Non-profit organisations are viewed as forces for good worldwide. These organisations advocate for human rights and for the environment, provide general emergency relief, and address a host of overarching societal issues. Members of the general public usually select those causes closest to their hearts.
It might be counterintuitive to think that an organization, whose mission is about improving the world, would need online reputation management. Society, especially in the developed countries, continue to support philanthropic causes across a variety of social issues, yet public opinion polls show that many wonder about how the hard-earned dollars they donate to non-profits are being used.
Whether these are Non-Governmental Organisations operating in developing nations, advocacy groups protecting fundamental rights at home, or humanitarian agencies helping those who need it the most, the survival of non-profit organisations depends heavily on charitable donations.
Hence, the biggest challenge non-profits can face is a controversy that damages their good name, making reputation their most important asset.
Banking on Trust
It is often speculated that not all donations have an altruistic motivation. Donations remain a huge incentive as they are tax deductible. At the same time the public knows that most non-profits provide society with something good. An assumption that goes along with a donation is that the receiving agency is engaged in worthy and honourable activities.
Most non-profits trade on the trust that the public has in them, both individually and as a group, so reputation is essentially a bankable asset.
Nowadays, non-profits are turning to reputation management systems, similar to those used in the private sector. Like for-profit companies, non-profits meet the same type of reputation challenges. Bad publicity, whether it stems from a controversial donor or a hint of financial irregularity, can taint a non-profit's reputation.
Managing Reputation with a Plan
Online reputation management starts with accepting that word of mouth — which may have once driven new volunteers, donors, or members of the media to you — has changed. No longer do people just exchange ideas and suggestions over coffee. In the digital era, your potential audience is getting recommendations online, via search engines, social media, and through recommendation sites like Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn.
A reputation management plan will enable you to monitor and participate in the online conversation around your organization for the better. This allows you to turn existing donors into powerful advocates and make sure that all testimonials and feedback work in your favour. There are a lot of online communication channels, and it’s a huge challenge to keep up with them all without a distinct strategy.