As you begin planning your final fundraising push for the Season of Giving, make a point of honoring multiple faiths and cultures by creating a more inclusive end-of-year appeal. Spotlighting different traditions into your year-end outreach injects a sense of fun and wonder to a season that often can seem predictable, homogenous, and inclusive only to those who celebrate Christmas. Generosity is, after all, a mandate for every faith.
By broadening your definition of the Season of Giving, your nonprofit creates an opportunity for more meaningful connections with all your constituents, showcasing your support of ethnic traditions while asking for support of your cause. For instance, have you considered including winter solstice celebrations in your holiday gift appeal?
- Yalda is a winter solstice celebration for Iranian-Americans, Dec. 20-22. Pomegranates, nuts, and poetry are symbols of the tradition. There are roughly 400,000 Iranian-Americans.
- Dongzhi is a Chinese festival focused on the yin and yang of balance and harmony, celebrated Dec. 21-23. Celebrants enjoy dumplings and rice balls called tang yuan. There are 5.4 million Chinese-Americans.
- Lucia’s Day is a Scandinavian festival of light, celebrated Dec. 13. Girls in white dresses with red sashes and crowns decked with candles are the symbol of the celebration. Around 11 million Americans claim Scandinavian heritage.
- Lohri is a Hindu celebration of the end of winter. In addition to building bonfires, people enjoy salty snacks and sweet desserts, which are thrown into the fire as offerings. There are 2.5 million Hindu-Americans.
Why It Matters to Include Everyone in Your Year-End Messaging
The data on year-end giving in general is motivating: More than 36% of donations are made in the last quarter, according to Blackbaud’s Charitable Giving Report, with donors in the United States making $2.7 billion in contributions on Giving Tuesday alone. Understanding who gives, why, and when can help your nonprofit make more sensitive and inclusive appeals at the close of the calendar year.
Being inclusive requires you to understand who your supporters are, what is pleasing to their sensibilities, and also what could be offensive. How to be more accommodating to and respectful of multiple holiday traditions?
- Review your constituent data
- Engage in meaningful conversations with donors
- Conduct your own research about the faiths practiced in your community
Being genuinely curious about various faiths can guide you to better understand diverse perspectives. When you can authentically rejoice in special days across religions and cultures, you’re giving a gift of recognition and welcome to all of your constituents.
This Season of Giving, consider honoring one (or all) of these traditions:
Hanukkah: A Jewish Tradition
There are 7.5 million Jewish-Americans.
About 73% of Jewish-Americans identify as Jewish by religion; 27% identify as Jewish by culture. Tzedakah is the Jewish tradition of charitable giving, a moral obligation to provide material support to those in need.
In the spirit of that tradition, Hanukkah is the Jewish festival of lights, celebrated for eight nights in either November or December to commemorate the ancient rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
Symbols and language to make your appeal more Jewish-inclusive:
- The menorah is the primary symbol of Hanukkah, a candelabra that is lit one candle at a time while blessings are recited
- Chocolate coins (gelt) and fried foods, such as donuts or latkes, are popular treats for those who celebrate Hanukkah
Kwanzaa: An African-American Tradition
There are 41.6 million African-Americans.
The population of people in the United States who identify as Black has increased 29% since 2000, with a third aged 22 or younger.
Although nearly two-thirds of Black Americans identify as Protestant Christians, millions celebrate Kwanzaa, a secular seven-day festival that begins the day after Christmas. Most do not replace Christmas with Kwanzaa but rather extend the Season of Giving to include Kwanzaa’s rituals, each infused with African symbolism. Kwanzaa teaches that giving back is a necessity, so reciprocity and philanthropy are inherent to the holiday.
Symbols and language to make your appeal more Kwanzaa-inclusive:
- Candle-lighting is central to Kwanzaa, in the colors of red, green, and black
- Fruits and vegetables, in particular corn, stand as symbols of the collective labor of the harvest, a concept which could be included in your messaging
- Understand the seven principles of Kwanzaa, which include unity, responsibility, and cooperative economics
Zakat: A Muslim Tradition
There are 3.5 million Muslims in the United States.
According to research from Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Muslim-Americans give more to both faith-based and secular charities than the overall U.S. population.
