Jun 11, 2021

Listening To Your Supporters: How To Build A Community Of Trust

Visualize some of your closest relationships. Whether it’s a family member, friend, or mentor, they all have something in common: they know you. This is what makes relationships deeper and more meaningful than the friendly conversations you have with acquaintances or strangers on the street.

Just like you, supporters need to feel known in order to develop trust with your organization! This means you need to show genuine interest and invest in the conversations you’re having with supporters. Trust will increase as they realize that you really are listening and care about what they have to say.

Supporters are looking for personal interactions with your nonprofit—not transactions. We’ll show you how! Keep reading to learn: 

  • The importance of trust as the foundation of meaningful relationships
  • How to build trust through different kinds of interactions with supporters
  • How to learn more about supporters to deepen your understanding of them
  • Simple steps to becoming a better listener

Make Trust The Foundation

So - you want to develop deeper, more meaningful relationships with your supporters? This might sound counterintuitive, but the first step to making trust the foundation of your relationship with supporters begins not with what you say, but it’s what you don’t say. In other words, the key is being a good listener!

Listening helps you better understand your supporters’ desires and increases your ability to respond to and act on those wishes. On a deeper level, it assures your supporters that you genuinely care about what they have to say; that not only their support for your organization matters to you, but also their input. Believe it or not, many supporters cease giving simply because they don’t feel heard or important to charities.

Keep reading to explore practical ways you can build community and trust with your supporters.

Ways You Can Listen To Your Supporters 

Build trust over time by interacting with supporters:

Meet 1:1 with supporters (in-person or online) to get to know each other. Make it your only goal going into the conversation to understand their story and how your organization fits into that.

Send polls to different segments of supporters to understand why they’re interested in partnering with your organization, how they heard about you, and what they hope to see your organization accomplish through their giving.

Try focus groups. You might be surprised to learn how much your supporters have in common when you pull them together. During the focus group, you can either zoom in, asking specific questions about your program, or you can zoom out, seeking to understand what they love about your organization in general. The main objective is to build community among your supporters.

Offer feedback opportunities on your donate page. After someone makes a donation to your charity, include a short survey for them to learn why they donated and how the donation experience was for them.

Learn more about supporters by observing their interactions: 

Run engagement reports. Some places to keep your eye on include email (open rates, click-through rates), social media (engagement rates), and your website (page views, bounce rate). In some sense, supporters are already telling your organization what they’re interested in without you even having to ask! 

Frequently review responses to feedback opportunities. Make it a habit to review feedback weekly, monthly, or at the very least, quarterly, to make sure your team is intentional about hearing from your community of supporters.

Watch behavior trends by monitoring engagement reports over time. Keep an eye out for patterns that arise throughout the year across your different communication channels. What stories or campaigns are resonating most with supporters? What feedback opportunities garner the most responses? These behavior trends will inform the ways you build trust with supporters. 

Simple steps to become a better listener:

  • Listen to learn, not just to respond.
  • Don’t assume, ask! 
  • Avoid multitasking.
  • Minimize distractions.
  • Pause before responding.
  • Summarize what you’ve heard to confirm understanding (“What I hear you saying is...”).
  • Validate how your supporter feels (“It sounds like you feel…”).
  • Encourage elaboration (“Tell me more!”).
  • Thank supporters for sharing their thoughts.
  • Remind them their opinion matters to you.

Keep Listening With Givecloud

You can’t expect to listen to supporters once and learn everything you need to know about them. Building a community of trust with supporters takes time! That’s why we’re inviting you to exchange fundraising for Trustraising

We have built our Trustraising blog on the idea that all great relationships are based on trust. We regularly collect feedback from our subscribers to make sure we are curating useful resources for nonprofit organizations. Follow along with our weekly blog posts and email series to learn how you can build trust, develop community, and increase impact through Trustraising.

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