Home CATEGORIES Business Ethics & Philanthropy NGO’s reputation – An asset that needs to be managed and safeguarded...

NGO’s reputation – An asset that needs to be managed and safeguarded like any other

NGO’s reputation - An asset that needs to be managed and safeguarded like any other
As World NGO Day quietly concluded yesterday, without much celebration, commemoration or discussion, it was evidently clear that the development sector doesn’t talk much about itself or the impact it creates on society. This also reflected in the fact that other significant stakeholders did not mark this day in any way. It wouldn’t hurt to remind ourselves once a year, that during the pandemic, India was immensely dependent on them to recover. It is safe to say that they were the only ones who put people before everything during this crisis. They understand communities and grassroots issues like no other. This sentiment is echoed by India Inc., philanthropists, government and media. 
Recognition and appreciation to this sector is long overdue in the public discourse. And like any other sector, the onus lies on non-profits, civil society and volunteer organizations to take reputation management and stakeholder expectations seriously; especially in a highly conflicted world. 
Reputation management in the non-profit sector appears to be at an inflection point in its development. Not so long ago, we believed that it was immune to criticism. But the recent spate of crises it has seen, proves otherwise. Few things can be as fatal for a non-profit as loss of reputation. There are large, established organizations who understand that it can make or break the cause they have been working on since years. They have experienced first hand that they bounce back faster after a crisis, because they diligently invested in reputation management. On the other hand, are mid and small scale organizations, that must understand that reputation begets trust. It brings greater credibility to a program faster, acts as an enabler for people to sit up and take notice, drives donor decisions, helps attract and retain talent, gets passionate volunteers and supports equity building with government.
For example, would child rights in India get the same attention and action, had leading social reformer and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Kailash Satyarthi, not continued to maintain the momentum of conversations around child rights issues? The answer is no. Nor would have the issue of girl child education, had Anand Mahindra not chosen to speak about the issue at various forums and ensured the foundation got its due credit for implementing one of India’s most credible flagship program in grassroots India. 
We spoke to 20+ NGOs (small, mid and large scale) to understand what reputation management meant to them. Highlighting human interest stories that tugged at our heartstrings, translating complex research outcomes into easy to understand content, multi-stakeholder engagement with special attention on decision makers, leveraging new age technology in communication, responding faster and more thoughtfully during crisis, were some of their top priorities.
Building and managing reputation is a science with many nuances. But there are some simple tenets that non-profits can adopt to ensure they enjoy the trust of their stakeholders. Emphasise localness. Be proud of your small scale; if you are a small NGO, let people know. Build awareness; name recognition is key. More they hear about you, deeper the trust. Focus on your target key audiences; this will help you customize your messaging for them. Be transparent in your communication; tell your stakeholders about your spending and the impact you crate through it. Value the trust your stakeholders put in you and always be prepared to respond to an internal or external crisis. And lastly, keep taking feedback and mapping perception. It is always better to hear first-hand, what can be improved, than from a donor, volunteer or partner. 
So, should non-profits invest in reputation management? The answer will always be yes.