Understand BAME communities to appeal to their major donors, fundraisers told

28 Jan 2020 News

Major donor fundraisers need to gain a better understanding of BAME communities if they want to appeal to potential philanthropists in those communities, charity leaders heard yesterday. 

Ikhlaq Hussain, head of philanthropy and partnerships at Orphans in Need, spoke at a panel during the Institute of Fundraising’s conference on major donor giving. The panel focused on predicting what major donor fundraising will look like in ten years.

Understanding the market to unlock its potential

Hussain said: “I think that in the next decade we’ll have more and more people from a diverse background, especially from BAME markets. 

“For example, we’ll have more and more Muslims engaging with mainstream charities in the future, but my prediction is that our sector will keep insisting that we know everything about BAME markets without giving them enough resources, without understanding that market fully and unlocking its potential.

“We’ll have more and more people from BAME markets that want to give to charities, but don’t know how, or the sector doesn’t know how to engage them.”

He cited Ramadan, which is considered a blessed month in Islam for charitable giving, as an example, and said many mainstream charities start targeting Muslim communities with their appeals only when Ramadan approaches.

“But what is important is what happens before Ramadan. What did you actually do 11 months before Ramadan to be in front of that donor?

“Were you in those mosques, were you in those conversations where they were engaging, were you in those places where they were engaging, were you advertising in those channels that they were looking ahead of time – not during Ramadan when they’re fasting for 12 hours a day and only watching tv for five minutes?”

'We need to be more representative as a sector'

The panel went on to discuss what charities need to do to better understand BAME communities.

Chris Gethin, director of philanthropy and campaign at Cancer Research UK, said: “I think as a sector we also need to be more representative ourselves of these communities – in particular when it comes to fundraisers, my team and the team at Cancer Research UK, we’re not a greatly diverse group of individuals, and I think as a sector we need to address that if we can appeal to these communities."

The call to “hire for diversity” was also put forward later on in the conference by Allan McKinnon, head of major giving at Lumos, the charity founded by author JK Rowling.

He said: “If we’re all hiring fundraisers that look like us, we’re not only shooting ourselves in the foot – we’re shooting our donors in the foot. Donors need common ground, donors need stories and donors need connection. And no person can offer every single one of them to every single donor.”

He said that having people from diverse backgrounds allows fundraisers to offer a range of point of views to major donors.

“Sometimes you’re too close to the problem. Sometimes you need diversity; people with different backgrounds to tell you how it is. It’s about having a conversation and being honest with the donors”.

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