Trust, it’s been said, takes years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair.
No one is more keenly aware of that truism than we in the nonprofit world. When you share your hard-earned dollars, or the precious gift of your time and talent, we must be worthy of your trust. It’s a sacred duty that never ends.
Sadly, every now and then a nonprofit loses sight of this. I’m sure you’ve read the headlines. One large charity supporting veterans was caught spending donor dollars on lavish employee events. Recently, a well-known relief agency was pressured by media and lawmakers about its disaster response and use of donations. And because I believe in being transparent: Even the nonprofit I represent faced an issue at the national level back in 1992 when its then-CEO was caught and later convicted of fraud and financial mismanagement.
It’s tempting to beat up on those who fail, to thump our chests and say we’re better than that. But I’m not one for kicking someone when they’re down. The wiser choice is to stay focused on that first sentence I wrote. What are we doing today – and what am I personally doing – to build and preserve trust?
At United Way, we talk a lot about collective impact. It’s a fancy term with a simple meaning: Bringing together every part of our community to make things better for everyone. Collective impact requires people to work together, to share information and ideas, and to move our community toward lasting change.
Partnerships that work require shared commitment, transparency and accountability. When we win, we all celebrate. When we fall short, we cooperate to find a way to do things better.
We have great examples of these partnerships in Jackson County. Cradle 2 Career is making great progress in education. The Health Improvement Organization is helping all of us live healthier lives. United Way’s many partnerships across the county are generating transformational change in education, financial stability, health and basic needs.
This idea of partnership, collective impact and accountability is a crucial element to United Way’s evolving focus on poverty and economically unstable households. The collective impact model – coupled with our staff expertise in understanding the needs in Jackson County, building relationships and developing effective strategies – will allow us to bring together even more partners committed to creating rich opportunities for all to succeed.
As you think about where to invest your philanthropic resources, your first two questions will likely be, “Who is having a meaningful impact?” and “Whom do I trust?” When you look at United Way, I hope you see an organization that is delivering on its promises, forging solid partnerships and earning your trust – today, tomorrow and in the years to come.