Trust—the great leveler

boxiconPerhaps the most critical resource in engendering philanthropic support for your charity or cause is trust; trust among your investors that you will deliver on both the outcomes you tout and also the values your donors espouse.  Your fund development program will rise or fall in direct proportion to the level of trust that your supporters place in you.
The good news is that trust is no respecter of size.  It’s available to the small fledging nonprofit as much as to the large, mature organization which has achieved institutional status.  Your organization builds that trust by doing what you say you will do and being mindful of the expectations of those who invest in you.
Trust concept.Trust is a high-value, high-impact resource that also has a very short shelf life. Once earned, your organization must continue to renew that support, year after year.  Never take it for granted.  If you do, you’re likely to make the headlines in a way you’d rather not.
The Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago is learning this the hard way.  A simmering budget crisis has now forced the institution to slash research and cut payroll and to seriously consider cannibalizing the collection itself.  Disregarding expressions of concern from investors—even trustees—the museum continued to establish direction without regard to attendees or donors.  The result is not a crisis of monetary support but a crisis of credibility—which will make recovering from the former all the more difficult.  Now the very viability of the museum is in question.
Like successes, crises are hardly ever “overnight”.  Letters from trustees of the Field Museum as far back as 2006, warn of “a pattern of deception” and a ”disregard for commitments to donors.”
Whether the Field will recover, and in what form, is an open question.  What is never in question is the importance of renewing the contract—the contract of trust your organization has with its donors—it’s investors—year after year.
Principle 7 of The Eight Principles of Sustainable Fundraising® is Renew and Refresh™.  Like the principle of gravity, it applies to all—large and small.

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