A Tale of Many Cities: How to Raise Money for Charity Across Backgrounds and Borders

December 6, 2022
12 minutes

Since the advent of air travel, the world has grown smaller. The internet certainly helped. So did COVID. Nowadays, we have co-workers around the corner and across the globe as well as friendships that span languages and time zones. For nonprofits, this means more potential donors than ever before, but it also means donors with greater cultural and experiential diversity. And that means you need to hone those cultural competence skills to effectively raise money for charity across backgrounds and borders.

Get Global With Your Fundraising

Nonprofits that want to take full advantage of their newfound global donor network need to understand 1) how to find these far-flung folks, 2) how to connect with them, and 3) how to retain them. So, in honor of the new year ahead, and with hopes for a brighter, kinder year, let’s get down to the business of connecting with donors abroad.

Start with a shared vision

Connecting with someone new doesn’t take a lot. A shared hobby or a good story, and suddenly you’re trading Instagram handles and dog photos (send them to us, too, please). This is good news for nonprofits looking to engage global donors. If you can tell your organization’s story with clarity and conviction, it will resonate with people from all walks of life. That’s why articulating your mission and vision is so vital—by painting a picture that everyone can buy into, you create a sense of connection. And that’s where every relationship, donors included, begins.

Welcoming (and fundraising) across the globe

As you can see, and as you’ve long known in your heart of hearts, we’re all more alike than different. But that doesn’t mean we share everything, and part of connecting with donors around the world means understanding cultural differences. Since 2023 is just around the corner for many of us, a great place to start is recognizing when different cultures welcome the new year—and how they do it.

And, since you asked so nicely, we’ll pair each celebration with a fundraising idea—just in case you don’t have enough to do in the year ahead.

Gregorian New Year

The date: 1/1 (every year)

The celebration: Most cultures around the world welcome the New Year from December 31 through the wee hours of January 1. Specific customs vary from place to place, but you can expect auspicious foods, colorful fireworks, and lots of song.

The fundraising idea: Host a lucky cocktail party, featuring lucky New Year foods from across the globe. Start with some collard greens and sausage-and-cornbread sliders, followed by new potatoes with sauerkraut, goat cheese-wrapped grapes, and lentil dip. (We’ll let you discover all the stories behind these charmed bites.) Finish everything off with rice pudding with an almond à la Norway and Sweden. Whoever finds it gets 12 months of good luck—but they won’t really need it after so many lucky foods.

Lunar New Year

The dates: 1/22/23, 2/10/24, 1/29/25

The celebration: Also known as Chinese New Year, the Lunar New Year is also celebrated in Vietnam, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan, among others. During the Lunar New Year, which marks the beginning of a new lunar cycle, you’ll banish evil and welcome good by decorating with lavish flower arrangements, giving cash gifts, dancing, and, of course, noshing on lots of tasty treats.

The fundraising idea: In Asia, the Lunar New Year is preceded by night markets selling decorations, toys, clothes, and more. So, why not host your own? To start, you’ll need lots of street food (including longevity noodles!) and a solid lion dance performance. You'll also need to get advice from those in the know and give credit where credit is due.

Nowruz

The date: 3/21-22/23, 2024, and 2025

The celebration: On the first day of the Persian New Year, more than 300 million people in Iran, Afghanistan, and nearby countries welcome spring and, with it, new beginnings. Nowruz celebrations last for 13 days. Before the festivities begin, those who celebrate deep-clean their homes; then, they create a haft-sin, a collection of items that symbolize hopes for renewal. Outside of the home, children go from house to house banging pots and pans while asking for sweets, while adults build and leap over bonfires to cleanse themselves of the past year. And, of course, there are tons of tasty foods.

The fundraising idea: Leading up to Nowruz, host a spring decluttering fundraiser. Encourage all your supporters to clean house and host their own yard sales, with the proceeds (and good vibes) going to your organization. And as always, if you're pulling from another culture, go out of your way to get info from the source and always publicly acknowledge those who assist you.

