Gaining Donor Trust

By Sarah Taylor

One of the most common donor hesitations is knowing where their money is going.

Many are concerned that their donations will go more towards an institution and bureaucracy rather than the cause. Of course, it's necessary to pay staff and keep the lights on to run any operation, but donor trust can be sensitive around spending.

How do we, as fundraisers, ensure that our donors trust us? We’ve mentioned the importance of donor trust before but we haven’t delved into how to attain trust to retain donors.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project, 2018 saw a mere 20% retention rate for first time donors among nonprofits. Given that low percentage, it is obvious that something needs to change in the way we communicate with our donor base.


New donor retention rate - A concerning trend


Donors need to feel valued and be reminded that their contributions are making a difference.


So how do you gain donor trust? Well, it starts with giving timely, behind-the-scenes updates to your supporters.


Transparency in How Donations are Allocated


Letting your donors know where the money is going is crucial for gaining trust.

Whether it be through social media, a newsletter, or a mailer, fundraisers should identify how to best communicate with their supporters, and make sure to show how donations are contributing to the cause.


Posting photos of items purchased with the funds raised is a simple way to show that money donated is money well spent.


Social media is a great option for sharing photos because the reach expands beyond your existing donors and may help you acquire new donors as well.



If you are an organization with employees to pay and an institution to support, using statistics is a simple way to show that donations are still largely spent on the cause.

Nonprofit Hub recommends using graphs to show the breakdown of where donations go.

This example from United Way uses a pie chart to show that despite the fact that some of the donations support the organization, the majority of money raised still supports the cause.




Simple statistics that show that donations are being used to support the cause (directly or indirectly), are helpful in dispelling myths about donating.


After giving updates about how donations are helping your cause, it is crucial to demonstrate impact as well. This keeps people invested in your mission (no pun intended).


Communicate Impact

Impact contributes to donor retention.


Donors want to know not only where their money is going, but that it is making a difference.


After documenting what donations are supporting, it is important to demonstrate the impact that said funds are making. Providing reports, pictures, and stories are powerful methods to communicate the difference that a donation is making.



According to a survey from Software Advice, donors value stories of impact in future communications most.

Classy also recommends making past donation statistics available on your website for donors who like to do research about past donation impacts. This lends to your credibility and trustworthiness as a fundraiser or organization.


A simple, key way to tie donations directly to impact is by building some sort of micro-milestone figure for your donors to track their donations against.


One nonprofit we've worked with tells donors that every X amount of cents donated pays for a dose of anti-parasite pills for one child. If the amount were $0.20 and a donor gives $20 a month, the donor gains the immediate satisfaction of knowing they're indirectly treating 100 children for parasites each month.

(We call these milestone campaigns, and we're building out a campaign option for donors to directly contribute to and track measurements for each milestone campaign they support, whether pennies for pills or hundreds for school tech.)


Cyber Security

Cyber-security is all the rage right now. With multiple security related scandals plaguing even the largest companies, companies of all sizes are cracking down on their security measures to ensure that their customers have a safe experience.

As a fundraiser, it is your responsibility to secure donations that are made to you or your organization.



According to Give, you must encrypt all communications made on your website and use a Modern Payment Gateways API to protect the donor's personal information.

Sixpence App uses Plaid and Stripe, but any of these options are great too.

Sound too complicated?

Social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram are now offering their own fundraising tools that are built into the platform so you don’t have to worry about securing the donations yourself.

If you’re interested in fundraising on social media instead, we wrote a blog about how to (actually) fundraise on social media, which you should totally read.



Gaining donor trust is as important as gaining donors. Without trust, you won’t retain a donor base, and that’s just unsustainable. Beat the average and retain more than 20% of your first-time donors this year.

To boil it down: transparency and impact reports let donors see where their money is going and how it is making a difference; while proper online security measures help donors feel safe to donate virtually.


Do you have any tips for gaining and retaining donors that we didn’t share here? Let us know in the comments or on social!

Tags: donor trust

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