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The Tactics of Building Trust


Thursday, 14th January 2016 at 9:08 am
Lisa Cotton
Committing time and resources to investing in trust provides a powerful return on impact for every one, writes Lisa Cotton, Co-Founder and CEO The Funding Network.

Thursday, 14th January 2016
at 9:08 am
Lisa Cotton


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The Tactics of Building Trust
Thursday, 14th January 2016 at 9:08 am

Committing time and resources to investing in trust provides a powerful return on impact for every one, writes Lisa Cotton, Co-Founder and CEO The Funding Network.

Participating in social change often needs several years of regular interaction to build up sufficient experience to recognise and appreciate in each other a common motivation behind discrete effort. But does it have to take years? Is it possible to accelerate the trust building process that is essential to an ambitious collaborative effort?

At The Funding Network (TFN), we believe that it is possible to build trust relatively quickly across a network that brings together highly diverse stakeholder groups. After hosting 24 live crowdfunding events and capacity building initiatives for grassroots charities across Australia, we recently completed a comprehensive measurement and evaluation analysis.

One of the key themes commonly cited in the interviews was “trust”. Over 90 per cent of audience participants said that TFN events, delivered by a brand they can trust, supporting charities they feel confident in, was a powerful combination that influenced their giving.

Recognising that, regardless of size or influence, no single organisation can (nor arguably, should attempt to) advance social change on its own. Our approach has always been to ensure that our work is part of a larger, more diverse and powerful effort with “trust for impact” sitting at its heart. With a network built on trust, our potential to scale has dramatically increased.

We started with this approach back in 2012 while we observed TFN in the UK with a view to replicating the model in Australia. We established a national steering committee made up of cross-sector leaders to help guide our thinking. The following year, we undertook extensive community consultation and network briefing sessions in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth to understand the issues and opportunities to introduce a new giving model to what are reasonably nuanced philanthropic markets in each state.

The consultation and briefing phase culminated in pilot events to showcase the potential of TFN.  And the response? Well, it was overwhelmingly positive and, from there, TFN Australia was officially launched. But that’s not all that this initial phase delivered.

The credibility and the relationships formed in those early days provided the foundations critical for building authentic bonds as we created the infrastructure to mobilise collective action. This has enabled us to maintain momentum in growth from the very start by creating a more open, fast and collaborative model.

In a recent article in the Stanford Social Innovation Review, David Sawyer and David Ehrlichman pointed out that one of the biggest challenges with collaboration is the diversity of stakeholder groups. However it is possible to overcome this to some extent by consistently reaffirming our network’s shared purpose – to enable everyday Australians to actively participate in thoughtful giving.

True to the egalitarian nature of TFN, we celebrate our differences by convening people to represent all elements of the philanthropy ecosystem across our organisational structure. Given the complexity and time-intensive nature of empowering networks, we do this through working with distinct groups – state leadership councils, a national board, skilled volunteers, a lean management team and a group of committed founding partners – each performing their specific roles.

Relationships have also been formed with 24 leading corporations and foundations who have worked closely with TFN by hosting events, encouraging staff and clients along and who have often provided matched-funding to the 94 grassroots charities who so far have pitched.

With each event, TFN’s reach is growing exponentially, which is great news for philanthropy and even better for the grassroots charities our donors support.

Committing time and resources to investing in trust has provided a powerful return on impact for all.

Five Tips for Quickly Building Trust:

1. Communicate often: You have to ensure you’re present in the lives of your stakeholders. An assumption you are might lose their trust.

2. Be honest: Share your vision without fear, admit when things go wrong and show vulnerability. Done respectfully, these are authentic ways to build relationships.

3. Be consistent: Follow up emails and meetings quickly. Meeting or exceeding expectations in this fast-paced world frees people up from the burden of checking.

4. Inclusivity counts: Be the “enabler” of personal connections and relationships in your network.  Some of life’s richest memories are derived this way.

5. Share information: Given freely and wisely, this investment of time and talent can have profound returns.

About the author: Lisa Cotton co-founded The Funding Network in 2012 with the late Steve Lawrence AO. Previously, Cotton was CEO of philanthropic consultancy firm Funding Edge and, before that served as Director Social Investment at Social Ventures Australia for seven years. She has also held senior government roles in business strategy and marketing with Gold Corporation and the Western Australian Tourism Commission. She is the former Chairman of Documentary Australia Foundation, a member of the Kokoda Track Foundation Leadership Council and former board member of School Aid Trust.


Lisa Cotton  |   |  @ProBonoNews

Lisa Cotton is CEO and co-founder of The Funding Network in Australia.

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