Muharram

The date: 7/18-8/17/23, 7/6-8/5/24, 6/26-7/25/25

The celebration: During the first month of the Islamic New Year, Muslims mourn and fast in remembrance of the death of the prophet Muhammad’s grandson, Hussein Ibn Ali.

The fundraising idea: Muharram isn’t a joyful celebration like most new years, so focus on cultivating mindfulness and connection rather than fundraising. Because Muharram is a period of meditation and peace, you could encourage supporters to reflect on the year ahead and consider how they can encourage kindness and defuse conflict. Becoming a recurring donor to support a cause they believe in is one way to bring goodness into the world.

Another way to bring goodness into the world is to spotlight the inspiration that brought you to this fundraiser.

Rosh Hashanah

The dates: 9/15-17/23, 10/2-4/24, 9/22-24/25

The celebration: The Jewish New Year balances rejoicing and reflection. During Rosh Hashanah, you sound a shofar (an instrument made from a ram’s horn), light candles, and eat challah, a round bread that symbolizes the circle of life (and how it moves us all). Challah is often dipped in honey to symbolize a sweet year ahead.

The fundraising idea: Everyone loves challah, so sell challahs or host a challah-making lesson. Braiding the dough is fun and easy, and it tastes way better than other breads because the dough is mostly egg yolks and oil. Don't forget to tell the story behind challah and emphasize its meaning.

Diwali

The name: 11/12/23, 10/31/24, 10/20/25

The celebration: The festival of lights celebrates good triumphing over darkness, and it’s the biggest holiday of the year in India. Celebrated by Hindu, Sikh, and Jain communities around the world, the five-day holiday peaks on the third day. Throughout Diwali, people clean their homes, decorate with clay lamps, and gather for festive feasts and fireworks.

The fundraising idea: Host a DIY Diwali night. Provide the materials to make hand-dipped candles, rangoli designs (geometric chalk or sand designs done on the floor), and traditional no-bake sweets. This is a fun one, so stay true to the tradition by doing your research, including paying experts for their knowledge and sharing their names with your guests.

Benefits of having a global donor network

When you’re taking a call with a donor in Budapest at 9:00 PM on a Tuesday, you might think, “Why am I doing this? I could be watching season 2 of Indian Matchmaking!” While we very much encourage you to make time for all your reality TV dreams, we promise the extra effort is worth it. Here are the benefits of having a network of donors all across the world.

Diversify your income sources

Just like you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket (or all your income in one stock, if we’re gonna get finance-y), you don’t want to rely on a small group of donors for your fundraising needs. With folks all around the world, you’ll diversify revenue streams, making economic waves mere ripples. (Except when there’s a worldwide recession...)

Better P2P opportunities

P2P is all about connecting with your donors’ vast and varied networks. But even then, you’re generally limited to local-ish folks. With donors all around the world, your peer-to-peer campaigns will explode with a rich variety of backgrounds and experiences, expanding your network more than ever before.

Increase accessibility

When you work with people who speak different languages and live in different parts of the world, making your materials accessible becomes a necessity. And greater accessibility is good for everyone.

ALL the ideas!

As you can see from our varied New Year celebrations, a global outlook gives you a window into different ways of life—and that means more and better ideas. So the next time you need an interesting fundraiser, crowdsource it from your amazing global network.

But what about the language barrier?

Language barriers are tricky, but as we noted above, they can also be a great opportunity to expand your reach and up accessibility and diversity in your organization. After all, more than 20% of the US population doesn’t speak English as their first language, so anything you can do to jump that language barrier will put you ahead of the game. Translate as much content as possible, convert currencies with a click, seek out bilingual volunteers and staff members, and use Google Translate and other technologies. If your donors are mostly based in one region, determine which language is the most common and hire a part-time translator—and don't forget that sign languages need translation as well! Ultimately, your supporters will appreciate that you made the effort, engendering trust and providing a strong foundation for a long-term relationship.

How one nonprofit took their mission global

Talking about donors here, there, and everywhere is all well and good, but how do you actually do it? Here's one nonprofit that went from local to global—and saw some impressive results.

