Posted by Pamela Kilzer


In a 2015 report, The Chronicle of Philanthropy found that approximately 35 percent of people in the United States don’t trust charities. From that same report, 25 percent of the population said nonprofits do a very good job helping people, but a mere 13 percent said they think charities do a very good job of spending money wisely. When it comes to building trust among your nonprofit’s constituent base, reports like that can be a pretty dismal sign.

Unfortunately, nonprofits can face a whole mess of criticism, which often results in a lack of trust from many potential volunteers or donors. Why does trust matter, you ask? Well, when constituents feel they can trust your organization, they’re more likely to care about your mission, which means they’re more likely to get involved with the cause. For example, according to one study on website trust conducted by The Millennial Impact Report, 84 percent of millennials said they would be “... somewhat or very likely to donate to organizations that they can fully trust.” On the other hand, a solid 90 percent they would stop giving entirely to an organization if they felt they could no longer trust it. Of course, none of this is new information. We all want to trust the people, businesses and charities we work with. When donors feel connected to your organization and feel like they can fully trust you, they will naturally want to be more involved.

How can your nonprofit continue to support its constituents and demonstrate your trustworthiness? Luckily, your website is a huge asset. A valuable, efficient website demonstrates a nonprofit's credibility and builds trust with constituents. Here are seven tips to build a website your donors can trust.

1. Use a clean and simple design.
Your nonprofit’s website design matters now more than ever. If a website is outdated, difficult to maneuver or aesthetically unappealing, potential volunteers and donors will be much less likely to consider getting involved in the cause. With the latest advancements in technology, nonprofit organizations must demonstrate their credibility through an official, modern, professional website. Not sure how to tell when your website needs an update? Check out our article on five signs it’s time for a website redesign. Make sure your website is up-to-date so potential constituents can trust you from the very beginning.

2. Be consistent with your messaging.
Once you have a clean and modern design picked out, ensure your messaging is consistent throughout the website. Start with the brand you want to portray, then work your way down from there through every page of the website. Messaging includes headers, copy and calls to action. It should come from the same brand and voice, with the same purpose behind it. Not only should your messaging be consistent on your website, but be sure to maintain that same messaging style through social media posts, newsletters, mailings, etc. Put together a communication plan that identifies your fonts, colors and logo, along with the voice and purpose your organization strives for.

3. Give examples of past success.
If you want website visitors to trust your organization, then give them something to trust. Show them past examples of success your nonprofit has had working toward your mission. For example, include statistics on your homepage with the number of people you’ve served, the number of items you’ve collected or the number of lives you’ve changed. Or, include some photo albums on internal pages from past events your organization has been involved with. Sharing examples of past success on your website will not only make visitors feel more connected to your organization, but it will build up the credibility they’re looking for.

4. Include testimonials.
Of course, what better way to appear credible than to have people say how credible you are? When appropriate, ask for testimonials from current and past donors, volunteers or even clients. Include those testimonials—and pictures with permission—on your website as examples of people your charity has worked with and supported. If your website has a blog, (which it should), you could even ask a few constituents to share a blog post about their experience working with the nonprofit. Demonstrating your success with other individuals will help generate that trust with future supporters.

5. Make it easy to get involved.
The main goal with your website should be to make it as easy as possible for visitors to get involved. Do they want to volunteer? Perfect, here’s the link. How about signing up for the newsletter? Great, enter your information here. The easier it is for constituents to maneuver your website, find the call to action button and then go through the process, the better your return rate will be, and the more trust you will gain. Make your call to action buttons prominent and the involvement process simple. For instance, consider the importance of form and donation integration.

6. Integrate your donation processing.
Integrating your donation processing through your website makes it extremely easy for visitors to give quickly. This means website visitors can give directly through your website, rather than using a third-party tool or taking them off your site somewhere else to give (cough, cough, PayPal). Like Firespring’s CEO Jay Wilkinson says, once people land on your site, don’t send them away. Taking visitors off your site to do something like fill out a form or donate can make you seem less credible, thus impacting that trust you’ve worked so hard to obtain. Help maintain the trust by making sure once visitors come to your website, they stay there.

7. Share financial information.
Finally, gain constituents’ trust by being upfront about your financial information. Oftentimes, donors can easily research your financial status online anyway, so transparency matters now more than ever. Consider publishing or making available your Form 990. Or, when appropriate, be transparent with your compensation rates for executives and staff. Accurately track and share any necessary financial information with constituents when they ask. If you don’t want to share all of this information on your website, then consider utilizing sources like Guidestar or Charity Navigator to publish your information. Be transparent about the money you raise and where it goes, and your donors will feel a lot more comfortable trusting your efforts.

Trust matters for any organization, but especially in the nonprofit community. When used effectively, your website can be a valuable tool to help you build trust with your volunteers and donor base. Try out these seven tips to establish and maintain a trusting relationship between your charity and your constituents.

If you’re looking interested in learning more about how to build an effective website, Firespring has you covered. Our mission is to help you succeed by providing nonprofits with stunning websites and a whole lot more. Request a website demo to see how your site would look on one of our nonprofit design themes.


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