A 2018 global survey showed that only 50% of respondents trust nongovernment organizations (NGOs). Although NGOs are more trusted than companies and governments, only half of those surveyed said they trust the NGOs to do the right thing. Trust in NGOs has been steadily declining in at least 21 countries, especially in Sweden, Russia, Germany, Japan, Ireland, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
This is alarming for a sector that was traditionally trusted way more than the 50% threshold. So, why are people losing trust in a non-profit organization? What is pushing them away from volunteering and donating to these organizations, many of which greatly impact the sectors they wish to help?
High-profile scandals such as the misuse of funds in the Cancer Fund of America and the overstating of rebuilding and reconstruction work in Haiti by the American Red Cross are some of the reasons. Outside that, organizations find it harder to revive their reputation after it takes a beating because of certain scandals. The public holds NGOs to higher standards than others. When they fail, it is harder for them to rise from those failures.
In a world that’s swimming with information, you have to make sure you’re always being heard. There is more information out there than you can ever bear to compete with, so make sure you have your share of space on the internet. Engage your followers and audience. Bring them up to speed about what your organization has been up to. If you want to build your reputation or correct misgivings about it, you have to be in constant communication with the people you hope to convince.
NGOs are not government-funded, but they receive subsidies and donations. One of the ways to prove your trustworthiness to the public is by being transparent about your finances, such as your assets and expenses. Hire a bookkeeper who can keep your financial records pristine. This way, whenever you are called to publicize your financial records, you will have all the documents you need in order.
While not-for-profit organizations aren’t usually required to release their audit records, making sure these are readily available will go a long way toward earning the public’s trust. Having an audit firm verify this information is also another way to ensure transparency and accountability. The public is concerned about where an organization puts its money primarily because they are also its biggest donors.
Build a Group of Influencers
Today’s trust wars are dependent on personalities who will distribute your message rather than shout about it from the top. Advertising and marketing your organization aren’t hierarchical anymore. Gone are the days when the audience will merely listen to the information coming from above. You have to get off your high horse and build relationships with your target audience.
The more practical way of doing this is to build a group of social media influencers who can amplify the organization’s message. Make sure that they can disseminate that information outside your usual audience, too. If the public is going to trust your organization, then others have to hear about what you do.
Use Data and Infographics
Facts matter. When you don’t present your facts in an easy-to-digest manner, fake news will eat your organization alive. The most powerful way for NGOs to spread the word about their advocacies and what they do is by using infographics, pubmat, and quote cards. These will help your audience better understand what you are pushing for and how you are achieving these goals.
When presenting data to your audience, make sure that it’s easy to understand. Make it understandable. Don’t allow for any nuances. The data has to be direct to the point, unfiltered, and easy to confirm. Don’t present data to your audience that they cannot verify with a simple Google search. Whatever you present to them, make sure it is also published on trusted sites.
Address Issues Immediately
Do not take longer than an hour to address an issue. Do not take longer than 30 minutes to address an issue. Things happen quickly on social media. If you don’t act fast, people will not forgive your organization’s mistakes. Make sure that they know you are getting to the bottom of things. Even if you do not have a good explanation of what happened, recognize that an issue has cropped up. Neglecting to acknowledge the issue is a surefire way of pushing your audience away.
NGOs also have to fight a deluge of fake news. The most important thing to do to combat fake news that threatens the reputations of these organizations is to present accurate and easy-to-understand data that will not discriminate sectors of the population you wish to address. Losing the public’s trust is easy, but earning back that trust is as hard as it can be.