Tyler Robinson Foundation. Because of the recognition and influence of their celebrity backers, TRF knew that their growth trajectory would take a much different path than most nonprofits. They had to plan for international growth from the beginning, and Funraise helped TRF prepare for stable, long-term growth instead of unpredictable virality.

The Imagine Dragons-backed organization used Funraise’s tools and platform to broaden their reach globally in order to better support families fighting pediatric cancer all over the world. Translatable donation forms with custom currency conversion (available to all Funraise customers!) International reporting made global expansion possible, allowing them to identify donor-heavy regions so they could focus on building long-term relationships with the right supporters.

How to find international donors

Before you can connect with fab folks around the globe, you need to know how to find ‘em in the first place. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • Start with your current network. Let your most dedicated supporters know that you’re interested in cultivating a global network and see where it takes you.
  • Think transformational, not transactional. Switch up your mindset—instead of thinking about how you can get more donors, consider how—and who—your assistance can help when you build relationships beyond US borders. The change in perspective may make an answer clear.
  • Do some research. Wealth screenings, relationship matching, and old-fashioned research can really help you pinpoint where to focus your efforts. When you find a name that pops, reach on out.
  • Target your audience. Speaking of pinpointing your efforts, who would be interested in your mission? Not every international group is going to be compelled to crusade for your cause. Think creatively, ensure that your assets speak to their language and culture, and reach out to local national or cultural groups to partner.
  • International crowdfunding. Sometimes, you have to start small to go big. An international crowdfunding campaign with a big, bold project at the finish line is a great way to attract new donors all over. Then, you can focus on fostering those relationships.
  • Take a class. If you're so interested in working with a certain culture or nationality, learn about it! It won't work to go into the class with the intent to work your fellow classmates, but learning about other traditions and perspectives never hurts.
  • Ask Oprah. As a billionaire, she probably has lots of international friends.
  • Share and share alike. These days, the people affected by many protests, conflicts, and natural disasters are finding community and support by sharing their stories on social media. Often, all they're asking is for you to share. Depending on your situation, you may get traction by making that same request.
  • Have you tried social media? Ahhh, social media, the great connector. Everyone's constant goal is to expand their community and encourage engagement. As an organization that's looking to expand beyond US borders, setting up streaming on Twitch or raising your voice on Reddit or teaming up with TikTokers may be all you need to gain some momentum.

Tips to connect with international donors

You’ve made contact. Now, it’s all about connecting. Here are some tips to create an inclusive and dynamic donor experience for your international donors.

Do the basic research

It's not just about getting to know the donor themselves. Be sure to study the individual country a donor resides in before you reach out. You want to consider the culture, industries, nonprofit regulations, and philanthropic traditions. Not to mention their safety—there are places where donors can be persecuted for supporting certain causes.

Keep the virtual events coming

The great thing about virtual events is that everyone can attend! The bad thing is that there are no crudité platters, and we really love those. Still, accessibility wins out; guests can always make their own charcuterie.

Stagger event times

Sure, everyone can attend a virtual event, but if it’s at 3:00 AM for your donors in Australia, that’s going to be a little rough. Hold multiple events to accommodate different time zones so that no one has to wear their PJs to your virtual gala.

Don’t spread yourself too thin

The world’s a big place, so chances are you’re not going to have donors in every country. Instead, be strategic, focusing on places where you already have supporters or where your cause is likely to resonate more.

Record everything

Multiple events can be tricky, but there’s an easy alternative: record everything. Then, simply share the link with your donors post-event so they can tune in whenever’s most convenient.

Translate everything

Make sure all your recorded events have interviews and all your outreach is translated (including sign languages when necessary!) This is an easy way to make every donor feel included.

