AHP Connect Articles

AHP Connect delivers updates on industry news and research, educational and professional opportunities, best practices and other articles related to health care philanthropy.

Multicultural opportunities

Published:  12/08/2011

Are you fundraising in a culturally diverse community? Most likely, you are. Statistics from a recent Giving USA report show that one in eight people living in the U.S. are foreign-born. That number is expected to rise to one in five by 2050. According to Statistics Canada, one in three people will belong to a visible minority by 2031.

Although you probably know your community’s cultural makeup, have you taken full advantage of different ethnic groups in your fundraising efforts, or are there untapped philanthropic opportunities?

AHP recently spoke with member Gina Eisler, MA, CFRE, for her thoughts and insights. Ms. Eisler is vice president for philanthropy at The Scarborough Hospital Foundation in Toronto, which serves one of Canada’s most diverse populations. Fifty-seven percent of The Scarborough Hospital’s patients are foreign-born.

“In a diverse community, many tried and true fundraising methods are not going to work,” says Eisler. “However, every culture and religion gives to charity and believes in helping those in need. You just need to find their preferred way of contributing.” Here are some of her suggestions for successful fundraising in a multicultural community:

  • Do your research. Get to know who’s in your community, then learn all you can. Read, take courses, talk to staff and meet with patients and community members. Do thorough prospect research. Find out what’s meaningful to the different cultures you serve and how and when they give. For example, in the Chinese culture many will make a gift to celebrate Chinese New Year in January or February.
  • Educate potential donors. You are not only educating yourself, but also the community. People from other countries, especially where health care is provided by the government, may not understand the need to donate. "Educate new people in the community about the needs of your health care organization and why it’s important for you to raise money,” says Eisler.
  • Leverage your staff. If your community is diverse, chances are your health care organization's staff is too. Eisler recommends building internal relationships that can lead to external ones.
  • Budget for extra time, effort and expense. “Everything you do is going to take longer,” says Eisler, “and translation and printing are more expensive.” But the results can pay off. “We’re currently doing a test mailing in two languages, and it’s showing a higher return and higher-than-average gift,” she reports.
  • Check everything you do, then check it again. Before you send out information or mail, make sure to have it evaluated by a member of that community. Things do sometimes get lost in the translation, and there may be a word, phrase, date or even a color that is culturally inappropriate. Says Eisler, “We sold black and white bags in our local bank branches, then found out we were offending our older Chinese community members because those colors are representative of death.”
  • Keep an open mind. This is one of the most important things, according to Eisler. “You need to be willing to learn and make mistakes,” she says. “Being genuinely interested, asking questions and being open to learning are essential to success.”

For additional information, you can download the handouts from Eisler’s presentation on “Fundraising in a Multicultural Community."

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