Today we explore how a relationship of trust affects philanthropic giving. Making a donation is the result of a voluntary, intentional decision by an individual or organizational donor to support a cause.

Why is trust so important? Trust is vital to the effective functioning of our societies. Trust is so fundamental that an institute on trust in organizations has been founded in Montréal.

Research has shown that trust is based on the following six ingredients.

  • Ability to take charge
  • Dependability
  • Looking to the future
  • Living together
  • Reliance on human capital
  • Communication

A lowered level of trust can lead to societal malfunction and possibly chaos. We need only recall the rise of a conspiracy theory in our societies that led a number of people to challenge, without a shred of evidence, the outcome of the most recent presidential election in the United States, or to adopt positions, unsupported by any scientific data, opposing health restrictions or vaccination.

La philanthropie fondée sur la confiance

Today, the circulation of information is greatly facilitated by new internet‑based media. Regrettably, however, not all information that circulates is valid, accurate or reliable, which is why we need to check our sources before trusting that the information we receive is sound.

So how does a relationship of trust between a donor and a cause work? This relationship is central to all philanthropic giving. In philanthropy, making a donation is the result of the following main factors.

  • Support for the organization’s cause
  • Trust in the organization’s management
  • The impact of the donor’s contribution to the organization, in comparison with a donation to another, similar organization

Cultivating a relationship of trust with donors is important in optimizing donations to your organization. That’s why it’s essential to communicate regularly with your donors about what’s happening for you, what you’ve achieved, what matters to you and what matters to your client group.

As well, being able to rely on a board of directors made up of competent, credible and recognized leaders instills trust among your partners and ensures that your organization engages.

Building trust optimizes contribution levels when donors are able to give to your organization. Often, donors will make an initial contribution, see how the organization operates, and observe how their contribution makes a difference. Then, if they’re happy with the return on their social investment, they may consider increasing their contribution. This process takes time, patience, communication and relationship development with your donors. It calls for a range of strategies to reach out to and connect with various levels of donors. We’ll say it again: don’t limit your personal contacts talks with your donors to only your organization and its issues; also take an interest in who your donor is, what their personal and professional background has been, what and who they care about and, most importantly, why they care about your cause. At the end of the day, philanthropy is all about caring, and trust.

Here are some tips for enhancing trust in your donors.

  • Develop a trust-based donor communication strategy.
  • Draw up a trust charter and post it on your internet site; get your board of directors involved.
  • Showcase the leaders on your board of directors by highlighting their exemplary experience.
  • Let your donors know how effective this relationship of trust is.
  • Have an in-person and online donation process that is transparent and secure.
  • Be prepared for crises that could damage your organization’s reputation.

Christian Bolduc
CEO, BNP Philanthropic Performance and BNP GOLDIE Canada