But new research from Vincent Keating of the University of Southern Denmark and Erla Thrandardottir from the University of Manchester suggests that the most effective means for NGOs to build trust is through social models. Solidarity for a common cause, for example, enables a greater trust regardless of transparency measures that NGO may have taken.
In comparison, for some NGOs, Keating and Thrandardottir believe transparency can suggest untrustworthiness to donors. “Transparency might lead to greater trust among some actors, and we suggest that this might be the case with governments and large donors,” Keating explained to Devex. Yet what one donor prizes may not be the basis for trust among other donors or individual givers, who place higher value on social trust, he said. “As it stands, it seems that the accountability agenda is taking demands from one group of donors and generalizing these to assumed demand from all donors.”
Keating said that NGOs may need to pause and think more about how to cater to the needs of different types of donors. That may mean rearranging priorities so that social trust relationships are not overlooked by the demands of the accountability agenda.
The paper by Keating and Thrandardottir is the first step in a larger research agenda that they hope will open up issues of NGO trust to greater scrutiny and debate. “Included in this will almost certainly be recommendations for NGOs’ takes into account different types of strategies to build and maintain trust with different types of donors,” Keating said.