Use country-specific platforms and payment methods

We love social media for connecting with donors, but your Chinese donors are never going to see your Facebook posts. Be sure you’re using a variety of platforms so that all your donors can stay up to date on the latest happenings. The same goes for payment methods—Germany and Israel, for example, can’t use Stripe. #themoreyouknow

Consider an ambassador program

You already have a board and committees to support your nonprofit locally. Passionate donors abroad can serve as ambassadors to spread the word and hold local events, building strong communities around the world.

Tips to retain international donors

Congratulations: you’ve connected with some awesome folks around the world! But as nonprofiteers, we know that’s only the beginning. Now, you need to retain them.

  • Hold networking events all over. Just like colleges have alumni networking events in cities around the country, you can hold donor events all around the world. By connecting your donor to each other, you increase the likelihood that they’ll stay interested and stick around.
  • Host personal check-ins. Sure, you can’t grab a coffee with a donor in Thailand, but you can schedule a Zoom chat for 8:00 AM their time. One-on-one stewardship meetings never go out of style, so don’t leave your international donors behind. Plus, you could totally mail them some local coffee beans beforehand—just remember it might take a few weeks to get there!
  • Don’t forget about text engagement. Emails don’t always get opened and phone calls require some careful calculations. But text messages? Everyone reads them and you don’t have to worry about them getting buried. Plus, since they’re short, it’s much less work to translate them as needed.
  • Personalize your strategy. Use culturally appropriate greetings and reference local holidays and events. When it comes to engaging and retaining donors abroad, it’s all about the details. Speaking of referencing local holidays... make sure you're not trying to set meetings on religious or cultural holidays, and remember that holidays don't always start at 12 AM, and they don't always end after 24 hours.
  • Seek feedback and listen carefully. With international donors, soliciting feedback and listening well are even more important than the feedback you get from your neighbors.
  • Send compliant receipts. Every country has its own tax laws, so ensure that all donation receipts are country-compliant.
  • Keep safety in mind. Not everyone in the world has the same freedoms that we have in the US. In other countries, it can be dangerous to publicly support a political leader or party, a religious institution, a controversial cause, or a rebellion. Ensure beyond any doubt that your donors are safe as they support your mission.

Using Funraise around the world

If you're looking for a fundraising platform that allows you to work with donors around the world, Funraise is the place to call home! Here are a few reasons you should be using Funraise:

Multi-language donation forms

Donation forms can be translated into any language or a single form presented in multiple languages. The proper language is automatically displayed based on the donor’s browser settings.

Multi-currency donation forms

Funraise supports donations in over 100 currencies. Donation forms can be set to a single currency or offer multiple currencies, enabling donors around the world to make a donation in their preferred currency. Donation receipts display the donation amount in the donor’s currency while donation amounts are automatically converted into your platform’s base currency, making global processing and reporting seamless.

Advanced gateway routing based on currency

Some advanced strategies require that donations from specific countries be routed to specific gateways. With Funraise’s Currency Gateway Routing, you can connect multiple gateways to Funraise and define which gateways a payment should be processed through based on the currency. Plus, Funraise strives to accept all the payment methods, including stock and crypto.

Globally-distributed content delivery

Funraise backs up these internationalization features with a globally-distributed content delivery network that enables your donation forms to load securely and efficiently from anywhere in the world.

Fundraising from donors abroad: FAQs

Which country donates the most money to charity?

In 2019, the United States ranked as the most generous country, followed by Myanmar, New Zealand, and Australia. But in 2020, Indonesia ranked first for charitable giving, followed by Kenya, Nigeria, Myanmar, and Australia. Ratings took into account monetary donations, volunteering, and otherwise helping strangers. Thanks, World Giving Index!

How can I get donations from abroad?

Research and patience. Get to know your global donors, their culture, and their community. It requires some legwork to get donations from international donors, but once you make that connection, it’s a relationship that will pay off.

What is cultural competence?

It’s just recognizing how your culture differs from other cultures and, in turn, respecting other cultures’ values and beliefs.

How do I connect with donors when I can’t meet them in person?

You can always connect with donors online through email outreach, virtual events, and social. Additionally, don’t forget about text messaging and direct mail. If your message takes a while to arrive, it will feel even more important.

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