This article was contributed by Jessica King, Business Lead at Getting Attention.
Trust is currency in the nonprofit sector. When you ask supporters to donate, volunteer, or advocate for your cause, you’re also asking them to place their faith in your organization’s ability to follow through on its mission.
Unfortunately, today many donors are reluctant to support nonprofits as recent reports indicate that the public’s trust in the nonprofit sector has dipped to just 50%. This means your nonprofit needs to take proactive steps to instill trust and communicate transparency. In this guide, we’ll review three strategies you can use to improve your nonprofit’s credibility, including:
- Keeping your financial reporting accessible
- Practicing ethical storytelling
- Cultivating a professional digital presence
Your nonprofit isn’t self-reliant. You depend on the your support relationships, which is why communicating your credibility is essential from the get-go. Let’s look at some ways you can use your marketing to cultivate a trustworthy reputation.
When you keep your financial information vague, it can cause donors to question your credibility and if their gifts are being used to advance your mission. That’s why transparent communication about your revenue and spending enables you to win more supporters. You can report your finances to the general public by adding links to your Form 990 in your website header and footer.
You can provide more details about your nonprofit’s finances in an easy-to-read format through your annual report. Although your nonprofit is not required to complete an annual report, you can use it to:
- Inspire your audience to get involved in your mission.
- Indicate the effectiveness of your programs.
- Fortify your trust with current supporters.
- Show appreciation for your donors.
- Provide concrete breakdowns of program spending for those interested.
An effective annual report calls attention to the previous year’s major accomplishments and highlights how your organization used donor support to further its mission. Additionally, it’ll provide a breakdown of how donors’ money is used as well as an account of major contributions.
Share the digital version of your report in your email newsletters, social media, and through direct mail QR codes to make it accessible to supporters. Doing so can help you build trust and demonstrate your commitment to ethical financial management.
Storytelling is a reliable strategy for nonprofit marketing as it can tug on donors’ heartstrings while illustrating the palpable impact their support can have. However, for these stories to be effective, they need to be true to the actual experience of your beneficiaries.
So, how can you use beneficiary stories in a way that communicates impact and maintains donor trust? Here are a few methods to keep in mind:
- Get beneficiary consent. Do not assume you can freely use beneficiary photos, quotes, or content as a part of your marketing materials. Always ask for permission and provide detail about how you plan to use the content.
- Understand donor expectations. Yes, emotional stories can be memorable, but not every story needs to be a tearjerker. Collect reliable feedback from your donors, so you know what they want to be updated on. More often than not, they just want to know they’re making a difference and are a part of something bigger than themselves.
- Tell the whole story. Provide context for your stories by using reliable statistics, multiple accounts, photos, and videos to back up your claims. For example, if you post an Instagram update on your latest project, you can link to a blog article that explains the project in more detail.
Another aspect of ethical storytelling involves allowing others to provide their perspective. Content such as volunteer “day in the life” updates or guest blogs can add to your nonprofit’s credibility while indicating that you have a thriving community of partners and supporters.
Have you ever navigated to a website that you instinctively thought was unsafe? Maybe it wouldn’t load content, had sparse resources, or even questionable ads. Either way, you most likely were quick to exit the site because something felt off. On the other hand, if you stumble upon a website with a great look and feel that quickly anticipates your needs, you’re more likely to stay.
This rule applies to your nonprofit’s digital presence—it needs to be professional to be effective. Here are a few best practices you can incorporate to build a trustworthy online presence that puts your supporters’ minds at ease:
- Keep your website user-friendly. An easy-to-use CMS (content management system) like WordPress can help you create a website even with limited coding knowledge. Widely used CMSs also tend to have faster load times and reduced cost plans for nonprofits that allow you to use their services without needing to feature ads on your website.
- Maintain consistent branding. Reference your brand guidelines when creating or updating your social media and website. This means keeping your logo, colors, and overall tone consistent across all digital marketing platforms. Consistent branding creates a cohesive experience for visitors, assuring them of your identity and communicating professionalism.
- Use secure payment methods. Many nonprofits use their website to collect donations. Make sure your online donation process is secure by choosing one that is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant to keep donor information safe.
- Stay active on social media. Inactive social media accounts can give the impression that your nonprofit is no longer operational. Maintain a regular post schedule and respond to comments as they pop up. If managing multiple social media accounts is too taxing, limit your number of accounts as it’s better to have a few highly active accounts than many with sparse or outdated content.
- Provide educational content. Not every piece of communication you share with supporters should be about asking for donations. Vary your content and earn your visitor’s trust by keeping an educational blog roll. Cover topics like how your nonprofit began, why your cause matters, and what your future vision is. This will give visitors a better sense of your expertise and why they can trust you.
Your online presence should accurately reflect your organization and inspire visitors to get to know your mission. If you feel you need to tighten up your website or enhance your branding, use resources like Loop’s roundup of the best nonprofit websites to get a better understanding of how other nonprofits use their webiste to inspire trust.
Consider elements like cadence, branding, and user experience when finalizing your digital outreach strategy. Then, reference your data to see which posts engaged your audience the most or how changes in your website affected click-through rates.
As you promote your nonprofit mission, use marketing tools and strategies that speak to your credibility. Publishing your annual report, telling accurate and compelling stories, and keeping a professional online presence are all strategies you can employ to earn trust. In short, these methods can fortify your reputation and help you win well-earned support.