Richard Radcliffe: Trust and confidence – ‘Rolls Royce versus van’

By Richard Radcliffe

Please turn yourself into your grandmother. This might be hard if she is no longer with us. I only met one of my grandmothers and she was run over and killed by a Rolls Royce in 1960. At least she went with style. Goodness, imagine being run over by an old van – nightmare!

You could argue that we would naturally trust a Rolls Royce driver more than a van driver. But this Rolls Royce driver carried on driving without stopping and was never caught.  So now, I do not trust Rolls Royce drivers!

Now, why am I writing about trust and confidence? Because everywhere I go donors are changing their giving patterns. They are becoming more focused, more investigative and more decisive. And the decisions made are almost always (for serious donors who plan their giving) based on trust and confidence in the charities they want to support. 

Trust and confidence in charities is driven by a combination of:

  • Joy which is triggered by passionate heart-led messages, and
  • Satisfaction on how well the charity spends its money.

What fascinates me is that research done by the Charity Commission here in England (but results of similar research in other countries are the same) shows:

  • 1 in 2 donors are focused on knowing how much (%) goes to the cause
  • 1 in 4 donors are focused on knowing the impact they made

In my view, this in the wrong way ’round – but do not forget I trust a van driver more than a Rolls Royce driver due to a personal experience!

Also in my view, giving a legacy (which is an investment in the future) means satisfaction comes first as a priority, but passion is still driven by (please note use of clever word!!) a personal experience.

If the heart is separated from the head we are likely to fail – donors won’t be interested.

Are donors joyful and satisfied? Some of you might remember me quoting Quentin Crisp (a raconteur in the 1970s, deeply persecuted for his public effeminate appearance and activities). He said: 

“It is explained that all relationships require a little give and take. This is untrue.  Any partnership demands that we give and give and give and at the last, as we flop into our graves exhausted, we are told that we didn’t give enough.”

This sums up the attitudes of many donors around the world, as more asking happens year after year.

So what do we mean by trust and confidence?

Trust: a firm belief in the reliability, truth or ability of someone or something.
Confidence: the feeling or belief that one can have faith in or rely on someone or something.

Tell the truth. Prove you are good (financially and in terms of impact) and faith naturally follows.

Many surveys that measure trust and confidence of older people towards the police, health services and charities have similar outcomes:

  • Old people like to be taken seriously.
  • They like people of a similar or common faith or belief system.
  • They like an honest and open approach and they like it when you admit you have got something wrong (best upgrade opportunity possible).

Older people like certain words dropped into conversations such as:  “Like you I care about…” and “Yes I will” and “You and I” and “What do you think?” and “You decide, I trust your judgement” also “How do you feel about” and “tell me more about.”

Aristotle once compared the human mind to a wax tablet. When we are young, the wax is warm and soft; it is easy to make an impression and record our thoughts and feelings. With age, the wax hardens – the older impressions fade, and it is harder to carve out new images in their place. In other words we become less tolerant and trusting.

Older people generally have less trust in everything than younger people but research from the University of Carolina says this is also due to their lack of trust in their memories. So we need to work really hard with older people not only to gain trust and confidence but also to keep it.

Perhaps we assume that donors are stupid. (Please google “images of stupid donors” because one of the first images is Ken Burnett!!??? Why?)

In my experience, they are not stupid (although I have met some who live on another planet). They are intelligent, and intelligent people have lots of doubts. Stupid people have no doubts and are full of their own confidence. That is why so many serious donors are interested in your annual report and accounts and simple impact statement. It is why they are not interested in frequent thank you letters and frequent asks. They just need to know they have provided the impact they yearned to make.   

If we are to maximize the giving potential of donors and get them to put a gift in their Will, then we must take a new look at how to build more trust and confidence.

Your donor’s head and heart will work together.

This is not done through more regulation (which we are experiencing in the UK), it is done through more openness and transparency, fewer asks and fewer standard thank you letters.

If you want donors to give more, don’t ask them for more. Tell them why and what you need in as few words as possible. Do not thank them more often. Make them joyful, be transparent, honest accountable and give them bundles of respect.

Hope these words by RR (not Rolls Royce but Richard Radcliffe) have made a positive impact on you, but not in the way my grandmother experienced.

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