By Loretta Lam
Understand Your Audience Before You Ask
May 30, 2019 – I was at a conference today filled with around 500 attendees from small to large not-for profit organizations. The conference, called Fundraising Day and appropriately themed “The Fabric of Fundraising” in celebration of its 25th year, was organized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Toronto Chapter. I made remarks at one of the sessions at the conference about the importance for fundraisers to understand the changing fabric of Canada.
Canada now has over 40,000 immigrants every year and 7.1 million Canadians’ mother tongue is neither English nor French. By 2036, 34% of Canadians will be multicultural consumers. Charities and not-for-profit organizations have to understand that their current and future donations, sponsorships, volunteers and employees will come from these immigrants. Fundraisers need to adapt their fundraising and marketing strategies to the fast changing demographics. With that being said, I wonder how many of them have hit some roadblocks along the way before they realized they need a different approach to this unique audience segment.
The Chinese, for example, are known for their charitable giving and generosity, but they are not keen to give just because you have a good cause. With so many good causes, how can you push the right buttons to get results? Many organizations make the mistake of asking before the right relationships have been built. From my own personal history and experience, I have learned that doing business with the Chinese requires building positive relationships and trust. This same principle applies to fundraising in the Chinese community (and in the sector at large). While immigrant Chinese are trying to integrate into the Canadian culture, it is important to keep in mind that most were brought up with a very different set of values, which still shape how they think and behave.
So, how do we embrace these values and diversity in our fundraising?
Here are 6 quick tips to get you started:
1. Identify the reasons why your audience should care.
How is your organization perceived? What is the connection? Who are the people you serve? Who are the people working at your organization? For example, what do you do differently that matters to the Chinese audience? You must build the culturally relevant emotional link before you can connect with them.
2. Identify strategic partners to help you reach the right people, at the right time and the right place.
Understanding the cultural differences will help you communicate more effectively. Your strategic partner could be a marketing communications expert who is well connected in the community. He or she can help you craft a culturally relevant brand image and broadcast the right message to connect with the right people.
3. Make your message relevant and accessible.
It is useful to adapt your organization’s information and marketing collateral in your audiences’ preferred language. Don’t just translate. Make it culturally relevant. The ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach does not work here.
4. Recruit community leaders and influencers to your advisory board.
Find credible and influential volunteers from the community you serve to become your ambassadors. For example, word of mouth and reputation are highly valued in the Chinese community and these techniques can help you increase your reach, recruit and engage donors, sponsors and volunteers.
5. Develop positive awareness via media.
Share relevant compelling stories. For Chinese audiences, traditional Chinese media plays an important role in conveying information, therefore it’s important to make good use of organizational branding, ads and editorials.
6. Understand your audience.
Invest your time and money into understanding your target audience. For example, not all Chinese are the same – different strategies are needed to penetrate different sub groups (i.e. Chinese from Hong Kong, from Taiwan, from Mainland China and from other parts of the world).
Particularly when targeting Chinese audiences, it is important to be familiar with Chinese demographics. There are different waves of Chinese immigration: established immigrants from the 60s, 70s and 80s and recent ones from the 2000s. New immigrants from Mainland China in the past 20 years are mostly professionals or are highly affluent business and investment entrepreneurs. Don’t forget the international students who remain in Canada after their studies. There are also second generation Chinese Canadians who are financially capable, and identify with both Chinese and Canadian heritage. Though they still share traditional Chinese values, they may not appreciate it if you send them Chinese-only information when they cannot actually read Chinese.
The above six simple tips should help you get started in “relation fundraising”. By the way, “6” is a good number. In Cantonese, it sounds like lu (祿), meaning “wealth”.
In closing, when it comes to incorporating diversity into your fundraising strategy, don’t just rely on research and studies. Go out and meet and talk to people to get first hand information. There are more than enough events out there to help give you a good sense of who people are and what would make them “like” and support your cause.
About the Author
Loretta Lam has been a trailblazer in various ethnic marketing, branding and fundraising campaigns in the Asian community for over 25 years. She founded the Chinese advisory board of ORBIS Canada in 2004, and in a few years, she helped ORBIS Canada grow its Chinese donor base by 50%. Loretta was also an active member in the Chinese Cultural Centre’s capital fundraising campaign. She is currently Chief Strategist of national marketing firm Focus Communications Inc. that specializes in “360 Multicultural Communications” with both corporate and not-for-profit clients. www.focuscomms.com