3 Ways to Avoid Paying These Relationship Taxes

Ok, I took a big risk talking about taxes. No one's favorite subject, right? Sorry about that! These taxes I'm talking about aren't the kind that you pay out to the government, but they can still hit you financially and emotionally! 

This is a kind of tax you should NOT be paying now - or ever - in your life or with your donors. It's called a trust tax.

What am I talking about when I say trust tax? I'm talking about what happens when a lack of trust causes things to slow down or cost more to get done. Sometimes for completely appropriate reasons and sometimes for really annoying or painful reasons that you wish you could change.

There are some common trust taxes that you deal with all the time:

  • TSA checkpoints before boarding a flight. Remember the days when you could walk right up to the gate without a ticket? That was before we stopped trusting passengers.

  • The meeting before or after the meeting. You know, when no one speaks up during the meeting and then the real discussion occurs in the breakroom or behind office doors?

  • The legal review of gift agreements and bequests. Not a bad idea to protect the donor and the nonprofit organization when handling large gifts, to make sure aging donors aren't being taken advantage of, and to ensure the estate process goes smoothly.

So what do the trust taxes have to do with you?

Well, you pay them personally too: in your relationships, in your organization, and with your donors. You see, your behaviors, attitudes, motives, and language all convey important messages about whether or not you trust others and are worthy of trust yourself. If you think about your relationships like an emotional bank account, there are things you can do or say that add value to that account - trust dividends - and some things you can do or say that would deplete that account - trust taxes.

  • When you are in alignment with your true intent and are communicating clearly and directly, you are building trust and receiving a dividend from your relationships. Think about how quickly you can solve problems or move a conversation forward when you trust the person you're talking to and they trust you.

  • When you are unclear on your intent or trying to hide your intent, you are in danger of losing trust. When you are in a trust tax situation, you aren't giving honest feedback or speaking up about the real issues. Sometimes you don’t feel like those around you are being transparent or totally honest, so that might make you withhold information or resources in retaliation.

Trust isn’t finite or permanent, we are constantly creating it and extending it in our relationships.

3 ways that you can improve the level of trust in your relationships so that you avoid the trust tax:

1) Be more transparent in the way you share. Talk about what you’re thinking more freely. When you’re confused by something, say so. When a new policy or an organizational change doesn’t make sense to you, speak up. I should add in here that being respectful and solutions-focused is also key, but the point is: talk straight and directly and address the issues head on. Someone once told me, “most problems don’t get better in the dark” so bring those babies into the light!

2) Honor the absent. What I mean here is talk about people who are not present as if they are standing right there next to you. ALL. THE. TIME. I can’t tell you how many potentially great organizations struggle with low-trust cultures because they permit environments of gossip, backstabbing, and credit-stealing. Don’t be that person. It doesn’t mean you never give critical feedback or have a disagreement. It does mean that you handle those situations with compassion and courage, and you choose to respect others. Do the same with your donors. People will notice your character and trust you because of it.

3) Take accountability for your actions and progress. Here’s something I’ve noticed: fundraisers take all the praise when things have gone their way and they are hitting their numbers. When they aren’t, they take no credit for that result and it’s simply a matter of timing or circumstance. Honestly, I think both are true; skill and perserverance lead to success, and so does the luck of timing. I suggest it’s best to be accountable to your process than to your final numbers. Make commitments around your activity and behavior, and then follow up on them. If they are the right commitments, the dollars will follow. Don’t leave your success up to windfalls or lucky breaks. Stay with the grind and earn the trust because you are in there, making and keeping commitments to yourself, your team, and your donors every day.

Trust can be learned, practiced, and improved.

I help teams level up their trust so that they can communicate better, collaborate more easily, and ultimately, make a bigger impact through the relationships they build with donors. What’s one thing that would be easier if you had more trust?

Jessica McCannComment