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Shariq Siddiqui: Profiting from the generosity of Muslims during Ramadan

Indiana has a strong and vibrant Muslim community. He established places of worship, educational institutions, food pantries, medical clinics, and other nonprofit organizations that do social good. A recent survey by the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy suggests that the average Muslim American household gives (in money and time) more than the average American household, that 85% of those donations stay in the United States. United, and that Muslim Americans donate to both Muslim-led nonprofits and organizations outside their faith community at similar rates. Their absolute priority remains the reduction of domestic poverty.

If you are a nonprofit leader (regardless of your religion), these donors are interested in supporting your organization. However, research shows that the number one reason people give is because they are asked. In fact, the Fund Raising School at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy teaches us that when you ask these donors and how you ask them, you increase your chances of success.

In a few weeks, Muslim Hoosiers, like 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, will observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. This is an important time of year for engaging with Muslim Americans. During this month, Muslims fast on food and water daily from sunrise to sunset, generally read more Qurans, and often engage in voluntary evening prayers. They are regularly reminded during this month that the Prophet Muhammad was the most generous in Ramadan.

Research suggests that many Muslims save the bulk of their charitable contributions for the most spiritual month of the year, the month of Ramadan; it is therefore an important time to appeal to Muslim families and philanthropists.

Muslim-led organizations raise funds intensively during Ramadan, capitalizing on the theological importance of this holy month for potential donors. Research suggests that Muslims generally give more during Ramadan than at any other time of the year. This may be due to scriptural promises of reward, increased demands in their communities, and higher levels of optimism and well-being during the month.

A new study on Muslim-majority countries and stock market returns found that returns were significantly higher during Ramadan, suggesting that higher returns during Ramadan could be explained by changes in investor psychology, where increased optimism and life satisfaction have affected investor sentiment. Another study of Iranian Muslims found a 154% increase in willingness to donate organs during Ramadan.

Ignoring Muslim donors because your organization is non-denominational robs you of the financial resources needed to pursue your mission and ignores research that shows Muslims prioritize local donations and do not discriminate against organizations that are not part of their faith community. Not understanding how to engage with Muslim donors and potential customers during Ramadan is a lost opportunity.

Consider learning more about Muslims and Ramadan. Learn more about Muslim practices, priorities and traditions. Inviting a Muslim to wine tasting may not work all the time, but inviting him to lunch or coffee will not be effective during Ramadan. Waiting to engage with them until Giving Tuesday or a year-end campaign will rob you of significant funding. Understand that while Muslims are spiritually renewed and engaged during Ramadan, they are physically weakened and fatigued due to the extra worship and calorie deprivation.

Being inclusive and having empathy can lead to increased donations for nonprofits and corporate profits while making us a better society.•


Siddiqui is assistant professor and director of the Muslim Philanthropy Initiative at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, senior fellow at the Center for Global Politics, and founder of the Center on Muslim Philanthropy. Send your comments to [email protected]

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