Trust has become an increasingly important commodity in fake news world where people publish untrue information and call it ‘news’. The last few years have seen Royal Commissions and other inquiries refocus and recalibrate Australians’ trust. Few sectors have been immune, from religious and political entities to corporations in the financial sector, to aged care providers to social media and tech companies, trust has been eroded.
As a result, trust is more important than ever for organisations to build with their customers, clients and employees. This is especially true for the not-for-profit sector, who largely rely on the generosity of Australians to care for some of Australia’s most vulnerable communities.
According to the Australian Charities and not-for-profit commission (ACNC), trust levels in the charities/not-for-profit sector have reduced over the last five years. In 2013, 37% of Australians had high trust, which had declined to 30% in 2015 and 24% in 2017 1.
Despite trust levels decreasing, our annual Australian Communities Trends research found that almost three in five Australian givers (57%) and charity workers (59%) strongly/ somewhat agree that Australians place a higher trust in charities/not-for-profits than commercial organisations.
Here are some insights and strategies to help not-for-profits build trust in a fake news world.
Keys to building trust
Our latest research into the Australian not-for-profit sector shows that Australian givers and charity workers agree that the best ways to build trust in the charities/not-for-profit sector is through transparency, integrity, reputation and delivering strong outcomes. Charity workers (62%) are more likely than givers (45%) to believe that effective leadership helps to build trust in the sector.
Transparency is essential to trust
Both Australian givers and charity workers believe the number one way to rebuild trust is to be transparent. This is especially important when it comes to financial aspects. Positively, almost four in five Australian givers (78%) are satisfied with the level of transparency regarding finances for the charities/not-for-profit sector. When an organisation’s message aligns with their action, this demonstrates integrity and builds a strong brand reputation among the public and importantly, those who give to the organisation.
Communicate the delivery of outcomes
Not-for-profit organisations can build trust by communicating strong outcomes and linking people’s financial giving to the impacts the organisation is able to have. This helps givers understand that the organisation is truly making a difference. Volunteers and beneficiaries of the work can play a vital role in this area. As volunteers have no ulterior motive for their endorsement, they often compel high levels of trust.
Invest in effective leadership
To help build trust with Australian givers, effective leadership is important. In response to the increasing trend of donor led engagement, charities/not-for-profits need to value donor input while also communicating the experience and effectiveness of the leadership team. To help build trust with the organisation, givers need to build trust with its leaders. Where possible, invest in developing effective leaders who have a connection and communicate with givers.
Find ways to connect on a personal level
In a time of decreasing trust in societal institutions, personal connection is key to engagement. Australian givers are more trusting of organisations with which they are personally connected. More than four in five Australian givers (84%) definitely/somewhat trust the charities/not-for-profits they personally support to use their money wisely.
Using stories and data-led evidence can be a powerful combination and strategy to help people connect to the mission, vision and values of an organisation, and the work they do to contribute to a flourishing society.