Shanelle Newton Clapham reveals some steps that your charity can take to earn people’s trust online, and remove one major barrier to people donating to you.

Your ability to quickly build trust with your prospective donor directly relates to the income your organisation can raise for its cause.

Trust is established online the same way it is offline. The basics are:

  • Respecting the donor as a person
  • Being consistent in your messaging and tone of voice and what you stand for
  • Being transparent about where and how the money you raise is spent
  • If you make a mistake, show integrity and own up to it

From the marketing and fundraising perspective, building trust is about how you tell your stories and the role you play in people’s lives.

All these high level concepts and values are great, but making sure they’re put into practice is more important.

5 things to do to deserve trust online 

In a world where we now spend more time on the Internet on our mobile than we do watching TV, and turn to Google for the answer to everything, trust of digital platforms is only a surface issue for many people.

It is assumed that you have the proper security measures in place, your content is accurate and up-to-date, and donated money goes to the cause.

Having said that – we still need confirmation our assumptions are correct and often these are things we pick up sub-consciously.

It’s important to reinforce your supporter’s assumed trust in the following ways:

1: Be open, authentic and accessible in your communications.

For every story you tell your supporters, use a real person within your organisation that works in that area to send the communication from.

When you send emails from a real and authentic person, who has credibility to talk intelligently and passionately about the subject, it is very engaging. It makes the supporter feel like it’s a one to one communication and not a marketing message. Sending from an individual makes them feel accessible and that ability to contact someone with authority (should I want to) builds trust.

The Wilderness Society-Lyndon-Email-Screenshot

2: Tell stories that the donor cares about. Show, don’t tell.

You have to understand what your donors and supporters think and feel about your cause and organisation. You have to tell stories that the donor cares about and is interested in – not the corporate messages that your organisation wants to push out.

This is what builds trust quickly – a feeling that you have found an organisation whose values match your own and you can support with your heart and soul.

Storytelling - The Arc

3: Ask for permission to contact people.

You need express permission. Just because you’ve captured people’s email addresses, does not give you permission to send them marketing and fundraising messages. 

Express permission looks like:

a) An opt-in tick boxes on all email address data-capture forms


b) OR terms and conditions where your supporter can choose to accept your terms before proceeding.

4: Protect the personal details that you capture

Your supporter database is your most valuable asset, and you must guard it fiercely.

a) Verify your data to ward against fraud and protect the integrity of the data you’re collecting

b) Have firewalls in place on your web servers

c) Use a CAPTCHA (on non-financial forms)

CAPTCHA security online

d) Use a secure page with SSL certificate – shown by https in the URL

HTTPS Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 4.07.49 pm
e) Keep credit card details safe and encrypted (through PCI DSS compliance this is a huge topic and for more information I refer you to Chapter 16 of my book, Attracting Donors Online – Digital Fundraising that Works).

5: Give visual safety cues

So simple, and very effective. This is as simple as using a padlock icon on your donation page, using “Verified by” logos and having a button that says “This is a secure donation”.

Submit Secure Donation - Screen Shot 2015-08-21 at 4.20.04 pm

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Shanelle Newton Clapham

Shanelle Newton Clapham
is Founder and Digital Marketing Strategist at Parachute Digital Marketing, a company that provides digital fundraising and marketing consultancy and training to not-for-profit organisations. Shanelle is the author of the guide book, Attracting Donors Online – Digital Fundraising that Works, available for purchase at


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