Two Key Resources for Building Donor Trust

Trust is so hard to win…and so easy to lose.

Trust, I think, comes with consistency. Being true to your word over time, keeping promises, listening carefully, showing integrity, being kind and helpful and putting others first.

One key, too, is having clear values and sticking to them. In almost any relationship, personal or business, others want to know what you stand for—and see proof in action.

For everyone involved in fundraising, we’re fortunate to have caring nonprofit networks, professional associations and diligent consultants to help.

I wanted to bring your attention to two key resources. One can play a role in your donor-facing communication, the other can provide a foundation for the development of your nonprofit. I’m talking about the Donor Bill of Rights and the National Standards for Gift Planning Success.

Resource #1: Donor Bill of Rights

The Donor Bill of Rights was created by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), the Association of Healthcare Philanthropy (AHP), the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Giving Institute.

It has been endorsed and adopted by numerous nonprofits committed to ethical fundraising.

The purpose of the document is to “assure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public” and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in the organizations they support. It asserts a donor’s right to transparency, good stewardship, confidentiality and professionalism.

How to Share The Donor Bill of Rights

One way of sharing this list is to simply link to it from your website or other digital communications.

A better way, I think, would be to complete the permission form on the AFP website so that you can reproduce it. With permission, you could:

  • Post it on your website—as a webpage, a downloadable PDF or both.
  • Highlight it in social media posts.
  • Link to it from your email campaigns.
  • Add a Donor Bill of Rights link to staff email signatures.
  • Quote it in direct mail materials with a redirect where they can find the full text.
  • Print copies to use at events or in donor meetings. (Psst: One of our senior Stelter writers, a former front-line fundraiser, had success doing exactly this.)

Incorporating the Donor Bill of Rights into your communication and fundraising efforts can build trust and ongoing loyalty.

Resource #2: National Standards of Gift Planning Success

You’ve likely heard me talk about the National Standards before, and I admit that I am quite proud to have played a small part as a Board Member for CGP and now as Co-Chair of the NSGPS Task Force. Stelter’s own Lynn Gaumer, JD, our senior gift planning consultant, has also been involved with the standards as the incoming Chair of the CGP Leadership Institute.

The National Standards were built to provide best practices and guiding principles to any type of planned giving department at any type of nonprofit. The standards were specifically created to be size, complexity and subsector agnostic, to essentially provide a code of practice—16 standards across three general categories—to “balance the interests of the donor with the purposes of the charitable institution.”

Beyond the standards themselves, whether you’re a member of CGP or not, you’ll find assessment surveys and other tools to help you get a realistic view of where your program is and provide guidance to your team when putting the standards into practice. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to take the assessments (be honest with yourself), review the findings and create a plan to apply the National Standards to your organization this year!

Consider incorporating the standards into your onboarding for new employees and perhaps working with your local planned giving council and inviting someone from CGP to visit and present on the standards. Using them can help build your nonprofit’s infrastructure for the long term and, in turn, create trust with donors.

Your To-Dos

With the consistent and sincere application of the Donor Bill of Rights and the National Standards, your organization can find a solid platform that serves both your cause and the interests of your donors.  

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