“2020 has been a year of societal upheaval so massive it is like a rent in the Universe...and a tipping point has been reached.” (NPQ, Spring, 2020)
Nonprofit Role More Vital Than Ever
In this unprecedented environment the vulnerable population designation that is nonprofit’s primary area of concern is spreading wider and deeper across American society.
More people have become “vulnerable” in the past three months than in the prior 50 years. The nonprofit collective “mission” has never been more vital to our country’s recovery.
The Most Vulnerable Have the Least Trust
A recent survey by the Independent Sector published in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, (June 29, 2020), revealed that the people who need nonprofit’s help the most, trust nonprofits the least. These facts are troubling:
- Only 52 percent of people from households with income of less than $35,000 annually have high trust in nonprofits, compared with 65 percent of people who make more than $200,000.
- Only 12 percent of Americans believe nonprofits are best positioned to address the societal challenges facing the country in general.
- While 81 percent of all respondents said they believe nonprofits have the ability to strengthen American society, only 47 percent believe the nonprofit sector is "headed in the right direction" to do that.
- A perceived lack of financial transparency, associations with scandals, and a belief that charitable money is being misused drive distrust in nonprofits, the survey found.
Philanthropy was defined as corporate philanthropy, private foundations, or high-net-worth individuals engaged in philanthropic efforts. Only 36 percent of respondents said they have a high level of trust in philanthropy. In other words, the prejudice that the “haves” feel for the “have-nots” is reversed and returned by the “have-nots” for the “haves”. They believe that the benefactors –
- Don’t really understand the plight of the poor.
- Don’t really care.
- Start foundations for glory, ego, and tax considerations.
- Foundation and non-profit management take most of the money meant for the vulnerable.
- It is almost impossible to qualify for any kind of aid. Don’t even know how to fill out the forms.
- It is undignified to accept help from strangers who don’t really mean it.
- Need to confront problems rather than “wasting time” asking for help.
What to Do?
The sincerity of the empathetic people who fund and staff the great nonprofits across America is not being communicated effectively to their constituents. Why not?
Nonprofit managers confess that it is largely their fault. They cite the following communication mistakes that all nonprofit management seems to make.
- They believe their work speaks for itself.
- They spend more time communicating with donors than constituents.
- Their outreach follows a tried and true formula to reach the greatest number of people in the greatest need. It tends to be impersonal.
- They feel no need to “explain” themselves to constituents even when things go wrong.
- There is more need than resources, so they do almost no “marketing” to constituents.
The Forbes Nonprofit Council of successful nonprofit leaders came up with the following six rules for building trust with donors. They suggest that the same rules apply when communicating with constituents and would go a long way in building trust.
- Be consistent – When dealing with constituents.
- Guard your reputation – If they trust you, they’ll come to you.
- Execute well – Make sure all constituents get excellent care.
- Be honest – If you can’t help, say so. If you can, admit your limitations.
- Be transparent – Treat constituents with the same respect you treat donors. Tell them everything, even bad news. That builds trust quickly.