Trust me! Have you heard those words before? Perhaps you have heard “don’t worry about that, trust me, everything is fine” or “trust me, that is normal in this industry, you just don’t have the experience to recognize it”. Trust, in the context we are looking at it from a fundraising or sponsorship marketing perspective is defined as a firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.

In the past while we have seen an eroding trust in charities and support, be that through donations or sponsorships. When you cannot trust an organization, why would you invest in them or donate to them? Last year Christi Cruz from TELUS and I delivered a very well received and engaged session on the future of sponsorship and charities at the WSC Alberta Forum (and note this conference is back live at West Edmonton Mall Fantasyland Hotel on November 25-26, 2020). We addressed the fact that trust in charities was declining, while trust in corporations was increasing. So, our questions was… why do brands even need to sponsor charitable events to gain alignment and halo and affinity when the trust in their own corporate brand is stronger than the charity they have aligned with in the past?

Then we look at the recent scandal between our Prime Minister and Minister of Finance sole sourcing (should probably be some soul searching there) WE “charity” to deliver a program that many others could have also done. That issue aside… what erupted was the inner workings of WE. They were not what they “appeared” to be. More and more stories are coming out of the woodwork, the skeletons are beginning to appear. What I have said for decades about them is “smoke and mirrors”. And the mirrors are now glass and can be seen through. The smoke has lifted and we start to see what type of business they really were. Perhaps a charitable front for a real estate firm. Perhaps a cash cow for the founders but not directly from WE. A Board who should be questioning themselves. But I digress. The point is the trust that WE had once earned is eroded… eroded massively.

In Alberta we can look to the recent audit findings of ARCHE. The issues with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Edmonton a decade or more ago… the Lance Armstrong – Livestrong Charity lies, the Goodwill scandals of Ontario in the past few years.

And we wonder why over the past decade that trust in charities has declined? It only takes one or two bad apples to ruin the whole barrel… and that is what is happening because of organizations with such a high profile as WE. And to further complicate it the unethical undertakings of the Canadian Government with the support of the Prime Minister and the Finance Minister who personally through their families would benefit from such an allocation of funding.

So, what can we do? How can we continue to ask for donations or sponsorships for our charitable organizations? The answer to me is simple. As I noted in my TMC two weeks ago “We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” As a charity, one that is not tainted; as one of the majority of Canadian charities to have no skeletons in the closet; one who works for the cause rather than greed and self interest; If you are one of these organizations, you cannot control the media coverage and the profile of those who taint our industry. But you can continue to meet and build relationships. That is the future. It is not hiding or cowering away. It is going forward with your existing partners and prospects. Meet with them. Address the issues – the elephant in the room and show them your pedigree. Continue to build the trust you have, to be even stronger. Be transparent. Enhance the relationship and deliver great ROI for their investment or donation.

There will always be bad apples. In my world, there are competitors that don’t deliver what the client expected. There are companies and consultants that share the work of others and put their names to it. There are consultants and businesses that take the clients money and never deliver the goods and avoid calls and communications. Yes, those exist in my daily world as well. All I can do, and all you can do, is be transparent. Be honest and work in the best interest of your partner, not yourself. This will build incremental trust and the mistakes of the few, no mater high profile will not affect you and your organization to be financially successful through your sponsorship program.

Be sure to check out all the great topics such as this one and amazing speakers for the upcoming WSC events, at WSC® Alberta Forum in Edmonton November 25-26, the WSC® Ontario Toronto Forum (October 6-7) or WSC® Ontario Ottawa Forum  (October 20-21, 2020). Seating for all three events is limited, so register today to ensure you get all the support you need to make your sponsorship program bounce back with success. Refund guarantees are in place, so there is no risk if you cannot attend. Register today for best pricing!

Please remember to stay HIPS! (Healthy, Isolate when possible, Physical distancing from others and Safe!)

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  1. Hi Brent,
    I am glad to hear someone bring up this topic! I have been involved in several bad apple organizations. It can be difficult sit by and watch the bad ones “get away” with it.
    I had a discussion with someone recently about the validity and trustworthiness of certain organizations and it got me thinking about ways that the good apples could step up and prove their validity to their audience and donors. For example, it got me thinking about Toms and whether or not they actually take shoes to 3rd world countries or not. I said “unless you put a GoPro on the shoe box, how do we REALLY know the shoes were delivered/donated?” It is interesting to think about!

    • Josh, yes, bad apples need to be exposed. Tom’s Shoes thought I would not consider a bad apple… but I have not seen the books. I would be though they do have a very clear and concise paper trail to show their delivery of shoes to the third world. They were set up as social enterprise business… WE was not.

      But it goes beyond organizations… trust to me is with people. Can you trust them as individuals. If so great, if not, expose them.


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