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ONE THING: To Improve Trust

Trust is the foundation of everything good your organization wants to keep and grow - from customers, to employees, to donors. In fact, trust can become your organization’s competitive advantage.


Consider that:

  • Companies that consistently earn high trust among their customers outperform the S&P 500 by as much as 30-50%.

  • Organizations with high leadership trust have some of the highest rates of employee engagement and retention. And, the margins are small – turnover rises when leaders lose even a little bit of trust with their people.

  • Social donors say trust is the most important factor influencing their decision to give. Losing trust is costly: 92% of donors who say they lost trust in a nonprofit never supported it again.


While most leaders tell us that trust is important, we rarely see it on Key Performance Indicator (KPI) dashboards. Trust can be complex and nuanced to measure - but it doesn’t have to be. 


One thing your organization could do right now to improve trust is to define it, together


Here’s how one client tackled it.


First, the CEO of this medium-sized nonprofit shared at an all-staff meeting that as an organization, they were going to prioritize talking about trust, and invited everyone to get curious about it. Each employee was asked to think about two questions: Whose trust is important to us? How do we show it? Over the next few weeks at department-level meetings, each department leader invited their team members to contribute their ideas, which they captured on a Miro board and refined together. Once all the departments had submitted their Miro board, the leadership team looked at them together, discussed, and created a blended board, which they then presented at the next all-staff meeting.

screenshot of organization's Miro board with a table of stakeholders and trust indicators
the blended Miro board

Because eating lunch together on in-office days is a part of the organization's culture, they created a poster size version of this board they hung in the main lunchroom and placed ample colored markers nearby - inviting people to add and iterate on it over time. As a result, people said the idea of “trust” became less abstract and they felt they were on the same page with each other about what trust looks like and means to what they do, even as their ideas evolved.


We’ve seen business teams tackle this similarly but from different angles. In one case, a team leader invited their remote team to get curious about In what areas of operations do we need our customers to trust us? What does it look like if we’re earning it? Through online collaboration, they came up with a list of three key areas of operations that demanded customer trust (payments, data security, compliance), and arrived at a list of 2-3 indicators of trust in each of those areas. 


Measurement can come later. Improving trust to improve performance is the goal. But working together first simply to define trust has the benefit of getting everyone thinking about how they contribute to it, no matter their role. And that's a great place to start.

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