Nonprofits rely on community credibility to achieve their missions. The community determines the legitimacy of an organization. The same applies to the organization’s leaders. Leaders are either granted or denied credibility based on a few key factors including, but not limited to: expertise, authenticity, motive, track record, and even personality.
A leader’s agenda doesn’t secure credibility just because the leader thinks it should. Credibility happens over time, and it is built both organically and strategically.
Here are FIVE tips for nonprofit leaders to establish, maintain, and increase your credibility:
- Be authentic. This cliché admonition can be found on virtually any list of leadership characteristics. But what does it mean? Have you ever actually paused to define authenticity? If you do, you will undoubtedly land on some of the same aspects that I would posit: knowing yourself, being your true self, being consistent, living what you preach, being transparent, saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and making sure your personal motives are linked to your organization’s true mission and values set. With this construct, it is easy to see how authenticity fosters credibility.
- In the community, wear your community hat — not your agency hat. When you come to the community tables with only your organization’s interests at heart, people will quickly relegate you to the land of the marginalized. They won’t take you seriously when your only lens is that of your employer. On the other hand, when you bring your leadership contributions to the community table with a community lens, your organization wins, because people will associate you with your organization without being told to, and will respect that your organization has a leader who truly cares about the greater good.
- Surround yourself with credible people. When you build your team, make sure they can serve as extensions of your own leadership and credibility. Other credible people being attracted to you is both an indicator and driver of your own credibility. Be judicious in building your peer network outside the office as well. The company you keep does not go unnoticed.
- Become adept at content marketing. This is still a foreign concept to many nonprofits. Credible content builds the credibility of its author. Write a blog related to your organization’s mission and work. Write a “white paper” outlining research and solution recommendations. Get others to publish or share it. Write an op-ed in the local newspaper. Compose a “stump speech” that clearly identifies you with a certain point of view. Deliver it everywhere. Learn the basics of digital content marketing, or employ the services of an expert. Writing it doesn’t mean the right people will see it, and merely having an organizational website, Facebook Page, and Twitter account is not sufficient.
- Perform consistently. Success breeds credibility. Do what you say, and generate meaningful results. Nothing builds competence-side trust like a track record. When you do achieve results, refer to #4 above, and market them! An argument can be made for listing this component first, because it may be the most likely to drive the other four! In other words, make doing your job effectively and consistently your primary focus, and strategically building your credibility your secondary focus. You will find that credibility comes easier!
That’s The Jinks Perspective!