How to keep trust with your supporter base

It’s never been harder or more important to keep trust with your supporter base. By focusing on your ethics and values, you can build this trust

Raabia Fazil | 18th Nov 19
How to build trust with your supporter base

You gotta have trust. Technological developments are mushrooming all around us. Each day brings new developments and it really feels as if we are living in the future. Tech is helping surgeons, recognising faces, and enabling payments and deliveries of just about anything. It’s magic. But there is a balancing act to be done in harnessing the power of digital tech and keeping trust with your supporter base.

As technology becomes more sophisticated and interwoven into our lives, it is ultimately a powerful asset. Whether it is used for good or bad is determined by how digital tech is formed and regulated. A significant step in safeguarding and regulation has been provided by the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) law, established in the EU in May 2018, which thoroughly protects individuals and their data.


Why does this matter?

Charities should ensure that they can reassure donors and the wider public. Instead of meeting external regulations, charities should focus on their own organisational ethics and values and how they operate. Public trust is paramount. If charities act in a way that is inconsistent with their published mission and values (such as protecting staff or beneficiaries), that delicate trust is eroded. As it is crucial, trust should be bolstered through consistent ethical practice. With a significant status in society, charities have the opportunity to advance real progress and can encourage trust by demonstrating good stewardship of funds, impact and values. When charities can show that most donations directly fund their cause and have positive results, trust increases. People want to see trustworthy behaviour and real impact.


Trust and digital ethics

One of the ways in which charities can build trust is through data management. Rhodri Davies, Head of Policy at the think tank Giving Thought, says that charities need to ask how to give supporters “the benefit of personalised services based on data, but still give them confidence their data will not be used in ways they aren’t comfortable with.”

We reported that there are concerns that using digital tech without questioning how it shapes algorithms can solidify or embed existing societal biases. Such concerns have led to a surge in codes of conduct and initiatives to expand ethical tech products and services. Having access to ethical tech can help charities define, delineate and develop their digital ethics. We worked with the Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC) to help their members uncover the ethical principles that matter to them and how to apply them by asking tech partners questions to ensure their support.

Here are some tips from the collaboration that you might find useful:

  1. Understand your context and the framework that you are operating in.
  2. Learn about and learn from existing ethical practices
  3. Plan how your charity will work ethically
  4. Cross-check your ethical plans with your values
  5. And go! Keep an eye on project delivery to ensure it stays in line with your ethics


Trust the human connection.

Although working digitally, remember that a simple thank you goes a long way. Thanking supporters gives them a warm feeling and makes them more inclined to not only support but also trust your charity. Asking for feedback and acting on it helps too as supporters are included in your efforts and shape them too. Using surveys can be a great way to get to know your supporters: everyone likes giving their opinion!

Feel free to reach out to supporters directly after initial surveys to foster dialogue and build a stronger connection. Use your data to identify which supporters help in other ways such as posting about your work and sharing your posts, as this could inform how you engage with supporters digitally.


Case study: there are people out there protecting trust

Campaign group Avaaz discovered and dismantled an online fake news operation reaching up to 35 million people before the EU elections. They warned that far-right news disseminators could use untrue or deliberately misleading information to derail the elections. They uncovered a huge network of 700 Facebook pages including fake accounts posting a range of anti-immigration and anti-EU content. In the UK over 132 posts, pages and groups were reported and Avaaz dismantled fake news operations that were hitting up to 3 billion views in a single year.


Read more:

Our webinar provides practical advice based on the Charity Digital Code of Practice. It will cover vital areas such as culture, managing risks and ethics, adaptability and include examples from charities who have driven successful digital innovation and deployment strategies.