While America’s demographics are changing quickly, charities are not adjusting fast enough to the changes, says Diana Cardenas, a New York marketing consultant who works with nonprofits.
Ms. Cardenas, who spoke in Washington at the American Marketing Association’s Nonprofit Marketing Conference, noted figures that show the number of interracial couples grew by 28 percent in the past decade, while the number of same-sex couples increased by 80 percent.
Ms. Cardenas, a Colombian by birth, said nonprofit organizations should take several steps before attempting to raise money or communicate with people from different cultures: They should:
* Ask questions to identify common beliefs and values among people of each cultural background.
* Get involved and interact with people of each culture.
* Be straightforward and honest in communications with people from different backgrounds.
Ms. Cardenas said she learned the importance of those steps in an ill-fated marketing campaign she led to persuade Colombian business owners in the New York City borough of Queens to support educational programs in their home country. “I failed miserably even though I’m from the same country,” she said.
Instead of listening to the Colombian business owners, identifying their values, or making the effort to visit their neighborhoods, she said, “we assumed we knew them.”
When Ms. Cardenas did finally approach the group, she offered an incentive: a discount coupon from an upscale Manhattan department store that she thought would be appealing. A percentage of any purchase made with the coupon, she said, would go toward the cause.
But the coupon backfired, Ms. Cardenas said. None of the business owners had ever shopped at the store, and some even seemed angry at the idea of buying luxury goods when they had families to support.
In addition to erroneous assumptions, Ms. Cardenas made other mistakes. “I was trying to reach results too quickly,” she said.
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