Change and Co - conquer the cost-of-giving crisis.

Should charities be colour-blind?

Howard Lake | 13 March 2018 | Blogs

Since it was declared illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, colour or religion, social attitudes have been transformed.  People consider it a badge of honour to be seen as “colour-blind”.  Political correctness and moral decency demand we treat each other as though we were all the same, which of course in many respects we are.  But not yet in every respect.
For example, we concede that minorities differ somewhat in terms of the food they eat, the places they travel to, the media and entertainment that they enjoy, the skin preparations, hair products and clothing they use to enhance their beauty to establish their identities. 
That they also support different charities is not as widely appreciated in the fundraising sector as one might expect.  In neighbourhoods with the highest concentrations of minority populations people are consistently most likely to give to charities supporting human rights, homelessness and Aids.  Many also give to disaster relief, third world and religious charities.  Charities which such communities are least likely to support are those involved in cancer research and the welfare of pets and birds.
In our opinion there are a number of different directions from which fundraisers should consider their level of engagement with members of minority populations. The aspect of engagement that particularly exercised Prostate Cancer UK is that prostate cancer is disproportionately experienced by members of a very specific genetic group, Black African and African Caribbean men, (who are at increased risk from the age of 45, five years before their white counterparts), and that it wanted to target its efforts at neighbourhoods with large Black African and African Caribbean populations.  That which might be more important to a third world charity is the degree to which it engages emigrants from particular third world countries who now live in Britain.

Different types of involvement

How donors engage can also vary by origins. At Amnesty International, which benefits disproportionately from the generosity of donors from the Jewish community, these donors tend to make a single, large annual payment but are otherwise inactive.  By contrast meetings of the charity’s local groups tend to attract younger supporters from communities whose forebears come from countries with a long history of human rights abuse.  The value of these meetings to this group is that they can provide a forum for meeting others with first-hand experience with whom they can exchange in political debate, discuss particular abuses and organise particular campaigns.  Information on which groups support the charity in which ways can help Amnesty tailor its offering to everyone’s needs.

Fundraising is no picnic, unless…

Last year, walking upstream along the Thames from Henley-on-Thames, I was struck by how many extended family groups were barbecuing on the extensive grass meadows beside the river.  Almost all of them were South Asian.  
Returning home, I read how the National Trust were much exercised by the lack of diversity among visitors to their properties.  Setting aside a dedicated area of meadow for use by extended families’ barbecues might be a more effective way of redressing that imbalance than featuring black history events or adapting merchandise to cater for minorities’ tastes.  Such a strategy is unlikely to emerge in the absence of detailed information on the leisure patterns of different minority groups.
Sathnam Sanghera has movingly written about how he took his mother, who grew up in a farming village in the Punjab, to visit the countryside.  She had no previous experience of visiting a National Trust property and has no idea how it was expected that she should enjoy the qualities of the British countryside.  She cannot be alone.


Recruiting and managing millennials, a course by Bruce Tait.

Cast a glance at donors

Where once the programmes at the National Theatre listed only the cast, now they list the names of staff and donors also.  Passing these names through the Origins software package (which uses personal and family names to classify people according to the culture of their forebears) it was striking how frequently members of the Jewish community appeared among the list of donors.  Examining the donor lists of other arts venues show a similarly high patronage of the arts by Britain’s Jewish community.  Though smaller in size, the Armenian community is also disproportionately represented among these donor lists.
Another emerging requirement for ethnicity data arises from the increased practice of central government to fund charities to develop operational programmes. Here information about the ethnic make-up of donors, members, volunteers, visitors and recipients can play an important role in justifying proposals involving public subsidy – or perhaps the absence of diversity information can easily lead to a bid being overlooked.  Chief Executives may feel obliged to include increased diversity as one of their strategic objectives.  But establishing the actual level of diversity, or whether policies have had an impact, has been more difficult since historically the chief source of this information has been the survey questionnaire.

When white is grey

Asking people to indicate what ethnic group they belong to is intrusive and can appear irrelevant. Indeed, what group people claim they belong to is not independent of the context in which the question is asked and is not particularly helpful in understanding engagement rates.  
Recent respondents to a survey by a London arts venue revealed that most people whose forebears originate from Iran and Turkey self-classify themselves as white, as no doubt do Albanians, Poles and Lithuanians.  Today it is not unlikely that members of recent wave of white immigrants will prove as difficult to engage with as second or third generation descendants of English speaking immigrants from the West Indies.

Name your target audience

Name recognition software thus becomes the most accurate and granular method of comparing the cultural background of supporters on a fundraiser’s file with that of the UK population.  The fact that the distribution of these names is known for every postcode in the country, based on adults living there in 2017, makes it a much more reliable basis for the targeting of geographic campaigns compared with the relatively crude categories collected by the 2011 census.
The Olive Cooke scandal of two years ago still has significant implications for the Charity industry’s use of personal data. However, having a deeper understanding of the makeup of donors can only demonstrate a commitment to responsible marketing. After all, in order to properly serve a community, you need to know about them.

Professor Richard Webber

Professor Richard Webber

Professor Richard Webber is the originator of the postcode classification systems Acorn and Mosaic and is a former Director of Experian.  He is a visiting professor at the University of Newcastle and a fellow of the Market Research Society and the Institute of Direct Marketing.
Most recently he has created Origins a segmentation system which classifies consumers according to the part of the world from which their forebears are most likely to have originated. He is Director at Webber Phillips Ltd.