Why and how to raise money in diverse communities

publication date: Aug 3, 2011
Build the relationship and the money will follow. Those words of wisdom on fundraising in diverse communities sum up Marnie Spears' conclusions after months of analysis in Canada's multicultural communities. The summer issue of KCI's Philanthropic Trends Quarterly presents the research behind her statement.

"The good news is that we've discovered we know more than we think," she explains. "Essentially, fundraising in ethnic communities is based on linkage and interest. How relevant is your organization to that community? And can you find linkages to it? These questions show that the guiding fundraising principles are identical to fundraising from any group of prospective donors."

Visible minorities growing in numbers, wealth

Spears cites key statistics from Diane Francis' book Who Owns Canada Now. In 1986 only 5 of Canada's 32 richest people (one-sixth) were immigrants. By 2007, though, the list of 75 billionaires included 28 from other countries - or more than one-third. And Statistics Canada reported that 16.2% of our population belonged to visible minorities in 2006, but says that number will increase to 30% by 2031.

Those populations aren't evenly spread out through the country. While cities like Brampton, Scarborough and Surrey have about 60% of their population in visible minority categories, you'll have to look hard for visible minorities in St. John's (under 5%) or Montreal (less than 20%) The first lesson is clear - know your community.

Where do we start?

Begin by making sure that your organization reflects and serves the minority community in which you're interested. That means relevant exhibits for museums and art galleries, appropriate food in institutional cafeterias and restaurants, and above all, a sensitivity to the cultural requirements and preferences among the people you serve.

A one-time program or event "targeting" a particular community won't work, Maytree Foundation president Ratna Omvidar told KCI interviewers. You have to recognize diverse communities as your stakeholders and make sure you demonstrate that inclusion.

For organizations that have identified communities of interest, KCI has these recommendations:

  • Provide front line services that are sensitive to the community's needs.
  • Have senior leaders present and visible at community events.
  • Seek out community members for your volunteer boards and committees.
  • Recruit staff members from communities you serve.
  • Be genuinely curious about the community.
  • Follow the tried and true major gift strategies, with advice from staff and volunteers who belong to the community, and be even more careful about who makes the ask.  
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