Is Your Nonprofit Building Trust?

5 Ways Nonprofits Can Build Trust

Cultivating a relationship with your donors is the key to successful fundraising. At their core, these relationships are built on a foundation of trust. Donors will only contribute to causes that they identify with, deem worthy, or believe in. As nonprofits, there are a few intentional ways to build trust within those relationships.

These five best practices for building trust all center around ways to keep your objective clear, successfully communicate your mission, actively maintain donor relationships, practice transparency, and demonstrate accountability and appreciation.

Trust is built by consistent performance. Each of these five ways of cementing donor relationships with your nonprofit build upon each other. Although implementing one or two of these suggestions may help, you’d ideally employ of all of them. Each of these practices is necessary to achieve long-term success and build your organization’s reputation within the community.

1.Deliver a clear and consistent message

Prioritize communicating a focused mission to your donors. A clear mission statement will allow donors to see that your organization is focused and determined to complete the goals and projects that are directly aligned with your vision. Having this definition from the start will help donors anticipate what to expect and allow them to plainly see what is in it for them as they contribute to your cause.

Once you’ve established a clear mission, be earnest and consistent in adhering to those objectives. That may occasionally mean saying no to projects that do not clearly support your goals. This consistency is what will determine future and continued support. The ability to reliably deliver on your mission will keep established donors contributing and provide new donors with the comfort to donate in the future.

Finally, you must effectively communicate these messages to your donors. The best way to do that is by developing a communication plan to remain consistent throughout each of your donor touchpoints. Keep the language, fonts, logos, colors, and messaging on-brand for each e-mail, newsletter, or social media post that you share.

2. Facilitate personal, authentic connections with donors

Connect with donors on a personal level by telling them authentic stories regarding your work. Better still, invite them to see first-hand what you’re doing. Share the issues that affect your organization and encourage people to become part of the solution.

When you focus on building personal relationships with your donors, prioritize phone calls and in-person meetings. Keep written communication transparent and straightforward. When it comes to building trust, these personal relationships are critical.

These days, it’s also important to connect with your community online. It shows that you’re engaged and in touch, and you’re open to interacting with those who are invested in your success.

3. Practice Transparency

Ultimately, you gain trust by being truthful and transparent. By delivering quantifiable results, your organization can follow through on goals and projects that build trust. To do this, be upfront with your donors.

Financial transparency includes being forthcoming with financial information. Use nonprofit guides like Guidestar and Charity Navigator to publish up-to-date information about your organization and make it easy for donors to research your financial status. Make your Form 990 (Charitable Solicitation Compliance) accessible.

Additionally, have your facts straight and tell your donors exactly how their donations have been or will be used. Many donors appreciate it when they can see the direct impact of their contributions. These concrete results build trust and encourage continued generosity.

To take transparency a step further, invite donors to take a behind-the-scenes look at what you do and how your organization is run. Even if they decline the invitation, your willingness to be transparent will resonate with them.

4. Emphasize Accountability

There’s no substitute for performance, especially when it comes to fundraising. Regularly compiling an annual report is an essential tool for nonprofits, and it’s a great way to prove accountability. These documents should include immediate and long-term success and future outcomes to build trust with your donors.

Establish clear metrics for success within your organization and use your annual report to showcase these results. This is the place to present statistics on your work, like the number of individuals served, volunteers mobilized, or items delivered. To keep the report authentic, share information about high and low points from the past year and highlight the people who played vital roles in bringing about positive changes.

5. Show Appreciation

Take the time to thank the people who have contributed to your organization. Not only is it polite, but it’s good business. Expressing appreciation is a crucial component to developing personal relationships and is a large part of what nonprofits must do to maintain their donor base.

Make sure that your thank-you notes are genuine and heartfelt. This is a significant opportunity to reinforce your connection to your donor. Personalize the note and handwrite it if feasible.

As your relationships with your donors progress, learn about what they value and what motivates them to give. It’s appropriate to offer a simple congratulatory note if you hear good news about one of your donors. Recognizing milestones is especially important if you live in a tight-knit community or are connected on social media.


Building trust with donors requires a consistent, systematic approach. As you get to know them and build relationships with them, offer them plenty of opportunities for your donors to get to know you.

Present a clear mission and be able to show how you reliably deliver on those goals and projects. By being able to showcase your steady, constant progress in an annual report, you remain transparent. You show that your organization is willing to be held accountable to its community.

Invite your donors to connect with you and deliver authentic, on-brand communication whenever you connect with them. Show them that you appreciate their donations with a handwritten thank you note and continue to engage with them on the things that they value within your organization. Paying attention to the little things shows that your organization can be trusted with the bigger, more important things, too.