Here’s the second Part of another guest blog by my friend and colleague Joanne Oppelt, MHA:

Your integrity is everything when it comes to fundraising for your nonprofit. Your nonprofit lives and dies by its reputation. What happens if your agency is viewed negatively in any way, for whatever reason? How do you influence and reverse negative community perceptions?

Industry Credibility
As a public check of your agency’s integrity, your nonprofit may pursue industry accreditations. Industry accreditations show that your organization’s practices and procedures have undergone a thorough outside review and have been rated excellent in the field. Outside accreditations give your agency credibility and help demonstrate your superiority in the industry, giving you a competitive edge.

Transparency and Honesty
Be as transparent and honest as you can. Put your audited financial statements and 990’s on your website. Address your issues head on. I once started working for an organization where funders knew something was wrong but couldn’t quite put their fingers on it. Many had decreased or altogether stopped giving to the nonprofit. What did I do? I wrote all my funders about all the problems we were having, what we were doing about them, and what to expect from us in the future. Then I called to see if they had any questions about my letter. The biggest response I got was relief. I had acknowledged the funders’ perceptions, affirming their unease. I was transparent about what was going on, giving them trust in my leadership. I was brutally honest about what we could and couldn’t do to fix the issues. And I started, with that one brutally honest, transparent letter to change my nonprofit’s negative reputation.

Repeated Positive Interactions
But I didn’t stop there. I followed up the bad news with the good news. I called and spoke to funders. I kept them abreast of the progress we were making and the milestones we had reached. I thanked them for sticking with us and believing is us. I gushed over their financial support. And backed up what I said in writing. I wrote a follow up letter, telling them what we had accomplished in the last six months. I made this part of my grant narratives in my credibility statements. I affirmed their actions. I created as many repeated positive interactions with my funders as I could. And it worked. It took about a year of consistent messaging and positive interactions to turn the tide, but we did it. We got there. Today, many of the funders who had so many doubts are strong advocates of the agency. Yes, it takes a lot of work. And change needs to happen. But it can be done.

Wrapping It Up
What is your nonprofit’s reputation? Is it intact? What about your leadership? And that of the grant liaison? What about you? What do others think about you and your nonprofit? To ensure a high standing, work on your messaging in both word and deed, start measuring what the community thinks about you so you can share improvements, be transparent, and be brutally honest. Behave ethically. In many ways, you are the maker of your own and your nonprofit’s reputation. And that can make the difference in getting the grant funding.

About the Author
From volunteer to executive director, Joanne has been working with nonprofits for more than 30 years. Rising through the ranks at various agencies, she built effective, efficient, sustainable fundraising systems at every stop. Now she shares her hard-learned secrets. An experienced fundraiser, author, trainer, and consultant, Joanne’s mission is to help growth-driven nonprofits build sustainable revenue streams. She envisions a world where nonprofits are equipped with the tools necessary to financially sustain themselves. Joanne can be found at or