Many charities plan their fundraising campaigns according to events, special days and celebrations across the calendar.
Knowing which days may be more meaningful for your donors can help to build stronger connections that strengthen donor loyalty – or even enable you to reach new audiences. Deciding to embark on targeted campaigns can be very productive but it’s essential to tread carefully to avoid tokenism and alienation of your intended audience.
So how do you create genuine engagement for diverse audiences? It all starts with education and ends with trust.
Do research to understand your audience
The importance of understanding your audience cannot be underestimated when it comes to forming repeated engagement and support. Conducting research via your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and donor surveys is vital to gain accurate insight, rather than working from assumptions. This research can help to cast light on who your audience is, the multiple groups that exist within it, or patterns and methods of giving – especially when it comes to fundraising around specific calendar events and celebrations. Whilst research may seem time-consuming it can be invaluable – not just in beginning to understand how to engage donors but also how NOT to alienate them. Educating your organisation by engaging with others is the best way in which to learn and form relationships with each of your donor groups. Talk to your donors directly, form genuine relationships, learn and understand.
Think about personal moments and motivations but make no assumptions
As you gather insight, it can become apparent that certain faith or ethnic groups may be compelled to donate more around particular days of the year. For example, some people give more at Christmas and others during Ramadan. Every donor will have personal motivations that make them pick your cause – from their own life experiences to cultural connections or faith-inspired giving. As you gather insight, it’s also important to remember that what motivates one donor, may not apply to all others of the same group. Personal means just that – we are all motivated differently so it’s important to avoid blanket assumptions and to pitch campaigns sensitively.
Remember authenticity and inclusivity is essential for trust
If there is one thing that must be remembered when engaging all different groups, it is that they do hold one thing in common when it comes to motivation to give to your cause: trust.
Each donor, no matter the reason they choose your cause, when or how, will give because they trust your organisation. It’s therefore important that you do not damage pre-existing trust when deciding to embark on a segmented or specialist campaign for a particular event or celebration. Tokenism does happen and many donors, particularly those of groups you have not engaged directly before, will be sensitive to this.
Using inclusive and authentic language is important, particularly with religious celebrations. A good example of this is UNICEF’s Ramadan appeal page which is clear and relevant to the audience but still on-brand. The page is especially good because it includes FAQ including ‘Why is UNICEF fundraising around a faith-based campaign?’ It also doesn’t try too hard to be a source of religious information. Claiming to understand a particular faith group does require knowledge of the faith and its adherents. It’s no good slotting in mentions of a faith, its religious celebrations or using stereotypical imagery and following it up with a quick ‘donate now’ in an effort to be inclusive. Particularly if you haven’t shown any interest in this group during the rest of the year. This approach will only come across as inauthentic and money-grabbing. Instead, develop engagement that is all year round, across all your comms, includes greater diversity, is honest, genuine and inclusive, allowing donors of all audiences to engage directly, feel represented and heard.
Putting everything into action: engaging the Muslim donor at Ramadan
A big religious celebration in every year’s calendar is Ramadan. In 2023 it begins around 22 March and will be lasting for 30 days until the celebration of Eid Al Fitra. Muslims are known as a generous community due to the importance placed on giving in charity in Islam and typically give more during the holy month of Ramadan. Recent studies from Muslim Charities Forum (2021) have shown that British Muslims donate around £150million during this time of celebration at a rate of over £40 per second, to UK and international causes.
The Muslim charity market dominates Ramadan giving as is to be expected. However, in recent years many non-Muslim-led charities have created campaigns aimed at the Muslim community. Examples of this include Barnardo’s, Save the Children, UNHCR, Oxfam and Water Aid. All these charities have looked at how their cause meets the motivations of Muslim donors but should continue to be aware of how organisational delivery meets religious needs. For instance, Zakat, the annual payment of 2.5% that Muslims make to the poor, has strict rules on how it should be handled and distributed. If donors don’t feel that their needs are being met or that they cannot trust the charity to take care of their donation in the way that they would like, they will go elsewhere. It’s therefore important that specialist comms covers questions and provides genuine answers to ensure donor trust.
- Do your research on your donor audiences and motivations to find out which, if any, special dates matter to them and motivate giving.
- Don’t assume audiences will respond in the same way to certain celebrations of events – faith, culture and giving remain personal and individual.
- Use genuine, inclusive and correct language. If you aren’t sure, speak to your donors!
- Avoid tokenism – develop a year-round strategy for long-term benefit and to avoid insincerity. Donors are wise to being seen as seasonal.
- Trust remains everything – keep this central to your comms through research, policy, practice and clear communication.
Other reads that you may find useful:
- Keeping up to date with inclusive language
- Talking about inclusivity in comms
- How people with lived experience can help shape your charity’s comms
Banner image: Suzanne Skeen on Pexels