like to raise money for a hospital that serves Canada's most diverse
population? Verna Chen, Gina Eisler and Waheeda Rahman can speak to that better than anyone. In Scarborough GeneralHospital where they work, you'll hear
100 languages spoken daily. The trio was a natural choice for one of the first
breakout sessions at Diversity and the
Spirit of Giving, the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Gift Planners held in Toronto in April.
By 2031, Statistics Canada estimates that one in
three Canadians will belong to a visible minority. In Toronto, 60% will belong
to a visible minority by 2031. Yet as important as cultural and other awareness
is, Rahman emphasizes that it's just a starting point. Drawing conclusions
based on cultural patterns can desensitize you to differences within a given
culture, she warns - a fact clearly underlined by a panel of "diverse donors" the
following day (watch for this in a future issue).
research diverse donors and prospects using the usual measures of affinity,
capacity and inclination - but add a page or two to the file for their cultural
and religious sensitivities. Some cultures are highly collective, for example,
and abhor public recognition of individual generosity. Some will find it
offensive to be approached for a second gift. Others won't discuss death with
outsiders, which means a much longer time line and a very careful approach to
concept of fundraising may be completely foreign to some. "When I go to China,
no-one understands what I do," says Chen, the hospital's research manager.
Charity begins at home
of which Chen is certain is that the longer immigrants have lived in Canada,
the more likely they are to give. Their donations are higher than those of
newer immigrants, but given less often than comparable Canadian-born donors. If
immigrants were already wealthy when they arrived in Canada, she continues,
they're likely to direct their philanthropy "back home" to their birth country.
derives some of her most helpful research leads from careful attention to the
business community. Look at the businesses in your back yard, she advises. How
many employees do they have, and of what nationalities? Local MPs, religious
groups, cultural centres, professional associations and business associations
may all be sources of valuable information in the public domain. Be careful
with names, she points out, as the English order of individual name-family name
is reversed in some cultures. Others, such as the Tamil culture, change even
the family name from one generation to the next.
focused on particular prospects or donors, Chen notes details such as their
perception of health care in Canada, the key influencers in their community, the
role of their religion in philanthropy, their understanding of philanthropy,
and whether the family's experience with her organization was positive, or
impaired because of cultural issues.
Understand the eye of the beholder
hospital's philanthropy VP, closed the session with some practical tips.
Prospects from less developed countries may not perceive your facilities or
programs as inadequate, she points out. Nor do immigrants always understand why
public institutions have to raise money, assuming that Canada is a wealthy
country where governments fully fund all essential services.
Be aware of
beliefs and attitudes about everything from lucky numbers to unlucky colours,
the importance of flowers to the unimportance of individual acknowledgement.
Ask questions if you aren't sure - a respectful enquiry sends a message of
sensitivity and inclusion.
culture gives," she assures us. "Every faith gives. It's just a matter of to
whom they give." Just like the donors to whom you may be more accustomed,
everything depends on your sensitivity to their timing, their attitudes, and
their readiness to give.