A Fresh Approach Engaging with Faith Based Communities in 2022

8th February 2022 by Imogen Ward

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One of the recurring themes of our work as strategy consultants at AAW is the request from clients to help them discover the ‘new’. New markets, new approaches, new tools, new audiences. I am sorry to burst any bubbles, but stuff that’s genuinely ‘new’ is rarely discovered by jobbing strategy consultants – particularly those working in the not-for-profit sector. So no… I don’t think we can help with the brand new. But fresh approaches… yes.

As we stride into 2022 there are fresh ideas such as the work the brilliant (genuinely ground-breaking) Starcount are trailing at the moment in our sector. This approach, focused around social media behaviours and preferences, can help organisation dig deeper into values and motivations of potential donors.  And yes – perhaps find new audiences.

But what about those audiences that we know we have, but that perhaps we haven’t kept a pace with? Let’s start with our faith-based audiences and communities.

My friend Andrew Barton has written about engagement with faith-based audiences – with a particular focus on those with a Christian faith. Indeed, a lot of you out there, including individuals working for secular organisations, may still be pouring over results from 2021 Christmas Appeals with the clear knowledge that a healthy income is still coming from a predominately older, traditional church-going audience.

But have you considered how you are reaching a different Christian audience? An audience that reflects the rich diversity of Britain today? Perhaps those that have an affinity with African Pentecostal places of worship or those from Eastern Europe who are devout Catholics?

Over the past year AAW have been working with our friends Basit Khan, Adil Husseini and Jehangir Malik at the Islamic Philanthropy specialist practice Friday Promotions to help clients achieve greater insight into Muslim audiences. Unsurprisingly, the great bulk of clients who we and Friday have worked with have been from large, international INGOs, predominately UN based organisations. In 2021, we worked with the World Food Programme on a Ramadan Appeal with great results and others such as UNICEF, UNHCR, IRC and Save the Children have benefited from the unique insight Friday can bring.

But what about national charities working in a 21st Century UK where over 4.4% of the population now identify as Muslim, making it Britain’s second largest religion? Where’s the eye-catching Ramadan appeals and campaigns coming from cancer charities or children’s charities or organisations focused on conservation and climate change?

The area of Jewish Philanthropy is an established and highly valued part of the fabric charitable giving in the UK but how much do we really understand about this faith and community? How much time do we take to consider motivations and the cultural values of Judaism that’s linked to giving? Or indeed the periods of time when giving may be more appropriate or prevalent.  My friend Steve Greenberg talks wisely about this area a lot. Steve’s day job is Assistant Director of Engagement and Partnerships at Diabetes UK, but he’s also a Trustee of the charity Jewish Legacy so has some great insight.

The themes that I’ve raised are complex  – and deeper than of course the numbers of donors on our data base. I am no expert but I am delighted to be Chairing a Webinar on Thursday 9th February that starts to open up the conversation a little more with those that are – these are of course my friends Andrew Barton, Steven Greenberg and Jehangir Malik.

There’s still time to register if you drop jane@aawpartnership.com a line and if you can’t join but would be interested in receiving a recording of the event, please let her know.

If your organisation’s cause and the impact it hopes to make is truly reflective of  21st Century Britain then it’s vital that you have visibility and understanding of all your key existing and  potential audiences and communities.  As a next step, consider developing strategies and plans to communicate in an engaging, appropriate and relevant way. Carve out some time for some fresh thinking. Delve into areas you don’t understand yet. Be curious. Be open. Champion this in your organisations.

It’s not new thinking but I promise it will invigorate.