Building bridges to diverse ethnic communities

publication date: Jan 6, 2012
author/source: Kathryn McKechnie
There's no doubt that Canada's population is becoming more diverse each year. As fundraisers, we face both a challenge and an opportunity: understanding how immigration is changing our own community, and leveraging the potential for financial support within diverse communities. Kathryn McKechnie photo

That's led KCI senior consultant Nicole Nakoneshny and Environics Analytics VP Doug Norris, to take an in-depth look at immigrant philanthropy. They shared their conclusions at November's 2011 Congress of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Toronto Chapter.

Facts speak for themselves

Diversity can be measured in several ways, they pointed out, including ethnic origin, religion, language, place of birth, tenure in Canada, and generational status (i.e. whether first or second-generation Canadian). 

Population growth in Canada now depends on sustaining the current permanent resident immigration rate of 250,000 per year. The need for growth drives competition for permanent resident immigrants among urban areas across the country, and patterns are changing as a result.  For example, between 2001 and 2009, Regina's population of new permanent resident immigrants grew by 279%, and Saskatoon's by 233%.

In contrast, Toronto saw a 34% decrease in its number of new permanent resident immigrants.

While immigrants are more spread out across the country, the source of landed immigrants has also changed.  Prior to 1961, 90% of landed immigrants were European and only 3% were Asian.  Fast-forward to 2001-2006 when just 16% of landed immigrants were European and, at 46%, Asia was the largest single source of landed immigrants.

Looking ahead, the permanent resident immigration rate is expected to remain at approximately 250,000 per year. Virtually all of Canada's population growth will be in the visible minority population. By 2031 the visible minority population is expected to more than double to 12.9 million, representing close to a third of Canada's population. That will result in visible "minorities" constituting approximately 60% of the population in Toronto and Vancouver CMAs (census metropolitan areas) and over 20% of the population in 12 other CMAs by 2031.

Maintaining Canada's annual population growth rate of approximately 1% depends on sustaining the current permanent resident immigration rate of 250,000 per year.

The Challenge for Fundraising

Within diverse communities, how do we find out if there is support for our mission and how do we engage in fundraising activities? Sadly there is no roadmap, guidebook or "magic bullet" to help us.  However, there is good news.  According to Nicole Nakoneshny, not only do we know more than we think we do about fundraising in multicultural communities, but the same general fundraising principles apply.

Linkage, interest, ability

If a group has no interest in your cause or organization, they are not likely to become donors. Interest can be developed through an authentic partnership that goes beyond fundraising. The community must see themselves served by and reflected by your organization, and then giving will follow. 

"What you do must reflect and serve the community in some way," Maytree Foundation president Ratna Omidvar once told Nakoneshny. "For the community to have an interest in having a relationship with you, your organization must provide programs and services that authentically engage and serve its needs."

The Markham-Stouffville Hospital's partnership with the Pakistani-Muslim community led to that community raising $1 million for the hospital. It started when the hospital realized that the Pakistani-Muslim community was an important one in their area.  They knew that that particular community needed to be reflected and served by their organization, so they started serving halal food and providing female staff for female patients wherever possible. 

It is important to meet multicultural donors where they are. When the Surrey Memorial Hospital Foundation reached out to the Sikh community to help raise money, they responded by organizing a radiothon on the local Sikh radio station.  Sikh deejays made the ask over the air and the community responded by bringing cheques to the radio station or mailing them. That radiothon raised millions of dollars.

But wait ... there's more!

Environics Analytics has used mainstream marketing techniques based on segmentation by geographical location to identify and locate potential donor groups.  This research hones in on specific giving patterns, behaviours and values among multicultural segments such as "Suburban Families" and "Established Multicultural Families."

In general in Canada we are still at the early stages of multicultural marketing, but there's interest in it by all industries.  Multicultural marketing is the new mainstream.

For more information visit, specifically Issue 2 of 2011 Trends magazine, and

Kathryn McKechnie is a Toronto-based fundraiser with over7 years of small shop fundraising experience in Canada and the UK. Recently she started Kathryn McKechnie Consulting, focused on providing advice, resources and hands-on fundraising services for emerging charities and small shops.  She sits on the Board of Directors and is Chair of the Fundraising Committee for the Scarborough Women's Centre. Contact Kathryn by email  or 647-459-4858.

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