Hispanic Donors

January 15, 2009       Michele Donohue      

Telet—n, a Mexico-based charity that helps disabled children, puts on a radio and television telethon to raise money each year. But last year, Telet—n wanted to expand to Hispanics living in America, the country with the second largest Hispanic population, and acquired more than 67,000 new donors in just 30 hours.

The United States demographics are changing dramatically – minorities will be the majority by 2042, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. And the Hispanic population will jump from 46.7 million to 132.8 million by 2050 – 30 percent of the United States projected population. The purchasing power for Hispanics will also increase significantly – from $860 billion in 2007 to a projected $1.2 trillion just by 2012, according to "The Multicultural Economy Report" study released by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia’s Terry College School of Business.

Fundraisers who want to reach Hispanic donors will have to speak the language — both literally and figuratively, according to Michael Saray, president of Michael Saray Hispanic Marketing in New York City, at the Direct Marketing Association New York Nonprofit Conference. Spanish use decreases with the increase in generations, but family and community values stay relatively the same, according to Saray. This shows that the generations "might lose the language, but not the culture," according to Saray, which is important when fundraisers think about messages. Saray characterized Hispanics generally as right-brain thinkers – relying more on emotions, intuition and creativity to make decisions.

First, fundraisers need to know where to get Hispanic lists. Spanish language generated and ZIP code lists for high-Spanish speaking segments can help build your list, according to Joan H. Smyth Dengler, vice president of direct response for Covenant House. And if you know the list was generated using Spanish speaking as a prerequisite, strictly Spanish communications instead of bilingual, might test better, according to Dengler. She explained segmenting the list based on gender might not help in the test since decisions are generally made as a family.

Hispanic communication might also be fundamentally different. Saray said that Hispanics want to know the supporting argument before the main point, so fundraisers may need to build up a strong basis for need before asking for a donation. Hispanics might also react better to emotional images and a touching story more than a cascade of statistics and charts, according to Saray.

Telet—n used children’s stories to illustrate the need for donations in 60- and 120-second spots in national and local markets in America, according to Lisa Scott Benson, senior vice president of strategy development in the Washington, D.C., office of Pasadena, Calif.-based Russ Reid Company. Mexicans living in America were the primary donor target, but Benson said that the message "deliberately approached all Latinos." The spots targeted local markets with a high percentage of Hispanic residents and states like California and Texas, which combined account for 48 percent of the Hispanic population living in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Some 80 percent of the Telet—n donations came in from the telephone, according to Benson. Saray said that Hispanics might prefer that communication outlet better, but recommended installing a telemarketing service that can accommodate for language preferences. The call might be a chance to connect with the donor emotionally and build trust – but don’t blow the call with impersonal service and unenthused call center assistants. Saray said Hispanic donors might like to be courted for their donation, and will appreciate an ask that singles them out – like "We want your donations."

But donors always need to be reminded of the cause. Telet—n cultivated donors by sending welcome packets and monthly statements with more stories about children to "reinforce the need," according to Benson. Fundraisers should also test communications in certain segments on specific holidays or cultural religious events – like All Souls Day or the Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day, according to Dengler.

This year’s Telet—n in the Untied States aims to convert 85 to 95 percent of donors into padrinos, which translates to "godfather," the monthly giving plan. The padrino designation plays up the family affiliation and bond to the organization. For different levels of support, padrinos can pay for a child’s therapy, doctor visits and more. Telet—n also lets donors visit 11 different rehabilitation centers to see what their contributions do for children.

Saray knows one trend for sure — "The market is going toward Hispanic." NPT