Building Your Nonprofit Credibility

Posted by on Oct 16, 2013 in ComLead, Managing Not-For-Profit Organizations, Organizational Leadership

Building Your Nonprofit Credibility

One of the biggest challenges young professionals tackle might be that people assume we’re inexperienced or unreliable. This lack of perceived credibility can be huge obstacle to building a network and conducting business, especially in the non-profit sector, which relies so heavily on personal connections and sharing expertise. Without credibility, nonprofit leaders struggle to secure donors, gain community support and do effective work.

What can a young professional do when faced with a “But you’re too young!” mentality in the workplace? Brynne Harrison, communication instructor and consultant and Program Coordinator for Canisius’s Center for Professional Development, shared practical strategies young professionals can use to assess and build their own credibility.

Keys to Credibility

This Wednesday, Brynne spoke to a group from Buffalo’s rising Young Nonprofit Professionals Network. Brynne shared that young professionals need to establish three key dimensions of credibility: expertise, trustworthiness and goodwill. People will perceive that we’re worth listening to when we show and value expertise and when we demonstrate honest, authentic character.

Extroversion, composure and sociability are important character traits as well. People are naturally more likely to trust someone who enjoys being around others, can stay poised and confident and can maintain comfortable dialogues.

Essentially, the person we’re more likely to trust is outgoing, friendly, capable and honest. We can be sure they are fair and we trust in their goodwill.

Building Credibility

How can young professionals develop these traits? Brynne explained that self-awareness in essential here: leaders need to know their own strengths and weaknesses in these areas.  Do people perceive you as being honest? Do you avoid gossip and keep workplace talk professional? Do you come off as genuine?

From there, you can focus on managing your behavior to make the impression you want to. Building your skills at persuasive speaking and at holding equitable dialogue will boost perceptions of your trustworthiness and credibility.

Brynne emphasized, too, the importance of following through. Not only are you demonstrating your skills and competence when you follow through on commitments, but you’re proving you can be depended upon. Brynne explained, “you have to show that you know what you’re talking about and you’re actually following through on what you’re doing.”

Becoming a credible person requires conscious choices everyday – to follow through, to stay honest and to be available to people. “Are we genuinely concerned with the people we’re working for and the people working for us, and are we portraying that to people?” Brynne asked. Credibility in the nonprofit sector stems from the goodwill and genuine concern professionals share for their work. “At the end of the day,” Brynne explained, “it’s about having people’s best interest at heart.”


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