In my previous post I wrote about the importance of building relations with your donors to give them a chance to know you, like you and trust you. It is relatively easy to make sure they know what you are about. So that they can see if your mission aligns with their dreams, values or priorities. It is a matter of making sure your communication is clear. Whether they like how you do things is less easy to influence, as it might be a matter of preference for a certain type of approach or way of communication. With clear communication, your (potential) donor will at least be able to spot quickly if there is a match. But how can you build trust?


Trust has a lot to do with reliability and consistency over time. Can someone rely on you to do something in a certain way, at a certain moment? Could they count on you to be in time? Could they rely on your approach? Your results? Or your impact? On your transparency? And on your integrity?

Keep in mind that a donor is entrusting you with their resources, money they earned. And they will want to be sure that you are using that carefully. They want to be sure that you are using it as carefully as they would themselves, to get the most value out of that money for achieving the shared dream between you and the donor.

Building trust takes time…

It takes time of course to build a pattern where you meet expectations of (potential) donors, that will lead them to trust you to continue meeting their expectations in future, too. It will take time to show them they can count on you. Especially because it will also take time to get a grip on all their expectations. Some expectations might be common, and you can ‘predict’ them. Some may be spoken out loud.

But you will find that there are also many expectations that are implicit. The donor may not even be aware of them him/herself until you do not meet them. This is one of the things you must try and find out about as part of your relation building with (potential) donors.

… and systems

You can enhance trust building by having systems in place that you are (visibly) implementing. Systems for how you handle incoming and outgoing moneys. And for recruiting and contracting people to do work for your organization as employee, volunteer or contractor. Systems for management and governance. But also, systems for planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluating work.



Good news!

Putting systems in place takes time, too, of course. But they help your team and your organization, as well. Systems provide clarity and transparency and help you be more efficient and effective, allowing you to focus on your core activities. So you need the systems for yourself as much as you need them to help instill trust with your (potential) donors.


The importance with systems as part of building trust is not only to have them in place, but to also use them. You need to be able to show that you are applying these systems and the principles they are based on in the daily routine and work of the organization.

Of course, you do not need to show this to just any donor. But some donors may ask you specifically about certain systems. (Many donors ask about how you incoming and outgoing moneys, is my experience). Other donors may ask questions to which showing your systems at work might be a good answer.

My three tips

  • Check your practices. Do you do what you promise and plan? Do you often miss deadlines or forget to follow up on communication or promises? Find out why and see what you can change to be more realistic in your promises so that you can keep them at all times.
  • Check your systems. Do you have systems for money, recruitment, contracting, management, governance, planning, budgeting, monitoring and evaluating? Check how accountable you really are towards your donors?
  • Use any chance you have to find out more about the implicit expectations your (potential) donors may have.

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