Diversity Essay: Characteristics of Cuban-American Fundraising
The views expressed herein are those of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, or the organizations with which the authors are affiliated.
By Rolando Damian Rodriguez, CFRE, Jackson Memorial Foundation
AFP FL, Greater Miami Chapter
It is this author's belief that fundraising succeeds using the same basic human principles, no matter what the culture. Following are a few insights into the Cuban-American culture of South Florida which may help develop successful fundraising programs.
The group's acculturation level varies based on the time since arrival in the United States. Various immigration waves have arrived, starting with the early 1960s. The group maintains strong roots to Cuba and historical roots in Cuba, even in second and third generation. The earliest wave had a very high percentage of professionals and business owners, the later waves (70s and on) had a normal mix of middle-class equivalents. The best prospects are the generation having arrived in the 1960s, especially the group now retiring, or their children who are now second generation success stories. The best approach for cultivation therefore depends greatly on the acculturation level.
Motivators for giving
Cuban-Americans consider giving a voluntary activity rooted in family and community. As a culture, they do not respond to the "obligation" to give to community. Group background includes having succeeded through hard work and enterprise, and therefore group members respond more to positive motivators rather than guilt or obligation. An approach to giving that emulates business practices is a turn-off.
Giving traditions are rooted in helping the extended family. Almost all older members have personal experiences with needing and getting help from friends and family when arriving in the U.S., almost all second generation has assimilated the attitudes of their parents based on these experiences. Fundraising based on the need to "get started" is therefore well accepted and supported. Fundraising for children in need is strongly supported. Many Cuban-Americans recall getting help for their children, or remember being a child in need and benefiting from existing support programs. Touching this emotional chord is especially valuable.
Education is highly valued and Cuban-Americans have high rates of upper-level education. They consider education a basic part of getting ahead and succeeding, and therefore will support educational causes leading to "the American dream."
The highest percentage of Cuban-American are Catholics, although there is a small but powerful group of Cuban-American Jews. Upper-middle class and upper-class group tend to have their children in private Catholic schools or other private schools. In addition to Christmas, Easter holidays are not good times for events.
As a group, Cuban-Americans have a very strong work ethic and are among the most financially successful of immigrant groups. They are highly entrepreneurial. They respond well to fundraising requests that provide opportunity, but do not respond well to fundraising for the "needy," such as homelessness.
The group is strongly Republican and is very involved in politics and the electoral process. They have extremely high voting rates as a group, a characteristic based on experiences with communism/socialism. The group does not respond well to fundraising efforts associated or characterized as liberal.
General cultural characteristics
Cuban-Americans tend to be highly social in nature. They participate biculturally in the community, but their inner circle of friends and colleagues is likely to be other Cuban or Hispanic Americans. Events have a strong role in Cuban American fundraising.
Traditionally, Cuban-Americans consider it impolite and rather nerdish to arrive at a social function on time, creating a need for time compromise in bi-cultural fundraising events. They enjoy Latin music, even in second generation groups, in addition to mainstream American music appropriate to their generation. The group responds well to high-energy events, and considers most Anglo gatherings as rather constrained. These contrasting characteristics create a challenge in developing successful events that attract Cuban-Americans along with the traditional American community.
The group is generally more traditional as compared to average Americans in regards to gender roles. However, there are many highly successful Cuban American business women who are completely a part of the mainstream, and the percentage of professional women is equivalent to the American mainstream. Older Cuban Americans still maintain many family and gender roles which are more traditional than typical American roles.
Cuban-Americans are likely to support efforts which are close to their community experience, such as church or support groups that provided help. They are less likely to feel any loyalty to traditional American giving powerhouses, such as Red Cross, Salvation Army or United Way.
Almost all Cuban American prospects speak and write English, and expect to receive material in English. A small subset of older Cuban Americans still communicate principally in Spanish. Language issues must be handled with care, since approaching an acculturated Cuban-American with a Spanish language piece may be perceived as insulting. A significant percentage tend to regularly watch and read Spanish-language media in addition to mainstream American media. This includes local Spanish newspapers and radio, as well as national television networks Univision and Telemundo.