I was at a conference today filled with around 500 attendees from small to large not-for-profit organizations.  The conference, called “The Fabric of Fundraising”, was organized by the Association of Fundraising Professionals. 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.  Chinese Canadians have an annual spending of $53 billion a year. And 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 relations are built.  It is well known that doing business with the Chinese requires building relations and trust.  This same principle applies to fundraising in the Chinese community.

While immigrant Chinese are trying to integrate into the Canadian culture, they were brought up with a very different set of values, which still shape how they think and behave.

Here are 6 quick tips to get you started:

  1. Identify the reasons why the Chinese would care. How is your organization perceived? What is the connection?  Who are the people you serve? Who are the people working at your organization? 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 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 to the Chinese. It is useful to adapt your organization information and marketing collateral in their language. Don’t just translate. Make it culturally relevant. One size fits all does not work here.
  4. Recruit community leaders and influencers to your advisory board. Find credible and influential volunteers from the community to become your ambassadors.  Word of mouth and reputation are highly valued in the Chinese community. They can help you reach out to the community, recruit and engage donors, sponsors and volunteers.
  5. Develop positive awareness via media. Share relevant compelling stories. Traditional Chinese media plays an important role in conveying information. Make good use of branding ads and editorials.
  6. Understand your audience. Not all Chinese are the same. Invest your time and money into understanding your target audience. 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).

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 the 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 read Chinese.

Don’t just rely on research and studies. Go out and meet the people to get first hand information. There are more than enough events out there to help give you a good sense of who they are and what would make them “like” your cause.

These six simple tips should help you get started in “relation fundraising” in Chinese community. By the way, “6” is a good number.  In Cantonese, it sounds like lu (祿), meaning “wealth”.

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.