Giving in Thailand: Opportunities for 2010

1352341693_5e069dd0a1Guest author, Ruth Mantle, advises NGOs on how to raise money effectively so they may achieve their mission. She is Co-author of a market research report called Giving in Thailand: Opportunities for 2010. She has over 10 years experience in philanthropy as a volunteer, fundraiser and activist. Ruth is based in Thailand and can be reached at ruth.mantle@gmail.com or linkedin.com/in/ruthmantle.

In early 2009, at a meeting of the Fundraisers in Thailand (FIT) network, the FIT coordinators realized that there was little documented market research to support fundraising in Thailand. Many organizations had neither the resources nor the capacity to build a fundraising strategy and those who were actively fundraising were conducting isolated tests, with little knowledge of their target markets or the fundraising environment. Further still, smaller NGOs were often afraid to evolve, preferring to stick with the same techniques they have always used – i.e. seeking funding from small grant makers or overseas foundations. So we set out to interview and survey representatives from organizations who were actively fundraising and to document which methods were working successfully in the current environment. Giving in Thailand: Opportunities for 2010 was the result of our work.

During the course of our research, we found that the majority of respondents felt that Thailand was a growing market for charitable giving. They said:

There definitely seems to be untapped resources – Thailand’s economy is strong and Thai People are generous.

There is huge potential for fundraising in the region.

Yes, I do believe Thailand is a growing marketplace for charitable giving. We fundraisers need to change our attitude. We should ask more and present our work to more donors.

From the interviews, we identified the three most significant opportunities for fundraising in Thailand:

1. The growing Thai middle class and consumer spending. A growing middle class opens the door for opportunities for regular and mid-level giving programs. International charities such as UNICEF, CCF and SOS Children’s Villages have successful direct mail programs securing donations from Thai individuals. Face-to-face fundraisers have started to become a regular sight at BTS Skytrain stations in Bangkok. It will be interesting to see how direct mail and face-to-face fundraising evolve in the Thai context.

2. High Net Worth Individuals (HNWIs). The emerging cadre of Thai high-net-worth individuals making their fortunes from Thai companies such as Big C (Thai Shopping Centre) and Bangkok Airways are also prospective donors. Furthermore, these individuals have become richer during the recession rather than poorer. However, major giving is still conducted in a very personal and private way within Thai communities so to succeed, fundraisers must have a strategy on how to approach these individuals.

3. Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). There is a growing interest of Corporate Social Responsibility and for corporations to develop their own CSR policies and projects. PTT, the Thai Petroleum Company is rumored to have over 70 CSR staff to manage their environmental and social programmes. Increasingly, we are seeing conferences on CSR, a new research centre at AIT, and increasing memberships to networking groups such as Bangkok Net Impact.

Although Thailand has fundraising potential, there are still barriers for it to becoming a more organized fundraising market. Some of the barriers include: (1) lack of fundraising training available; (2) lack of funding directories and research reports listing funding sources, their interests and giving levels; and (3) lack of benchmarking of successful fundraising programs and sharing of resources between charities.

Organizations such as the Resource Alliance, Thai Fund Foundation and the Fundraisers in Thailand (FIT) Network are starting to work together to address these barriers. With a bright economic outlook for Asia, we hope that fundraising professionals will rise to the challenges and opportunities ahead.

Photo courtesy of Taiger808, Flickr, Creative Commons

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