An organisation’s credibility is important for so many reasons, especially for informal groups such as groundups. When there is trust and established credibility, it opens doors to partnerships and collaborations, and generates momentum for a groundup to gain traction. Partners, stakeholders and beneficiaries alike are more inclined to offer support because they feel connected to what you say, do, and stand for. Heightened credibility can even inspire them to join you as you embark on new initiatives and directions.
Make no mistake about it – building credibility is hard work. But if you focus on building the elements behind it, you will have a solid foundation that sets you up for success. Here are three key principles that will go a long way in boosting the credibility of your groundup.
1. Demonstrate competence
As communications lecturer Derrick Ng from the National University of Singapore shares, competence is made up of three sub-components – knowledge, expertise and reputation.
To demonstrate competence, you need to be clear on the societal problem that you are trying to solve and how your groundup does that. Your knowledge of the needs on the ground in your focus area will be something potential partners look at, so make sure you are able to articulate it well.
In terms of expertise, the best way to demonstrate competence is to become really good at supporting your chosen cause. Doing weekly food distributions to rental blocks? Put in place processes that ensure the packing and distributions are seamless and run like clockwork, like how A Packet of Rice does it. For example, knowing where the best places to set up distribution holding points are, how to pack the items most efficiently, and even considering end-to-end details such as working with the cardboard collectors in the vicinity to pick up the cardboard packaging that the items came in, would go a long way in building up confidence with partners you work with.
Another example, are you building a cycling community to break the cycle of recidivism for ex-offenders? Knowing your cycling routes and gear like the groundup, Break the Cycle SG, ensures it is always a positive experience for those involved. Becoming good at what you do takes time but as long as you keep working at it, you will soon become an expert in your focus area!
Other simple and effective actions that we have seen groundups take to demonstrate competence for reputational purposes include responding to enquiries and emails promptly (and accurately!) and keeping all public communications up to date (eg. website, social media channels).
An important point to note – demonstrating competence does not mean that there is no room for mistakes. Mistakes and failures are how we learn, and it is important to showcase how we embrace them when they do happen. Hence what demonstrates competence can be how we respond to such moments of folly – stand up and own your mistakes when you make one, and avoid making the same mistake twice.
2. Be trustworthy
As a groundup, your word is often your bond. To be perceived as credible, your stakeholders and partners need to trust what you say. To display trustworthiness, follow up on your words with the actions you said you would take. For example, if you agreed to a meeting with a potential partner at a particular time, make sure you show up on time. If you promised to carry out an activity but the expected turnout is low, run it anyway because there still are people who trusted you to. There is no faster way for your credibility to nose-dive than by losing the trust of others, so hold yourself to the best standards and be accountable.
Another aspect of trustworthiness is being transparent in your communications. If you are raising funds from others, be sure to communicate clearly on how the funds will be used, what will happen if there are excess funds, and provide updates as the funds are being utilised. Project Audible Cheer’s Facebook post and digital poster provide good examples of how this important step can be done, to avoid any confusion and doubts over the credibility of the work you do with your groundup.
3. Offer goodwill
Show your stakeholders that you care. Drawing from the concept of customer delight, create a positive stakeholder experience with your groundup by exceeding expectations. Build a human-centric culture within your team because every touchpoint that the stakeholder has with your groundup matters and every impression counts. And be enthusiastic – offer goodwill by going out of your way to make things happen, which shows that you care about the relationship and you want things to work out. Even small things like taking the initiative to set up the Zoom meeting will be noticed and appreciated.
Whether you are a fledging groundup or one that has been in the space for a long time, building credibility will always form a core component of your work. We tend to enjoy working with people who we like, but empty rapport alone will fizzle out in the long term. Adopting the three key behaviours above will go a long way in helping you obtain the partnerships and collaborations that you seek. Coupled with consistency, you could be well on your way to solving that next big social issue!