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The Fundraiser’s Creed, Article Two: Giving Is An Act of Trust

Published by Jeff Giddens

Trust is a funny thing. We all want people to trust us, but we’re not always sure how to get them to do so.

What do we usually say? “Trust me!”

But that might actually have the opposite effect.

Fundraiser's Creed - Article 2 - Giving Is An Act of TrustWe believe that trust is earned. That means our donors give it to us, if we do the right things. We can’t force them to trust us, and we can’t take it from them.

But if we expect donors to give to us, then we have to earn their trust — because giving is essentially an act of trust.

Donating money to a nonprofit is a completely irrational behavior. Why would you give your hard-earned money to an organization and get nothing in return? Because you trust that they will use it to do something that matters to you.

Two Elements that Build Trust

We believe that trust is built through two primary factors: integrity and effectiveness. You might think that these factors take time to develop. Relationally, they do. But they can also be developed through a clear, tested value proposition on your donation page, right at the point where we are asking people to give.

Let’s look at some research that shows how trust can be built through the value proposition on a donation page.

CaringBridge is an organization that offers free, personal, protected websites for people to easily share updates and receive support and encouragement from their community during a health journey. Most of their donations come through “tribute pages”, which live on individuals’ journal pages. These pages had hardly any copy on them, and simply said “Give to CaringBridge”. This assumes that the user is already motivated to give, and already trusts the organization.

We thought that this lack of value proposition might fail to convert a large segment of people who made it to this page — particularly people who hadn’t built trust with the organization.

So we decided to add three simple sentences to the donation page: “When you give to CaringBridge, you ensure that [Firstname]’s safe, protected place to share health updates will always be here. Make a donation now, and share a personal message for [Firstname]. Your support matters.” You can see the control and the treatment below.

Giving is an Act of Trust - Example 1

This copy produced a 28% lift in donations. 

Giving is an Act of Trust - ResultsThis showed us that just having a value proposition on the page was able to increase conversions. There were people visiting this page who had not developed trust with CaringBridge. The value proposition became the bridge to that for some of them, because it showed them the effectiveness of their gift. Sometimes just having a value proposition on the page is all the visitor needs to convert. In this case, the value proposition reiterated the effectiveness of the organization.

Although your donation page might get a lot of traffic, it probably has a conversion rate of less than 50%. Trust might be a critical factor affecting your conversion.

Can you highlight your organization’s effectiveness?

Do you have third party quotes that speak to your organization’s integrity?

Do you have security seals or accreditations that might increase your perceived trustworthiness?

If you do, test adding them to your page. You might see a big jump in donations. But remember — fundraising is more than sending email appeals and optimizing landing pages. It’s about creating meaningful relationships with those who choose to support our work. And their interests come first.

Download the Fundraiser’s Creed

The Fundraiser's CreedWe believe that donors want to be known by us, they want to trust the organizations to which they are giving, and that we can never truly know what motivates donors unless we test. The Fundraiser’s Creed is our commitment to treat donors like the complex and unique individuals that they are.

Will you make this commitment with us?

Complete the form below to get your copy of The Fundraiser’s Creed. Share it with your coworkers, use it to inspire your staff, and post it on your wall to remind you of these truths about our donors.



About the author:

Jeff Giddens

Jeff was the 1994 Georgia State Spelling Bee champion.