Bay Area Mosques Struggle to Fundraise During the Pandemic

3 min
Save ArticleSave Article

Failed to save article

Please try again

Muslim Community Association (MCA) is one of the largest mosques in the Bay Area with more than two thousand worshippers. But without people coming into the mosque to donate money, fundraising during the month of Ramadan is at an all-time low. (Adhiti Bandlamudi/KQED)

Ramadan is coming to a close with a shelter-in-place version of Eid this weekend.

In a typical year, families come to a mosque for evening prayers, where they're confronted with a host of collection boxes for different charities. Zakat, one of the pillars of the Muslim faith, requires people give 2.5% of their savings to charity, if they are able.

During Ramadan, according to belief, extra donations lead to extra blessings, and mosques typically raise most of their annual budget during this time. This year, it's a different story. Bay Area mosques report fundraising has hit an all-time low.

Junaid Shaikh is a board member of Muslim Community Association, a "mega-mosque" in Santa Clara with more than 2,000 worshippers. "It's a month of fasting, but it's also a month of giving," Shaikh said. "It's like about eight to 10 times more than regular months. That's how much Muslims give."

Because of the pandemic, mosques are holding online services, and they're fundraising digitally, too. However, results have been disappointing for many mosques.

Sponsored

For example, MCA runs the Granada Islamic School, a private Islamic schools for grades K-12. On May 15, the school held a Facebook Live fundraiser with special guest speakers urging people to donate.

The school hoped to raise $100,000 by the end of Ramadan, but they've only raised half that, and the community association wanted to raise $1.5 million by the end of this week, but they're far behind the goal.

Shaikh believes online fundraising simply isn't as effective as traditional, in-person methods. "People can tune out anytime, versus in a physical space [like a mosque], the doors are closed," he joked.

One of the largest mosques in the Bay Area, the Muslim Community Association says that without people coming into the mosque to donate money, fundraising is significantly lower than usual. (Adhiti Bandlamudi/KQED)

The Smaller the Mosque, the Harder the Time

Hatem Bazian, chair of the nonprofit Northern California Islamic Council (NCIC), works with mosques across the Bay Area. Smaller mosques, he said, employ "one to two employees at most, and it's part-time employment at best."

related coverage

Bazian added that smaller mosques don't have the digital resources bigger mosques do. "What we need is to figure out how to make sure that the larger mosques support the smaller mosques and begin to plan for long-term strategy," he said.

The NCIC is helping smaller mosques fundraise, but Bazian is unsure how much longer they can survive under shelter-in-place restrictions. For now, houses of worship won't be allowed to open until the third phase outlined by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The Islamic Center of Fremont is a mid-size mosque that has been around for 20 years. They too have struggled to switch to virtual services since Alameda County's shelter-in-place restrictions were enacted.

"There are a lot of people from different backgrounds, like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan," said Salim Mastan, an ICF volunteer. Mastan said they serve a variety of people with mixed incomes.

ICF is doing the best they can to fundraise, but again, it's hard to reach people online. ICF usually holds an Eid celebration at Fremont's popular Lake Elizabeth.

This year, they likely won't be able to have their Eid prayers at the lake. "That would [have] a very huge financial impact, not getting the funds that would be collected on Eid," Mastan said.