You must maintain the trust of your donors, which takes devoted time and attention. Nonprofits doing great work can be understandably laser-focused on meeting current needs for mission accomplishment as well as anticipating future needs. Decisions and pivots made in that mindset can come back to haunt the nonprofit when the focus is on moving forward with expediency.
A maligned refrain is, “we’ve always done it this way.” However, sometimes the panned “way” is due to state or federal laws, donor designation of funds, or other proscriptive reasons. Take the time to think through potential eventualities of changes. Quick pivots in the name of efficiency, while a hallmark of the private sector, are ill-advised for nonprofits.
Time must be devoted to ensuring significant decision points and path adjustments are fully vetted by the board and captured in minutes. This process helps protect two critical intangibles of avoiding mission drift and safeguarding trust. Anticipate and prepare for inquiries from multiple sources to avoid being caught “flat-footed,” giving the regrettable appearance of ineptness or lack of candor.
The Houston Astros will spend an entire year trying to repair the trust broken with baseball fans, but the damage can be just as severe when unintentional. For instance, nonprofits cannot afford to allow their brand to be connected with any entity before doing due diligence in verifying who is behind that entity. Unfortunately, a perceived breach of trust infects other organizations like a virus. To continue that analogy, take steps as you would to avoid the contagion. Make sure board and staff can respond to any perceived anomalies and in that preparation, issues may come to light that can be proactively addressed.
Think about the preparation-trust connection: transparency is key, documentation is crucial, and fully informed stakeholders are essential.