About The Author

David Grabitske

David Grabitske is the manager of outreach services at the Minnesota Historical Society in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Scott Russell covered “Nonprofits discuss how to improve their credibility” recently for MinnPost. Although the Thrivent Financial for Lutherans and Charity Review Council forum he cites looks at nonprofits in general, the observations are instructive for nonprofit historical organizations. On the one hand for historical organizations is the comfort of the often cited statistic that historical museums are perceived by the public as the most trustworthy source of history (“Presence of the Past,” by Roy Rosensweig and David Thelen), and the forum showed that the public trusts nonprofits with making better use of financial resources more than government and business. However, there is concern that the level of trust is only 72 percent. History museums seem to take public trust very seriously for all aspects of operation. To help in many of those aspects, the American Associaiton for State and Local History is piloting a Self-Assessment project to further ensure at least minimum standards are used through a graduated system.

Without worrying about other museums, what are some ways that you and your organization seek to bolster public trust in the communities that you serve? Have you seen improved results from users after making a change to improve trust?

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One Response to Improving Credibility

  1. It sometimes is difficult for me to compare our operation to the many larger members of the non-profit world. From simple items like how much we mail to more complex issues like filling out the Form 990s, there are many times I find myself saying “I’m not in that league”. But then again, we are expected to play by the same rules as they big dogs, so…..

    To not just improve, but maintain credibility, I tend to accept my parents sage advice to me: “lead by example”. Your institutional credibility is only as good as the example you set not just for those in your immediate community, but in the non-profit world at large. If you mis-behave, so to speak, you damage not just yourself, but potentially the perception of all non-profits. Which is unfortunate.

    To me, terms like credibility, accountability, etc. are bandied about too casually at times. They are definite words with definite meanings, not just slogans to be thrown into a grant app to bring a nod of the head to the reviewer. If you are going to say it, live it also.

    Now do we here follow that advice 100%? Well…..we try.


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