Trust: the assured reliance on the character, ability, strength or truth of someone or something
Harry Hurwitz, z”l, the well-respected founding director of the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, would often encounter potential donors who would ask how their donations would be utilized. Putting his arm around the individual’s shoulder, Harry would reply, “trust me”.
Well, the world has changed, and Harry’s response no longer makes the cut (though, unfortunately, some of our oldest organizations still have not internalized this). Today, trust is perhaps the most valuable asset any organization can have. And like a reputation, it often takes years to build, yet can disappear overnight.
Trust comes in a variety of flavors, designed to satisfy all organizations and circumstances.
Trust includes not only transparency and process, but – importantly – the willingness to seamlessly convey information to all stakeholders on an ongoing basis.
This does not mean there cannot be confidentiality or discreet decision making, but as Richard Marker told eJP, “Nonprofits are institutions for the public good and they exist for that purpose. There should be a commitment to make sure that the public can have confidence that the money they get is properly spent.”
The willingness to convey information is an important component today, for it strikes directly at how an organization is perceived – by donors, the public at large and the media. There is a significant difference between the organization that posts a 990 tax return, but buries it, on their website and the organization that makes it easy for any site-visitor to locate.
There is a difference between the organization that openly lists a real estate asset on the market, and the one that quietly lists an asset and then following the reported sale told eJP, “We had complete transparency. We told our board what we did.” (emphasis added)
And there is a difference between the organization that makes a key personnel announcement on erev chag, after many of their stakeholders have closed up shop for several days, and the one that provides similar information early in the business day. One is looking for the positive PR, the other is hoping for the news to be lost in the recipient’s inbox. It all goes to perception and the assured reliance on the organization’s trust factor.
We’re firmly into the 21st century. Where Hurwitz’s words were considered perfectly acceptable in days gone by, times have changed. Today, the more transparent an organization is, the more likely they are to attract donors, volunteers and even employees!
All organizations need to recognize they can no longer count on either blind, or brand, loyalty to justify their actions. For those who don’t, their days should be numbered.