Don’t Assume Your Listeners Trust You

By David Harms and the Strategy Team at i58:10 Media

In May 2018 i58:10 Media conducted exhaustive research for one of our Christian radio clients and we asked donors to respond to the statement “This radio station is a station I can trust.”  77% said they “Strongly agree” with that statement. That’s a solid response. In order to support your ministry a listener must first trust you, but trust is both fickle and fragile.

At the beginning of 2018 the Edelman Group released their annual global study that looks at the public’s trust in institutions. It’s a fascinating read. The summary is simple: Our society is in trouble. Public trust across all institutions is at an all-time low.

Referenced in the executive summary of this report are a few key quotes that will (and should) shape your upcoming fall fundraiser:

“We find the world in a new phase in the loss of trust: the unwillingness to believe information, even from those closest to us.”

“Fully half of respondents indicate that they consume mainstream media less than once a week.”

“The credibility of ‘a person like yourself’ declined substantially, and peers are no longer the most-believed source of information.”

This lack of trust means donors are increasingly wary of institutions … even their favorite radio station. They are asking questions like, “How do they handle the money?”, “Are they really doing what they say they are doing?”, and ”Does the leadership have integrity?” If you don’t think they’re asking these questions, just look at how the recent downfall of Bill Hybels, a prominent America pastor, affected attendance at the recent Global Leadership Summit.

The influence of a society that is increasingly distrustful of institutions will seep (and is seeping) into your listener and donor base.  As you head into your fall fundraiser it’s important to reinforce some very basic messages about why your listeners can trust you and then follow through with tangible and verifiable actions to support your messages. If you assume they trust you because they’ve always trusted you…well, you know what they say about assuming, right?  You must not let the trust they place in you erode in a society that is growing more distrustful.

Here are a few recommendations on how to retain, even increase, the trust of your listeners:

  1. Be incredibly honest and transparent at all times, but especially during your fundraiser. You don’t need to get in the weeds of how your station works but do be forthright and don’t stretch any truth.
  2. When you can, back up statements with verifiable proof. Invite them to check out your 990 for instance. Most won’t, but even the fact that you offer to do so shows transparency.
  3. Don’t be afraid to take a stand for what you believe in. And if your GM or owner is articulate in communicating your “stake in the ground” ideals, all the better. When a person in authority, with a title, makes a public statement the listener now has someone to hold accountable.

There are other factors and trends that will impact your fall fundraisers, just call us and we’ll be happy to pick up the conversation. We have language recommendations and other support that can make your fall fundraiser all the more effective.



i58:10 Media is a fundraising and creative agency based in Wilsonville, Oregon. Our mission is to inspire and activate generosity for a broken world. Connect with us: or through e-mail at

David Harms • President, i58:10 media

Related posts