Stewardship: 4 Indispensable Ways to Build Donor Trust

 

Donor-Centric Communications

Regrettably, there are some concepts where the English language falls flat and needs supporting context to explain what it means: I love my wife, Mexican food, my classic car, or my college football team. One word, many contexts.  “Stewardship” is another of those overused, ambiguous words within the Christian world. We need to drill down and define this word to effectively communicate with our donors.

You can be a great steward over a group of people, your finances, your time, your energy…even your property.  But just like the word “love”, the actual meaning remains fluid until context is applied.

When applied to the context of one’s ministry or nonprofit, how does the word “stewardship” apply?

The concept of stewardship is more than preparing numbers from your balance sheet or reporting how many kids have been served this year.  It’s the difference between a thriving nonprofit and one that’s on life-support.

The heart of stewardship is the careful nurturing of the trust that others have placed in you.

And as with all personal relationships, so much of trust boils down to how well we communicate. One of the most crucial elements of being a good steward of your ministry to your donors and to your community is clear, consistent communication.

But clear communication is only the beginning…

In today’s world, transparency isn’t just a nice thing that really great ministries do — it’s a non-negotiable requirement of good communication and stewardship.

Transparency builds confidence.  Confidence builds trust.  And trust builds long-term advocates and increased commitment.

So, how do you go about building clear, consistent communication with your current and future advocates?  You can be confidently transparent, uniquely you, without looking like you are trying to impress.

Here are 4 principles of transparent donor communication that build trust:

1. Be Unique

You were not created on an assembly line – so why do the same with your organizational communication?

What is it that makes your organization different from others like yours?  Let that shine through in how you talk about what you do.

  • Are you perky and optimistic?
  • Are you firm and resolute?
  • Are you aggressive and bold?
  • Are you deep and profound?

Use that God-given talent to stand out from the rest of the crowd with a message that is uniquely inspiring to the rest of us!

2. Be Accountable

Most of us have heard of Compassion International. They serve and care for 1.5 million children worldwide.

They have come to intimately know each child, their family and their communities to the extent that most nonprofits never venture by tracking 4 key life components of the children in their care – their physical, spiritual, social and intellectual well-being.

Can you say the same about your community, your events or impact? Start by defining 3-4 key measurements that you measure and report on.

Accountability and transparency are the foundation in being a good steward.

3. Be Honest

Effective organizations are that way because they have experimented through trial and error.

Don’t be afraid to share these misses with your audience.  It shows that you are transparent, honest and (believably) human.

Just because the event was a miss, it doesn’t mean it is not a great learning experience for the next time.  Just because you failed to reach your campaign goal, it doesn’t mean that you’re a failure.

No one expects perfection.  However, if that is all that they see, they will become suspicious.

Don’t be afraid to own your mistakes. Your community will thank you for it.

4. Be Persistent

The last time you tried to learn something – math, foreign language, piano, or how to use a new technology – how long did it take to catch on?

Effective communication and stewardship are the same way. While a campaign might be a “one and done” situation, connecting with people takes time and consistency in the message.

Remember how Jesus told us the Kingdom would grow inside of people…

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his field. Though it is the smallest of all seeds, yet when it grows, it is the largest of garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds come and perch in its branches.”

The Jesus model of donor communication is that you’ve got to keep throwing out the seed and trust God for the harvest…over time.

If you talk to a local pastor or a motivational speaker, they will tell you that, on average, people need to hear the message 7 or more times before they will remember it – even more before they begin to act on it.

So, do not expect a single campaign or an email to do it.  Stay the course.

No matter the size or reach of your organization, you can practice the skill of clear and consistent donor communication.

Developing the practice of effective donor communication has the potential to be largest catalyst for your organization’s health. Don’t leave it open to interpretation. Organizations that implement the principles of clear and transparent communication develop the trust and respect of their donors.

For personal, real help in ramping up your level of donor communication, call us today. The call won’t cost you anything, and there’s no obligation.

Let’s talk!

3 Massive Benefits to Storytelling You Can’t Afford to Ignore

 

Say Thank You and Tell a Story Worth Hearing

Storytelling is one of the most powerful tools a leader has to realize their mission and bring about change in their organization. Here are three ways storytelling can improve your leadership and propel your team forward.

As a father, I have experienced first-hand that there is something special about the father-son relationship.  Perhaps that is why the story of Dick and Rick Hoyt made such an impact on me.

Shortly after being born, little Rick Hoyt was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

The prognosis destroyed any hope of a normal life. No little league games.

There’s something about the unconditional love and the noble determination shown in this father-son story that inspires me.

For those who aren’t familiar with the Hoyt family, Rick, the son, was diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic with cerebral palsy and confined to a wheelchair. One day, Rick wanted to support a local fundraiser by participating in a 5-mile benefit run. Dick, the father, embraced his son’s conviction by pushing his son through the whole 5 miles.

Since then, they have participated in thousands of events including marathons and Ironman races.  I don’t know about you but hearing the lengths to which Dick Hoyt goes to ensure that his son, Rick, is not defined by his limitations inspires me to be a better father, husband and friend. It motivates me to be a force that helps those around me to be more, do more, and achieve more.

Stories have the ability to change lives.  We use stories to broaden our horizons, as instructional tools and to entertain. In fact, just like the Hoyt’s story inspired me to step up my game as a dad, your stories can inspire your donors to support more of the work you do.

They can serve as inspiration for your staff to keep working towards your goals and objectives, even when they’re not easily attained. Too often though, we are so focused on doing the work of our individual jobs that we fail to take the time to capture and tell the stories of impact.

Stories can propel you forward. Here’s how:

Stories stimulate the creative juices when we hit the proverbial wall. We have all been there, staring at a document cursor, an empty canvas or the never-ending to-do list. The humdrum of daily life obscures our connection to our own passionate aspirations. Stories like the Hoyt’s connect with yesterday’s dreams and re-engage us to pursue our calling to impact the world.

Stories help us seize the day by illustrating the passion during the pursuit.  Inspirational stories stimulate us to pursue that creative spark. Hearing the lengths that you have gone through to get to this point today or the amazing impact that people have had on others, draw people to gather around YOUR cause and find meaningful ways to play a part in future stories. YOU can create an entire movement because of your passion to educate your community towards leaving a lasting impact.

Stories describe that impossible situation that your team completed. Do you remember that crazy idea that captured our first client’s attention?  Do you remember what it was like on your first job?  “Crazy ideas” like pulling your son in an inflatable boat while you complete the first leg of a triathlon aren’t as crazy as they sound. Even if you haven’t found the solution to that impossible dream, there are people out there who want to engage their skills and the means to create a plausible solution to that impossible dream.

Storytelling is one of the most powerful gifts we have to see the possibility in the impossible and change lives. Whether it is our personal testimonies, a story of overcoming hardship or a story of a life made better through the mission of your organization, there is nothing that has greater potential to change someone’s perspective. You have all the tools you need to succeed. The question still remains: are you investing the time, energy and resources needed to surface and share your organizational impact stories?

Is your organization living out a story worth retelling?