Aug 14, 2010

Fundraising During Ramadan: Special Challenges

Today's Washington Post had an interesting article by Michelle Boorstein on what Muslim charities face during Ramadan. On the positive side for the fundraisers, it's the holiest month within the Islamic faith, when Muslims are expected to not only fast from sunrise to sunset, but to additionally purify themselves through contemplation, abstaining from smoking and sexual relations, and performing charitable works.

On the other hand, it's reportedly not so easy to fundraise when your prospective donors are hungry, tired, and possibly going through nicotine withdrawal.

Upon first reading this, I thought, "Well, at least all the non-Muslim charities can be grateful that's not on their list of challenges." But then I had to utter a Homer Simpson like, "D'oh!" Almost any group that addresses secular issues concerning, say, poverty,the environment, arts, or health might count practicing Muslims among its donors and members.

Does that mean you should figure out who the practicing Muslims are, and address them accordingly during the month of Ramadan? That's probably impractical and overly personal, unless you're dealing with a major donor with whom you've developed a close relationship.

This line of inquiry seems more useful to me as a reminder that, in dealings with any donors, there's always a good chance of catching them at a time when their minds and energies are otherwise occupied. I'm regularly approached by well-meaning fundraising volunteers in shopping areas, who ask whether I "have a minute." After I say no, I usually feel guilty that I can't even spare that much time.

But the truth, which I'm sure they don't want to hear me going on about, is usually not that I lack for 60 seconds. It's more often that I'm at the end of a long work day, couldn't even concentrate on the words coming out of the radio on the way home, and am trying to figure out what dinner will take me 30 seconds to cook so that I can gulp it down before rushing off to the gym. There's just no mental space in that scenario to learn about a good cause. 

All of which is a roundabout way of saying:

1) Don't take the no answers personally, or assume that people who instantly say no are callous and uncaring, and

2) Make all your fundraising appeals short and sweet -- we're almost all busy, or tired, or hungry!