Fundraising during COVID19 and Ramadan: Adapting your charity communications.
Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Ramadan starts in just a few days (expected 23rd April) but as we have all realised by now, this is not any Ramadan. This year is looking more than a little bit different.
Normally Ramadan is a time to launch a full-scale fundraising appeal for UK charities who have a majority Muslim audience. Each year, Ramadan appeals for Zakat and Sadaqah fill inboxes, social media feeds and billboards. In 2018, British Muslims gave a staggering £130 million in charitable donations during Ramadan (source: MCF).
What makes Ramadan unique from a fundraising perspective is that the challenge for each charity is not necessarily the gathering of donations -these are ready and waiting - but how to stand out in a crowded market.
Ramadan in the Corona Virus era: a different landscape.
This year, many small charities and community organisations have been seriously financially affected by the Corona Virus pandemic. With fundraising activities shut down, mosques closed and more and more people experiencing unemployment and poverty, charities are stretched thin due to a sharp rise in need whilst simultaneously seeing their income plummet. Whether UK domestic charities or those delivering aid internationally, there is an increased need and urgency.
The faith aspects of giving.
If your charity or community organisation has a large Muslim audience, then capitalising (pun intended) on Ramadan should be considered. Muslims will continue to give during Ramadan, COVID19 or not, as giving in charity is a form of worship and considered a highly rewardable action.
Zakat is an annual obligation on every Muslim who is able with many Muslims opting to give their Zakat during Ramadan. It constitutes approximately 2.5% of their wealth. Sadaqah (voluntary giving) increases during this month also as many Muslims seek to increase in good deeds in order to become closer to God. Fidya is the payment to be made to feed the hungry, by one who is exempt from fasting for health reasons.
Muslims are a generous community and helping those in need is woven into Islam. This Ramadan, during the pandemic, the issue therefore remains how to stand out and make sure your voice is heard – but within a new and challenging landscape that is struggling aginst COVID-19.
The calls for help from charities and community groups this year are already deafening as the Corona Virus makes an impact. This virus doesn’t discriminate and it is now quite obvious that need has moved closer to home: the regular donor base you may depend upon may now be struggling themselves.
Adapting your fundraising communications:
Plan – Even if you have never launched an appeal during Ramadan or even asked for donations directly at all, you need to plan. Ramadan is 30 days and the COVID-19 situation doesn’t look like it's going away any time soon. The first step is to put a plan together for the next 4 weeks and get busy. It isn’t too late, but you need to move fast – you snooze, you lose. See how to prepare for Ramadan for some ideas to get you started.
Don’t be tone deaf –don’t pretend this is a normal Ramadan and this is a normal appeal that you may do each year. It isn’t. Be aware of the struggles your donors are facing themselves. Think about your messaging – including any that you may have had for some time. Make sure it isn’t insensitive. Don’t ignore what is going on. Although it may not need to be mentioned in every communication, to completely ignore the lockdown and virus would be naïve.
Explain – be clear on how Zakat, Sadaqah and Fidya apply to you during the Corona Virus pandemic. Do you deliver community resources? Feed the homeless? Help the elderly? Run a helpline? Need PPE? If you help those in poverty across the world, explain how there is an increased need. if you work locally, emphasise that. Use human stories and emotion – lay it bare.
Ask – if you are normally asking for the Food Bank and now you must ask for donations for your own building rent and bills, this type of direct ask may feel strange. Applying for grant funding (if you haven’t already, check out All Ways Network for help with this) is very important. But whether you apply for grant funding or not, you will need to get comfortable with a direct ask quickly. This isn’t a time to be shy or vague or subtle. Be clear, ask directly and boldly – because if you don’t, someone else will.
Every little helps – if you normally use price handles, you should consider revising these. Setting pricing for donations at £100, £300 and other large amounts during a time when more and more people are struggling, is insensitive. Think carefully about encouraging direct debits or whether this ask is best followed up later. Leave your donation open for the donor to specify any amount and emphasise that small amounts and sharing your message are just as valuable. You are making a pitch – you need to go in at the right level according to the current situation.
Major Giving /Philanthropy – if you haven’t considered approaching major donors before but believe you have the necessary contacts, it’s important to get this right. Major Giving asking needs to be very personal in forming a relationship and maintaining that relationship in a partnership. Don’t let your major donors feel they are being used. They will likely have multiple demands made to them and they will choose the most personal approach.
Crowdfunding – if you need to support your building, offices and staffing resources then crowdfunding can be a good example of fundraising that you may not have already considered. Crowdfunding works based on rewards and involvement the higher the amount donated. It will need some planning however social media and sharing can really make this successful and make donors feel they are contributing for long-term benefit (Sadaqah Jariya). Check out Launchgood for an idea of how to start or any of the other major crowdfunding platforms.
From RL to online – a defining factor of Ramadan 2020 is without a doubt the isolation and lockdown. Where Ramadan normally means the masjid is packed out every night and iftar parties are a plenty, this year it will be much simpler, less social affair. This therefore also means that face-to-face fundraising opportunities have been cancelled. You can make the most of the situation by taking events online – this is the time to adapt creatively and how fast you act will have an impact. Use Zoom, HouseParty, Skype, Google Meet or any other video conferencing to manage your activities, congregational prayer or Qur’an lessons and make the same suggestions to your audience by building your volunteer teams. From hosting virtual iftar parties to running an online Qur’an recitation challenge with donations, the world is at your finger tips. Don't be afraid to think outside of the (collection) box.
If there is one over-riding theme through this Ramadan AND the Corona Virus, it is unity. Ramadan is a time when Muslims come together and this year, many are mourning the absence of this. Through the lockdown, through Ramadan, through social distancing and through Eid, one message must run through your communications: this is the time to come together.
If you need help with your charity or fundraising communications or are panicking that Ramadan is just a few days away, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org