Your Nonprofit’s Reputation and How to Protect It
For any organization, having an excellent reputation is non-negotiable and protecting that reputation is vital. We’ve come a long way since public relations meant local media and the press. What are people saying about your organization? Stakeholders get the lowdown on a nonprofit out there on social media and consumer review sites.
Protect your nonprofit’s reputation
Nonprofit management often views the concept of building or protecting a reputation as basically a passive and instinctive effort: The time-worn formulae of delivering high quality services and sticking to long established guidelines doesn’t always guarantee an organization won’t attract negative feedback.
Taking a passive approach to protect your greatest asset is a risky business. When a nonprofit’s reputation takes a knock, the resulting loss of confidence can lead to a drop in use of the nonprofit’s services, a loss of donor support and the failure to attract volunteers.
One big challenge facing charities today is that public perception of an organization may be swayed by circumstances or people unknown to them. And with the advent of the internet, any opinion about your nonprofit’s capabilities and its trustworthiness can travel faster and further than ever imagined.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” ~ Warren Buffett
Just what is “reputation” and why it matters
“Reputation is the beliefs or opinions that are generally held about someone or something.”
For nonprofits reputation is based on how people perceive your organization and it has a direct effect on your nonprofit’s bottom line. When we’re talking nonprofit reputation, size doesn’t matter. Big or small, local or national, threats to a charity’s reputation are an ever present hazard needing alert management.
A good nonprofit reputation speaks of honesty, accountability, and commitment. The public perception is that the organization can be relied upon to take the correct steps – not matter what they are – in any given situation.
Having a solid reputation will help a nonprofit fulfill its mission in innumerable ways such as:
- Inspiring confidence in the charity’s ability to accomplish its mission.
- Encouraging the public to volunteer and support your group.
- Attracting sponsors and collaborators in the local community.
- Drawing passionate and dynamic staff to your cause.
- Attracting donors and contributors.
- Motivating more people to seek help from your nonprofit.
When an organization or company has a stellar reputation, people are more likely to give the nonprofit the “benefit of the doubt,” should crisis arise. This gives the charity time to address issues fast, truthfully and with transparency.
A strong brand creates the framework for your reputation
Surprisingly, brand and reputation are not the same entity. Your brand is the familiar “trademark” of symbols and words that stakeholders and other fans can instantly recognize. But a brand is so much more, it’s your mission and the impact you hope to make on the world. A strong nonprofit brand needs to communicate the following:
- How your organization is unique; what sets it apart from other missions
- The nonprofit’s personality; is it light and friendly or resolutely urgent in manner.
- Authenticity; your charity keeps promises and stays true to its core values.
- Consistency in words, actions and the look and feel related to your nonprofit.
A key point to remember is that although our brand is different from our reputation, if an organization’s reputation is damaged, its brand will be also.
Be proactive – seek feedback
Actively pursue feedback from everyone involved with your organization and welcome the grumbles and moans. While praises are nice, it’s complaints and suggestions that are the catalyst for change. These strategies can encourage input across your channels of engagement.
- The old-fashioned, office suggestion box invites input from visitors and staff alike
- Survey those people the organization benefits by paper, text message or the Internet
- Collect stories from the broader community – not just people helped by the charity
- Invite online feedback with a comments or complaints page/form on your website
If your nonprofit gets a negative comment or bad feedback, it’s time to take action. It only takes one person to spread their opinion through word of mouth and very easily via the Internet. Kill any negativity by reaching out to the detractor for details. By comprehending the person’s view point and addressing it considerately, you may be able to turn the situation into an opportunity for growth.
Monitor your online reputation
Any nonprofit can learn what others are saying about them online. It doesn’t matter how big or small your charity; you can set up Google Alerts to monitor what people say about your organization on the web. From social media to online review sites, Google will send you an email every time someone mentions your organization on the internet.
From Google themselves, here are simple steps to set up alerts:
- Visit Google Alerts.
- In the “Create an alert about” box, enter the words you want to get email notifications for.
- Click Show options to say how often you get alerts, what types of results you want to get, and more.
- Click Create Alert.
Once your alert is set up, you’ll start getting emails any time Google finds new search results for your keywords.
Active, nonprofit reputation, risk management begins with monitoring what people are saying about your organization
This dynamic approach involves time and responsiveness, but the possible payoff is substantial. Don’t wait until things go wrong to measure or assess your nonprofit reputation.
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