How do you develop trust?  If you are a pet lover and adopt a dog or cat from your local humane society, what are the critical elements that establish trust between you and your new canine or feline?  Is trust immediate?  Does it take time in your experience?  How consistent must you be in order to maintain it?  What breaks trust?  When we consider the critical elements to creating trust it is easy to see our successes and failures when we see it through the experience of those we love.

Trust Me?

Professionals for Nonprofits released a study about the status of nonprofit employment in New York, New Jersey, and Washington DC.  The report released the Top Ten Essentials for nonprofit employees which suggests some interesting priorities.  Number one and two are intangible qualities.  Trust is a feeling.  There is no accreditation process to measure outright trust.  The Better Business Bureaus, Charity Navigator, and other certification organizations review past operational behavior but do not award a merit based on trust.   Mission statements come in second on the Top Ten list.  These narratives provide each organization with the opportunity to define its purpose.  Both trust and mission statements speak to the importance of an enterprise being able to articulate what it believes and then acting in accordance with their stated beliefs.  Even the trust formulas I offered last month are based on intangible attributes.  If you want engaged employees, volunteers, donors, and fans the importance of defining purpose and developing trust cannot be overlooked.

Lowest Common Denominator

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We are creating systems based on the lowest common denominator.  The act of a few on the extreme edges set the bar for the rest of us.  What if you showed more trust.  One CEO I worked with empowered his staff to ‘do the right thing.’  Sometimes this was producing tickets for a sold out show, extending a membership benefit to a lapsed donor who was befuddled by why they were not on a list, or just making sure an individual was recognized by name at the right moment.  Nothing revolutionary but it came with a sense of connection and compassion.  Where it would have been easy to say “no” or “sorry we cannot do that,” there was flexibility.  You cannot have a community without trust.  Would you join a group that was always asking you to prove your identity? 

Manipulation vs Trust

Here is an example of a campaign that is less transactional that some of the ones I noted in my Its About Trust post last week.  If you want a vote you still needs to be a Facebook fan of Crate & Barrel (the hook still exists which leading practices says is manipulative) but Crate & Barrel is committed to giving the money regardless of the number of fans and votes.  In an ideal world, Crate & Barrel would open the voting to everyone and trust that those that appreciated their generosity would become fans.  If Zappos is willing to trust that customers will not abuse the free return shipping policy (which could be a significant cost) then why not allow everyone who believes in the causes you are supporting to vote.  Some of these voters will become fans based on their own motivation and the retention rate of these fans (the stickiness of their relationship) will be quantifiable higher than those who opted in just for one purpose.

Manipulation works until you lose your leverage.  Trust works far longer and the rewards are much higher.


How does your cause demonstrate trust?  Is is done with words?  Actions? Programs? Volunteers? Partnerships? Relationships? Everyday? By proxy?  Through all individual or key leaders?  With a large megaphone?

Which organizations do you trust?  Why?  Which ones would you recommend to a colleague or friend?  Which organizations would you trust to take care of a friend no matter when and how they interacted?  What makes these organizations so trustworthy?

Keep your eyes open for trust today.

Real or Fake

The big debate in cycling right now focuses on the use of drugs or doping.  One friend argued  that as a casual fan he will take the excitement of race that has the ultimate dual, such as stage 17 of this years Tour de France.

I do not know if this stage was an authentic effort of two clean cyclists or if it was the sideshow performed by athletes who managed to game the system.  Purist would argue that this finish is a more realistic moment in the sport.

How important is authenticity?  Are your patrons more excited about the show and results or the honor in which you approach endeavors?  How does your cause measure trust?