Friday, October 10, 2008

Live Transparent or Die!

Listen up. If you want to succeed online, you've got to "Live Transparent or Die."

The Internet is built on a culture of OPENNESS because when you connect, converse, and transact with folks online you're building relationships with people you've never met. For example, you can't shake hands with someone online. You can't see if they squirm in response to your questions. You can't hear the tenor of their voice and intuit how they really feel. All you generally get is static pictures and words.

So how do you build trust on the Internet? How do you communicate that you are worthy of more time, money and respect?

1. Put the bios and photos of people in your organization on your site! (This is a NON-NEGOTIABLE in my book.) Better yet, tell me a little bit about who you REALLY are. Why do you do the work you do? How do you spend your spare time? Where did you come from? What's next?

2. Hyperlink to the organizations that you partner with, support and admire. I want to know who you "hang with" and where you belong. (Conversely, I'm also interesting in knowing if there are organizations that you don't particularly like.)

3. Divulge financial information. Who funds you? How do you bring home the bacon? How do you pay the bills?

4. Tell me how to reach you in person. IS NOT A VALID EMAIL ADDRESS! I want to talk to someone who is ALIVE.

In short, to build trust in your organization online you've got to embrace the Internet's culture of openness. Live transparent or die!


P.S. There are several nonprofit watchdog and "credentialing" organizations out there, for example Charity Navigator, Better Business Bureau Giving Wise Alliance, Great Nonprofits, and Guidestar; you may want to check them out. But divulging information about your clients and partners is an equally valid way to demonstrate that you are a credible and trustworthy.