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Do They Trust You?

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“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.” Albert Einstein

The success of fundraising and advancement depends upon your credibility, and that of your organization and leadership with your donors. Donors have an overwhelming number of choices for use of their philanthropic dollar. So the slightest reason for them to be given pause about the credibility of you or your organization could derail their support.

Your credibility is most on display in the way donors are treated and stewarded after their gift is given. It is not at all unusual for higher capacity donors to make a modest first-time gift just to test how you will treat them. This is a way for them to take measure of you and your organization.

This is also at play when you seek the assistance of advancement volunteers, board members, your executive team members, physicians, faculty, program directors and other stakeholders. One of the greatest challenges and laments I hear from our clients and others is how unresponsive these stakeholders are to requests to give you access to their social and professional networks.

When I hear this I immediately ask the question…Do they trust you? Do they trust your ability and that of your advancement office to service with integrity any relationship opportunities they provide you? They are putting their social capital and your hands and want to know that it is not being put at risk.

Instead of lamenting about weak stakeholder cooperation and initiative, first ask if you have earned their trust. Here are some tips to help in that effort:

· Follow up promptly on the referral and report back to the referrer.

· Keep the referrer in the loop about all or most of your communications with the person to whom they have provided an introduction (if desired).

· Review your stewardship program to ensure you are communicating with your donors with the appropriate intensity using newsletters, emails, personal notes, phone check in, event invitations, visits and more.

· Treat the referrer as you would a major donor, especially if they are not already.

· Include the referrer in the process of building the relationship, if the referrer is willing and if appropriate.

· When a gift is secured, celebrate the event with the referrer and let others know how the referrer’s action has come full circle in support of your organization.

Human nature is what it is. We must earn people’s trust and respect before expecting them to take a chance with us, especially when it involves an activity they are likely not comfortable with in the first place…fundraising.

Your takes:

1. Exercise healthy introspection before pointing fingers.

2. Remember advancement is a sort of “confidence game” where you must earn confidence to succeed.

3. Building authentic stakeholder confidence is a process that must be part of your advancement planning and execution.

For more information about Copley Raff and its spectrum of consulting services, please see Follow CRI on Twitter @copleyraff. For those in healthcare visit

The next PLAN-MGO session is April 8-11, 2016.