Fundraising In Culturally Diverse Environments
15 August 2013 at 10:07 am
Adapting fundraising approaches to different cultural settings is not without its challenges, and it's a necessary progression to make, but Australia appears to be slow on the uptake, says Neelam Makhijani the Chief Executive at global Not for Profit Resource Alliance.
Fundraising is a global activity which requires a global mindset. The recent history of fundraising is replete with approaches that have emerged in a particular region or country before slowly being adopted across the rest of the world.
Face-to-face was created by Greenpeace in Northern Austria, before spreading to Australia and the UK, and then onto Switzerland, Hong Kong and the Czech Republic among others. Major donor fundraising began in the US, and though it has needed to be adapted to take account of certain legal and cultural barriers, it also is now a tool that is used worldwide.
For fundraisers, it is a necessity to spot these emerging trends as soon as possible to ensure that your charity doesn't get left behind. Early adopters often reap the rewards.
Adapting these approaches to different cultural settings is not without its challenges, but is a necessary progression to make.
Paul Farthing is director of fundraising at the UK's National Society for the Protection of Children (NSPCC) and chair of the IFC, the Resource Alliance’s annual fundraising conference in Holland, which sees more than 900 fundraisers from 58 countries gather together to share expertise and ideas.
Experience has shown him that although there is often scepticism about whether new approaches can be adapted within regional settings, in actual fact, most innovations can be adapted to anywhere in the world.
In his view, the important thing is to make the most of collaboration and shared learning opportunities, and to remember that there are cultural similarities as much as there are cultural variations. We tend to focus on the variations, but in fact there's a lot held in common.
For example, when Farthing was doing legacy marketing activity for Greenpeace International back in the '90s, countries were saying 'well, it couldn't work here'. Now countries are using legacies all over the world.
Gavin Coopey, director at the Australian agency, More Strategic, reckons that Australia is often behind the curve when it comes to innovation and adopting new techniques.
The reason for this, he says, is because Australia is one of the very few developed countries in the world that is still, on the surface, financially buoyant, meaning charities here are not under the same pressure as they are in, say, Western Europe.
As a result there isn't that pressure to innovate. He reflects on a previous role he held at Cancer Research UK where he was head of innovation and brand within the fundraising and marketing function. While many charities in the UK have innovation functions, few charities in Australia have invested in this area.
Gavin also highlights the need for Australian charities to look overseas in order to understand how to effectively engage with ethnic minority communities. Australia is much more multicultural than is often recognised internationally, but while fundraisers are very good at the traditional Anglo-Saxon, Judeo-Christian fundraising, in the main they haven't engaged with things that might be successful with the Southeast Asian audience or the Muslim audience.
For example, the Chinese community have traditions particularly around New Year that are based around personal contact, such as giving red envelopes containing money to people you know. He believes charities have yet to find a way to tap into these traditional customs.
The most dynamic and progressive area of fundraising at present is of course online, as technological advances change the landscape faster than charities can anticipate. Keeping up in this market is particularly important for Australian charities, who are working with a population that has one of the highest levels of mobile technology usage in the world.
Again fundraising peers around the world can be a source of inspiration. In South America, for example, use of digital is growing considerably – in part the result of a lack of a strong postal system, which has meant fundraisers have needed to find new ways to communicate with supporters. They've turned what was a weakness into an opportunity.
About the author:
Neelam Makhijani is Chief Executive of the Resource Alliance – a global charity that works with organisations to help build financial sustainability by building skills, knowledge and promoting excellence within civil society.