Nonprofits tend to look at holiday season as a once in a year opportunity when donors are exceptionally active. But is it really a once in a year opportunity?
Every year nonprofits from all over the world wait for December so that the holiday season will begin and donors will be in a generous mood. And indeed 33% of all online donations made during the year are made in December where the last three days of December account for roughly 10% of the donations made online throughout the year!
Two possible explanations for this are:
1) People are just more generous during the Holiday season.
2) Nonprofits give a big push during these months, putting in more effort and budget to create awareness for their cause.
The thing is that the world is full of cultures and religions that celebrate numerous holidays that are not all Christmas... For some of these holidays there might even be traditions of donating money, but most nonprofits don't even know about these holidays nor do they acknowledge them.
There is great significance of knowing that your community's holidays and traditions are not less of importance than Christmas, and by knowing your donors and where they are coming from, you can extend holiday giving season to all year long!
A great example for this, is the case of Cares Children's Foundation. Cares Children's Foundation is an Islamic NGO that caters for the needs of vulnerable children in slum areas of Uganda. They created the fundraising campaign 'Give Your Qurbani To Muslim Refugees' and launched it 2 weeks before Eid Al Adha, a Muslim holiday celebrated usually in June or July (depending on the Muslim Calendar). One of the traditions of the holiday is to donate money, and in just 2 weeks, Cares Children's Foundation raised thousands of dollars on GivingWay!
So how can you extend the Giving Season in your community?
Learn about your donors. What country do they come from? What is their culture? Their traditions?
Write down in your calendar dates that are important to them.
Three weeks before the holiday, start a campaign that speaks in the spirit of the holiday and its traditions.
Celebrate the holiday with your community and don't just ask for donations, send them cards and wishes and let them know that their holiday is important to you too.
If your community is varied and comes from different locations, that's great! There is nothing wrong in celebrating multiple holidays with all cultures!
Below is a partial list of major holidays you should know:
Major Christian Holidays
Christmas Day - 25 December - celebrates the birth of Jesus.
Easter Day - on a Sunday between March 22 and April 25 - commemorates the resurrection of Jesus as the Christ.
Major Muslim Holidays
Muslim holidays occur on dates in the lunar Islamic calendar, which is different from the solar based Gregorian calendar, so they are observed on different Gregorian dates every year.
Eid Ul Fitr, usually celebrated in April or May - a three-day celebration that concludes Ramadan (a month-long fast, during which Muslims refrain from eating from sunup to sundown). People often pay “zadak”, or charity.
Eid Al Adha , usually celebrated in June or July - It is customary to distribute food to the poor and needy.
Major Buddhist Holidays
Nirvana Day, in mid-February - commemorating the death of The Buddha
Wesak, Buddha's Birthday, in April or May - which according to some traditions celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death.
Khao Pansa, typically July - marks the beginning of the Buddhist Lent. In some countries it is the preferred day for Buddhist men to be ordained as monks. It is celebrated at the Full Moon of the eight lunar month. People prepare donations of food and necessities like soap, toothpaste and toothbrushes and towels for the monks. Most temples are very busy during this time with people making merit and giving their donations
Boun Ok Pansa, at the end of the rainy season, in October- marks the end of Lent.
Bodhi Day, in early December - celebrates the Buddha's Enlightenment in 596 B.C.
Buddhists also have many local holidays that vary from country to country. Often they are often in sync with the phases of the moon, and therefore, they vary from year to year.
Major Jewish Holidays
Jewish holidays occur on dates in the lunar Jewish calendar, which is different from the solar based Gregorian calendar, so they are observed on different Gregorian dates every year.
Rosh ha Shana, usually celebrated in September - marks the 1 day of the Jewish year. The ten days starting from Rosh Hashana and ending in Yom Kippur are known as the Ten Days of Repentance. During this time, the Jewish tradition calls people to do an examination of one's deeds and repentance for sins. This repentance can take the form of additional supplications, confessing one's deeds before God, fasting, self-reflection, and an increase of involvement with donations to charity.
Passover- usually celebrated in April - commemorates the Exodus, the liberation of the Israelite slaves from Egypt.
Major Hindu Holidays
Diwali, usually celebrated in October or November - the festival of lights for Hindus and Sikhs. The celebration lasts for five days and is marked by sweets, fireworks and lights. It celebrates the triumph of good, light and knowledge over evil, darkness and ignorance. During this holiday, all buildings are adorned with many Diyas, which are oil lamps and Hindus give and receive gifts — especially sweets. They also celebrate with feasts and gambling.
Makar Sankranti, is celebrated in January - It is observed in different ways in various regions of India and occurs when the sun goes into the zodiac sign of Makar, which makes the days longer. Hindus in Maharashtra and Gujarat celebrate by flying kites. However, in Punjab, Makar Sankrant is called Lohri and they celebrate by making make large bonfires, having sweets and throwing rice. It is called Kicheri in Uttar Pradesh, where Hindus bathe in the rivers. The festival is called Pongal in Southern India, where it is celebrated for three days. Hindus in that region present rice boiled in milk to the God of Rain on the first day and the God of the Sun on the second day. They bathe cows and adorn them with flowers on the third day to honor their hard work in the fields.
Maha Shivaratri, celebrated in February / March - honors Shiva, destroyer of the universe. Unlike other Hindu celebrations, this one is celebrated the night and day before the new moon. Shiva's followers prepare certain foods to offer him and the next morning they eat the offerings. Young women hope that by fasting in honor of Shiva, he will give them nice husbands. During the night, Hindus pray and sing to honor their lord. One of the Hindu traditions during Maha Shivaratri is to bathe a sculpture of Shiva with water, honey and milk before rubbing it with sandalwood paste and adorning it with flowers.
Holi, celebrated in February / March - is the Hindu festival of colors. It marks the beginning of spring and all that spring symbolizes. It is most commonly celebrated in Northern India. During this time (known as Phagun) Hindus build bonfires to help get the evil spirits out of the air and celebrate with gifts of food. It is a very happy time when Hindus are all recognized as equal with no difference in wealth, gender or age. Holi is called "The Festival of Colors" because people paint each other and throw dye and colorful powder all over their bodies. The colored powder that they throw during the festival is called Gulal.
Ram Navami, takes place in April - celebrates the birth of Lord Rama. On this holiday, Hindus clean and decorate their houses with fruits and flowers.
Raksha Bandan, August - celebrates love for comrades and brothers. Hindus celebrate it when there is a full moon. During this festival, sisters put a bracelet called a rakhi on their brothers' wrists as a symbol of their love and affection for them. The priests put rakhis on the wrists of members of their congregation and women put rakhis on the wrists of the prime minister. When a woman puts a rakhi on a man, the man has a duty to protect her. The bracelets usually have many colors and the people say a chant in Punjabi or Sanskrit once the bracelets are tied.
Krishna Janmashtami, August - a festival celebrating Krishna's birth. The celebration lasts two days during which Hindus usually do not sleep. They perform many songs, dances and plays of Krishna's childhood to worship him.
Navaratri, October - Hindus from all over India put aside their daily chores and prepare for Navaratri, a nine-day celebration honoring three goddesses of the religion. During Navaratri, some people fast or only eat fruit once a day. People who are not fasting can go to any temple in India at any time to get free food. Hindus come from all over India to feed the goddesses on the last day and pray in the temples. The festival comes to the end on the tenth day of Vjay Dashmi or Dussehra, when the idols of the Goddess Shakti are tossed into the river to mark the end of Navaratri.
In conclusion, while Christmas is a great time for nonprofits to reach out to their community and ask for support, it is important to know how to leverage all holidays into giving opportunities.
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