Ethnic fundraising: Are ethnic donors ‘less generous’?

As we were noting in yesterday’s post, Angela Eikenberry makes the following claim:

[A]ffluent communities tend to be more generous than distressed communities in which there are wider variations in income and racial/ethnic populations…

It’s a fascinating statement. I certainly don’t want to stretch it any further than Eikenberry intended, so I am going to assume the most conservative possible interpretation of the statement and still take issue with it.

In my view, the most conversative interpretation possible would be that affluent communities tend to be more generous than distressed communities, and that in these distressed communities income and racial/ethnic segregation make fundraising more complicated.

Fair enough, I hope. And yet I want to suggest that while Eikenberry’s statement makes perfect sense (and even quantifiable sense) in a traditional/transactional fundraising (ttf) framework, it is actually highly inaccurate in a Transformational Giving (TG) context.

The accuracy turns on what we mean by ‘generosity’. If we measure generosity in terms of total dollars given, it would be difficult to dispute that affluent communities give more dollars than distressed communities. But if we measure generosity in terms of percentage of income given to charity, the totality of research demonstrates that the less you have, the more you give.

Consider the May 2009 McClatchy Group survey, which concludes that the 20% of Americans with the least income give double the percentage that the richest 20% do–about 4.3 percent as opposed to 2.1 percent.  (Make sure to click the link to read the story about the one homeless guy who buys the other homeless guy a Big Mac.)

Commenting on the survey, Josh Smith offers this great narrative gloss:

This report confirms the opinion I formed during years of collecting canned goods as a Boy Scout. While walking through neighborhoods on chilly fall mornings, it was quite obvious that families who themselves would be considered in need by many, donated bags of canned goods bursting at the seams. While there were also some full bags in the more “well to do” areas of town, the generosity that flowed from low and lower-middle class homes was hard not to notice, even for a 13-year-old.

What we’re really looking at is the vast dichotomy between how ttf and TG define generosity and philanthropy. What’s fascinating–and what I discovered personally when I I taught TG in Korea recently–is that many of the non-majority ethnicities in the US and many of the non-Euro populations abroad have concepts of generosity and philanthropy that are far more compatible with TG than the US’ majority ethnicity.

So where we’re headed this week in our ethnic fundraising excursion is that one of the best reasons for us to find ways to reach out to ethnicities beyond our own generally homogeneous spheres of influence…is that other ethnicities can offer us insights into TG that exceed what we can find in our own culture.

Tomorrow I’ll be sharing some of those insights from a 2002 book that ought to be on every TG coach’s bookshelf, whether or not you ever intend to venture outside of your own ethnic group.

About Pastor Foley

The Reverend Dr. Eric Foley is CEO and Co-Founder, with his wife Dr. Hyun Sook Foley, of Voice of the Martyrs Korea, supporting the work of persecuted Christians in North Korea and around the world and spreading their discipleship practices worldwide. He is the former International Ambassador for the International Christian Association, the global fellowship of Voice of the Martyrs sister ministries. Pastor Foley is a much sought after speaker, analyst, and project consultant on the North Korean underground church, North Korean defectors, and underground church discipleship. He and Dr. Foley oversee a far-flung staff across Asia that is working to help North Koreans and Christians everywhere grow to fullness in Christ. He earned the Doctor of Management at Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management in Cleveland, Ohio.
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3 Responses to Ethnic fundraising: Are ethnic donors ‘less generous’?

  1. Tracy Nordyke says:

    “So where we’re headed this week in our ethnic fundraising excursion is that one of the best reasons for us to find ways to reach out to ethnicities beyond our own generally homogeneous spheres of influence…is that other ethnicities can offer us insights into TG that exceed what we can find in our own culture.”

    So what you’re saying in the above statement is that in TG we value other ethnic groups based on what they can teach us not based on their potential as another income source?

  2. Pingback: Ethnic fundraising: more TG resonance than majority population fundraising « Transformational Giving

  3. Pingback: When You Eat With The Poor, The Food Is Abundant (Like The Hospitality) | Do the Word

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