For the last 18 years, Edelman, the big PR firm, has done a world-wide survey of how much people trust government, media, nonprofits and business. In 2017, the headline from their Trust Barometer was “Trust has Imploded!” Their report last year showed that, due in large part to the election, trust had basically collapsed, creating real problems for your organization and for democracy.
I went to an event recently where Richard Edelman revealed the 2018 Trust Barometer. You won’t be surprised to learn that there has been no recovery of trust. And it also won’t surprise you that the cries of fake news, of partisan press and of reports of Russian bots and trolls have made media the least trusted institution for the first time in the survey’s history.
People don’t trust media, government or nonprofits. In this low-trust environment, how can we be successful at fundraising?
Here’s 5 ways your organization can thrive during the trust crisis:
1. Stop being clever, amplify the authentic
The voice of your organization is less powerful than ever. The way around that is to use your best supporters, program participants and experts to carry the message for you. People trust people — so rather than try to be polished and clever, be authentic and real.
2. Ramp up your peer-to-peer fundraising
If your best marketing comes from the voice of your supporters, why not your best fundraising as well? Peer-to-Peer doesn’t have to be run, walks and rides anymore. There’s a big growth of DIY events and of general peer-to-peer programs, such as fundraising around birthdays.
3. Collect user-generated videos to build social proof
Video has come to totally dominate the marketing mix and has taken over social media. Those real people who will amplify your message should do so with video. With new tools such as GV-One from Gather Voices, you can now easily collect, moderate and share videos from your network.
4. Invest in your experts, influencers and charismatic supporters
Take the time to develop a community of experts and articulate and charismatic supporters — your super advocates — that you invest in with media training, video training, inside information and other incentives to get them to speak on your behalf. Send those super advocates a poster or a t-shirt — it will pay for itself many time over.
5. Focus on service — be trustworthy
Trust is earned everyday in small amounts. But it is lost in an instant. Get my name wrong on an envelope or an email and you’re done. I don’t get the thank you email soon enough and I’m out. Ask me to donate the day after I donated and I think you have no idea what you’re doing. Use those amazing tools you have to make your donor (customer) experience really good and the trust will grow.
Here’s the bottom line — trust is so low that you can’t just do business as usual. In every meeting about a campaign or fundraising plan, about your website or social media, you need to be planning to succeed in this low-trust environment.
Up your game on how you interact with your donors and leverage your best supporters to build a community of super advocates. This is job one for today’s fundraisers and the ones that embrace this new reality will thrive.