What bankers can teach charities about trust


What bankers can teach charities about trust

Lucy Halley

Increasingly at Digitas, we find ourselves working with charities – as we have done with financial services organisations since the 2008 crash – to rebuild trust in their brands and improve their relationships with people. There is much charities could learn from bankers.

Consumers describe their relationships with brands in human terms. More and more, people describe their relationships with charity brands to us as ‘On the Rocks’ or a ‘Stalker’ – archetypes we would more typically associate with financial services brands. In contrast, the most salient and positive relationship types (we call these relationships worth having) all have a strong element of trust. From my ‘Best Friend Forever' I always know what to expect; I work together with my 'Team Mates' towards a shared goal; when we’re ‘Together Forever’ everything feels so easy – we just click.

Trust, once lost, is hard to regain; trust takes time to build, but can be destroyed in seconds. Just as if I had betrayed the trust of my Best Friend Forever or Team Mate, there are no shortcuts or quick fixes. Fine words won’t wash. Charities must take purposeful action to rebuild trust and subsequently their supporter relationships.

To take purposeful action, however, a charity first needs to communicate their strong sense of purpose. A charity’s employees – be they at head office or in the field – often have a powerful sense of purpose. But all too often, charities struggle to articulate this in a way that is singular and simple – to acquire and retain supporters who really buy into why the charity exists.

Lloyds Bank, for example, has put the PPI mis-selling scandal behind it and now looks to the future with a strong sense of purpose – by their customers’ side, giving them the financial confidence to take their next step.

Purposeful action that feels authentic (not like a calculated marketing effort) needs to fall directly out of the charity’s core values – values that are shared with its supporters. Honesty and transparency are vital in this context, as is expertise (another feature of trust is that its failure is more easily forgiven if it is perceived as a failure of expertise rather than a lack of honesty).

RBS – arguably the most damaged of the financial services brands – expresses its values in very human terms: serving customers, working together (‘We care for each other and work best as one team’), doing the right thing and thinking long term. 

Then the charity must act (be that in relation to its service provision or approach to fundraising) to dramatically bring to life its core purpose and values, to enable supporters to experience the changed charity. These actions don’t have to be complex or expensive to take, but they do need to feel significant.

NatWest recognises the need to act with its new brand platform ‘We are what we do’, inviting customers to hold the bank accountable for its actions – from supporting British businesses to teaching young people about money. Similarly, Barclays’ LifeSkills helps to prepare young people for the world of work, whilst Digital Eagles shows the elderly how to get more from technology.

Lucy Halley

Lucy Halley

Planning Director, CRM

Lucy is Digitas's CRM Planning Director, with strong specialisms in loyalty and membership. Lucy is fascinated by human behaviour and how she can affect behaviour change for the long-term commercial benefit of her clients. Lucy’s experience spans proposition development, segmentation, contact, messaging and content strategies. Lucy also believes in moderating her own qualitative research, to really understand what makes her clients’ customers tick. Prior to joining Digitas, Lucy headed up teams at RAPP working with brands including UNICEF and Guide Dogs. Lucy joined Digitas in June 2015, leading strategy and planning on Bupa Global and most recently the AA.


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