The Importance of Trust

Group of people smiling and talking
CEO Mark Stuart talks with representatives from Balboa Park at a 2019 Meet & Greet.

When I’m asked about my secrets of success for a great career, I often reply, “Find bright people, listen intentionally to what they say, remember what they have written and, most importantly, do what they tell you to do.”

Searching out for these gurus—for me: Stephen Covey, Ken Blanchard, Maya Angelou, Jerry Panas, and Robert Greenleaf—is often a reward in its own right. My friends and co-workers know I have a great capacity to memorize. This has allowed me to retain many great words to live by—my jewels and nuggets of wisdom—that have provided, so far, a great career.

Early in my professional life, I came across Zig Ziglar, one of the all-time experts on the art of selling and relationship-building. Zig left behind a treasure trove of great sayings and words to live by, but my favorite has always been, “If I like you, I will listen to you. But if I trust you, I will do business with you.”

According to Zig, just being liked won’t get you far. I agree.

“Nonprofits run at the speed of trust.”

– Steve Klosterman

When you find someone you trust they mean the world to you. These are not simple acquaintances, the neighbor around the corner, a Facebook friend, or person you only connect with at the holidays. A trusted relationship is built over time. You confide in each other; you respond just as quickly to them as they do to you. Asking them to watch your kids, pets, or invest your precious resources is easy because you trust them.

Zig’s words came back to me when another super-smart person, our Board Investment Committee Chair Steve Klosterman, said the following at our Investment Summit in February, “Nonprofits run at the speed of trust.”

How to Earn Trust

So, how does a nonprofit organization earn trust so it can run far and fast to address the problems and challenges in San Diego?

It begins by having a clear mission and vision. It grows by saying what it will do and doing what it said. It comes from treating all people—donors, collaborators, and those they serve—with kindness and prompt attention, as well as treating them as VIPs every single time.

Likewise, nonprofits lose our trust by treating donors like ATMs, forgetting to say thank you, spending resources inappropriately, etc. Once a good nonprofit loses trust, it is hard to gain it back and that experience colors our thoughts about other nonprofits. Philanthropy doesn’t seem so much fun anymore. Some people just stop giving once trust has been eroded.

For The San Diego Foundation, our future will be built upon inspiring enduring philanthropy and enabling community solutions. Why? Our region needs strong and trusted nonprofits to deliver the services that families, friends, and government cannot.

San Diegans Trust Our Nonprofits

Research from the 2019 State of Nonprofits and Philanthropy Annual Report shows that San Diegans collectively express high levels of trust in nonprofits throughout the region.

That’s important because nonprofit organizations can be the most efficient, effective and impactful producers of positive change in our County. In so many ways, philanthropy and the nonprofits it fuels are the first responders to social challenges that pave the way for government and business to follow.

A significant portion of our soon-to-be unveiled strategic plan will focus on nonprofit capacity building. I believe we are uniquely positioned to help organizations build their potential to be deeply trusted and to win that marathon that some intractable challenges need and require. While I am excited for this plan, I am thrilled for the work before us. More details soon!