As I have touched upon in a previous post, it is essential that visitors to your website feel that they can trust you. This doesn’t have to be to the extent that they email you asking for you to look after their children on a Saturday night, but there should be a basic foundation of trust between you and your users.
Trust is the foundation of any relationship, and a relationship is exactly what you are looking to establish with your users. Right from the very first seconds of visiting your website, a user is deciding whether they can trust you. Are your articles or posts trustworthy? Can they trust you with their email address? Can they trust you to safeguard their privacy?
For a community site this is especially important. I have come across communities where admins freely publish private messages sent between users onto the public forums. I have seen chat room admins share IP addresses of users to all members. This is completely unacceptable morally and it is unacceptable if you want to build an online brand that people will trust and develop loyalty to.
If you have moderators or other staff members / volunteers you must make it clear to them that they must not reveal personal information on users to anyone at any time. This is privileged information and you should ensure that you and your staff treat it as such.
If your users can trust you, they will feel comfortable as a member of your community. They will refer their friends and return to your website time and time again. Ultimately this is the goal of any community site. Be trustworthy, and reap the rewards.