Zakat, an annual obligation which requires Muslims to give away a portion of their wealth to charity, is one of the five pillars of Islam. Many Muslims often make contributions during Ramadan in the spring, but this timing is not a requirement and, like Americans of all faiths, Muslims often make last-quarter gifts for tax purposes.
Symbols and language to make your appeal more Muslim-inclusive:
- Use phrases such as “generosity” and “giving back”
- Include the color green, popular with many cultural traditions but especially to Muslims, for whom paradise is depicted as a garden
Bodhi Day: A Buddhist Tradition
There are 4 million Buddhist-Americans.
Giving is one of the perfections of Buddhism, and modern Buddhism encourages engagement in social, economic, and environmental issues. Like Hindus, Buddhists have a required action called dana, the act of giving and sharing without anticipation of a benefit to the giver.
Taking place on Dec. 8, Bodhi Day is a quiet day of reflection commemorating the achievement of nirvana by the Buddha, a day when Buddhists meditate, study, and perform acts of kindness.
Symbols and language to make your appeal more Buddhist-inclusive:
- Images of a Buddha statue under a tree
- Photos of multicolored lights, colorful beads, sticky rice, and tea
Crafting Your Inclusive End-of-Year Appeal
Solicitations can heighten awareness of your mission, build relationships, and increase revenue, but the message has to reach the recipient. No matter the audience or the appeal, publicity is vital to your Season of Giving outreach.
Highlighting an individual story or specific tradition creates the most impact by drawing a clear connection between your donors and your cause. Deliver your solicitation in a simple, informative, and uplifting way, with beautiful images.
More tips to enhance the impact of your inclusive year-end appeal:
- Delivery—Keep statistics to a minimum. Even though data can be a great motivator, holiday messaging is more effective when you focus less on numbers and more on emotion.
- Mission—The voice of your appeal must prominently support your mission, beginning to end. There is nothing stopping you from directly stating your mission on the appeal, even if the season or the holiday is the reason for your outreach.
- Personalization—This is the key to making your donors feel seen, important, and eager to support your cause at any time of year. It’s simple to use the CRM tools at your fingertips to add the donor’s name, their last donation date, and the amount of their last gift to reinforce that you know them and respect the support they’ve already given your organization.
- Donor impact—Explain how donor support is critical to your mission. Get specific and include donor gift amounts, just skip the bar graphs and pie charts (“Your gift of $150 allows us to serve 68 meals to homeless families this winter.”)
Your inclusive end-of-year appeals will need to be endorsed by many people in many ways. Leadership and development are the mainstay of appeals, but other staff, board members, and volunteers need to work collectively to drive the effort. All the better if your representatives are as diverse as your donors and prospects. In addition to face-to-face connections, appeals can be sent via email, promoted on social media, introduced by phone, and mailed directly to donors.
Make it easy for your donors to give online. Your website should highlight your current campaign(s), and your donation button or page must be highly visible. Include options such as recurring gift so donors have the choice to give again automatically. And remind them of matching gift challenges or employer matching gift programs.
Social media is incredibly effective: Don’t forget to include a link that leads directly to your donation page. Donors have little patience and limited free time in this season. If it’s difficult to donate, your organization will miss out on funds.
Recognize gifts within two days of receiving since a delayed response can be perceived as an insult. Some donors will come from traditions where giving is not about the giver, so they will prefer to remain anonymous. Other donors might want the publicity to go toward their company. One thing is constant: All donor requests should be respected.
Acknowledgment levels mostly fall into three categories: major gift, midlevel gift, and lower-level gift. The dollar amount for each category is customized to your organization’s donor base, but the acknowledgment should follow this pattern:
- Major Gifts—Phone call and thank-you letter
- Midlevel Gift—Personalized email and thank-you letter
- Lower-level Gift—Thank-you letter with handwritten note
Build on the Joy of the Season
It’s easier to keep a donor than to acquire a new one. To sustain your donors, make sure to send a gift-appreciation follow-up explaining how their funds were used. When your donors can see the difference they’re making, they are more likely to give a second time, a third time, and eventually become sustainers.
If you take on your end-of-year appeal with a spirit of curiosity, inclusion, and best practices, you can make this your best, brightest, and most culturally diverse Season of Giving yet!