Rebuilding reputations

Rebuilding reputations when an organization is compromised

It can be troublesome when an organization is compromised in some way that taints its reputation. There is wariness from donors as well as others who are now putting the group under a microscope. Getting out of the maelstrom requires solid leadership that trickles down to the lowest volunteer.

Still, as someone once said, “A reputation once broken can be repaired, but people will always keep an eye on the spot where the crack was.”

Once the problem is contained, and all is back on a positive track, the rebuilding begins, starting with the core reputation. It’s vital to get this story out and keep it positive all around. Eventually, the spotlight moves to the present situation, and trust is reborn.


Expect questions about the past troubles and be prepared — not blindsided. Make sure you know the whole story and can be honest about it.

Never ignore or shy away from the questions. It could imply you are still working to spin things. Answer the questions truthfully, but succinctly, and move the conversation away from the past to demonstrate how the organization has rebuilt.

Other steps to take:

  • Be transparent. First and foremost, be willing to open all the doors necessary to satisfy the donor’s questions. Have bios available for key staff to show their integrity.
  • Demonstrate financial viability.This shows donors that the organization is not a financial black hole. It’s very much about transparency, especially with the money.
  • Cast vision. Give donors something to believe in. A dynamic vision for the future with clear objectives and successes that have been built upon will go far in satisfying the donor. Show them the trouble was but a blip on the screen and that things are moving forward.
  • Leadership, leadership, leadership! Those of impeccable character who are involved provide a Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval on behalf of the organization. Involve those with histories of excellence and blemish-free reputations to be ambassadors for the reborn group.

Ben’s Takeaway: “Proper leadership (paid and volunteer) is the best way to avoid organizational compromise.”

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