When working with donors to identify prospective donors who may wish to support your charity, an important part of relationship building is what I call “transfer of trust.”trust_equals_reliability_plus_delight

Kivi Leroux Miller talks about it in her book The Nonprofit Marketing Guide.

“Few people wake up and decide out of the blue to support a particular charity. It’s much more likely that one of two scenarios will happen: the person will be referred to you by a trusted source, or the person will seek out an organization that can help her in some way.” 

The transfer of trust occurs when a donor makes an introduction of a friend, peer or business associate to your nonprofit and explicitly or implicitly says,

“I believe in this.”

“This is the charity where I choose to invest.”

“I trust this nonprofit with my gifts and dreams and it is one of my (or THE) philanthropic priorities.”

“I believe these people are doing amazing good works and I’m proud to be part of it.”

“I know they use all their resources wisely – money, people, expertise.”

“This charity exemplifies and fights for my values.”

Donors often support other organizations, several or even many, and their tell their peers, “Yes! I support nonprofit X.” But transfer of trust is deeper than acknowledging basic support.

As a fundraiser, when you are working with individual donors (especially donors giving major or principal gifts) one crucial and effective way to meet with and connect with new donors is to have current donors personally introduce prospective supporters to you and your charity.

Donors may invite friends to events, ask those friends to join their tables or teams. But a transfer of trust occurs when a donor specifically invites a prospective donor to your organizations. This can happen in several ways: introducing you (or a colleague) over breakfast, lunch, coffee or a meeting at your office,  accompanying the prospect on a tour of your facility, or inviting the prospect to attend a performance. Less direct ways include making a direct introduction by email on which you are copied and introduced or making a phone call and encouraging him/her accept a meeting request.

These introductions are very persuasive for the prospective donor when initiated by the donor who has expressed such trust in your nonprofit – and often in you.

How to make this transfer of trust happen organically? Well, you can’t. The trust is transferred when there is a genuine interest on the part of your donor.

As a fundraiser you must create and nurture authentic relationships with your donors. Not transactional. Not chasing “a gift.” Not ignoring them once their have given their first (or successive) gifts, simply waiting for the next solicitation.

Transfer of trust will happen when donors have faith in you and your charity and the change you are making – together – in the world.

Touch base with your donors regarding important impact milestones, steward them through reports or experiences, provide frequent and emotional  communications (within the limits of what they have requested for contact). Calling your donor only when the need for a gift arises does not build trust. Let your donor share in the glory of the work your charity is accomplishing. Let her/him create the new future they dream of by being an important partner.

There is an adage that 5% of fundraising is asking for a gift, and 95% is thanking and sharing the accomplishments of the gift (and of the donor – the true hero).

Transfer of trust between current supporters and future supporters is one of the most powerful alliances your nonprofit can experience. Your job as a fundraiser is to be as honest, welcoming and trustworthy. Your nonprofit must be transparent, ethical and practice due diligence in finances and actions.  Your donors will have confidence when they want to transfer their trust.

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