Now that the dust has settled—at least a little bit—and the 2016 election is in the books, there’s a lot to reflect on. We had an intense election cycle, and there were many important lessons to be learned. One of the lessons that I learn every presidential election cycle is that living in Iowa is more than a little crazy sometimes…hundreds of campaign ads run daily and every candidate makes a point to visit every few weeks. We get a lot of attention around here!
Another thing that got a lot of attention and curiosity during this election’s campaign cycle was the operational nuts and bolts of the foundations run by our presidential candidates.
This was actually a good thing. It shows times are changing and people are asking tough, necessary questions about how things work in our world of philanthropy. It’s an opportunity for nonprofits to shine brighter.
From Trust to Uncertainty
In the days of the Greatest Generation during WWII and post-war America, people trusted and admired big business. Companies grew and prospered. To do so meant they must have been built from hard work, civic duty, and great financial and social investment. Who could question success? In God (and General Motors) We Trust. It was the era of the Organization Man and paternalistic companies, government and, yes, foundations.
Fast forward to today, where Gen-X and Millennials, now the largest age segment of our population, question nearly everything. They’ve seen various corporate, government, and educational institutions called on the carpet for doing extremely questionable things. They’ve been through a Great Recession. These generational differences have, no doubt, spilled over to the nonprofit world. The WWII generation saw first-hand the impact of big charity, but the younger generations, given stories they have seen in the media (fair or unfair), now question charities and how their donor dollars are used. I think we can rightly call them skeptical.
Overcoming the skepticism…and building your brand
How do we work with these younger adults to overcome this skepticism? I have a few thoughts:
- Be transparent. Let people see how you operate. Err on the side of too much information. It’s a powerful trust builder.
- Share. Stories, not just data, are how we make things real and relatable.
- Show impact. Young adults like results, not just promises or self-kudos.
The beauty of these basic steps is that they not only can help overcome doubts, they also build your nonprofit’s brand. If a brand is truly defined by how you operate, the integrity you demonstrate every day and what unique value you offer your supporters, building greater trust can be the ultimate brand builder.
If you’re interested in creative ways to show impact and build trust with your donors, don’t miss Stelter’s final webinar of the 2016 series “Data to Design.”