important, tell when it missed.
Honesty builds trust.
This is often overlooked. In the hurry to push out as much communication as we can, we tend to be looking toward the next shiny thing. Your donors, however, are still assessing the first shiny thing you offered.
Work hard at creating your essential messaging tools. What purpose does your organization serve? Who does it serve? Why?
Even if you’re not in the midst of a big campaign, you should create a case statement. It doesn’t have to be long or fancy. It does have to be compelling.
Then use that messaging, over and over. Repetition builds trust.
Remember that when you’re so tired of it you want to scream, your donors are just becoming aware of your message. You have to go at their pace.
Donor data is not yours to sell
Yes, I know new donors must come from somewhere. And trading or selling lists seems like a great way to make money or find new prospects.
But if the questions of the day about data and privacy haven’t already alerted you, your donors are wondering.
I dislike selling donor information. I know some do it. But I don’t believe it’s ours to sell.
I believe donor data is ours in trust. And it should never be used outside the organization unless the donor has been asked for and given permission.
Instead of looking at that as a burden, you can think of it as a wonderful opportunity. It’s a chance to show donors you take them and their information seriously.
So what if there’s a trade opportunity that could benefit two organizations?
I get it. It happens.
But again, you need to ask. And use the request as an opportunity to introduce your donors to a cause you think they’d be interested in.
“I know you care about the environment. So Clean Air is partnering with Clean Water. We’d like to share your mailing address so that you could hear more about their work – because we think you’d be interested. If you would, please let us know.”
See, not so hard. And rather than handing off your donors, you are demonstrating that their desires – to make a better world in some way – are more important to you than your bottom line.
That’s trust. And you need to show it to gain it.