Fundraising is global! This is an advantage for increasing your prospects, especially alumni based overseas, but it can be problematic, given the differing financial and legal frameworks of most countries.
It is important to understand the implications of fundraising overseas by researching the regulations of relevant countries. Not only will you avoid pitfalls, you will also be able to maximise the tax efficiency of your gifts.
However, this is just one resource available. With the financial and legal landscape of nations changing constantly, it is advisable to look at multiple sources of information and where possible seek local professional assistance in the countries you are targeting.
Donors will expect you to provide them with the correct information and method to make their donations. It is important that you are prompt, knowledgeable and professional in your response.
Create a policy and procedure for responding to overseas contributions.
In partnership with the finance office and institutional leadership, determine if you have an ‘in-house’ expert (e.g., lawyer on your board of trustees) who can serve as a resource regarding overseas contributions.
Research regulations and tax implications before making any significant solicitations to overseas prospects.
Education is a global business, and to remain competitive you need supporters on your doorstep and around the world.
Although it may present challenges, engaging the international community and key international constituents is important, as they are part of your institution and because these efforts can:
Create an international network of ambassadors, supporters and partners,
Enrich the cultural and heritage of your institution,
Assist in international student recruitment,
Open up opportunities for knowledge exchange among nations through collaboration and staff/student exchanges,
Increase your pool of fundraising prospects,
Enhance your global reputation,
Create a culture of inclusion and equality and
Bring different perspectives and ideas to the development of your institution.
Overcoming Geographic Separation
The challenges around international engagement mostly relate to geographical distance. It is difficult to meet your overseas constituents on a regular basis and offer them the same levels of interaction that more locally based constituents can enjoy.
There are many ways you can overcome geographical separation especially with the growth in technology to support your efforts, such as:
Establish in-country chapters or clubs, run locally for local people,
Develop opportunities for your overseas constituents to network with one another and with peers based in other countries through online social networking clubs, meetings, webinars, career workshops, etc.,
Ensure that campus-based events, meetings and sports fixtures are available online through webcasts, live Twitter feeds or online conferencing,
Involve overseas constituents in international student recruitment (e.g., as points of contact for students from their country),
Plan overseas tours for senior staff, carefully planning to ensure that as many constituents as possible are met,
Discover when academic, other staff and volunteers are traveling overseas and encourage them to make time to see constituents based in that country,
Encourage overseas alumni to plan returns to campus for a significant anniversary (e.g., 25 years after graduation),
Use email, post and telephone calls (Internet calling can be free) to keep in touch with overseas alumni,
Feature stories from overseas constituents in alumni magazines and other institution publications,
Encourage local volunteer-led initiatives by providing them with small, start-up/seed-corn funding, support and guidance,
Celebrate local festivals and holidays with your overseas constituents and
Encourage overseas constituents to continue the traditions of your institution in their home country (e.g., hold graduation parties every year for new graduates returning to their homeland).
First, look at your data and find out which countries your constituents live in and whether the information you hold about them is up-to-date. You might find that you have significant clusters in certain countries or regions, which could indicate a good place to start your programme.
Next, determine if there is any pre-existing activity at your institution that can be built upon. Talk with other departments that share an international remit (e.g., alumni relations, student recruitment, research and business development, and marketing), as you might be able to work together and share resources.
Once you have identified your geographic priority areas, you need to develop an appropriate engagement strategy. It might be as simple as inviting them to a presentation by a visiting academic in their home country or to a web-based ‘meet and greet’.
Try to identify volunteers, as they can be your resource in sustaining activity and momentum at a local level, but be realistic about the amount of support they will need.
Be clear about the ways your overseas constituents can engage with your institution and make your messages consistent and regular. Start small and build off of your successes.
Don’t Forget Your Current Overseas Students
One of your best sources of information, help and future volunteers is your current student body. Overseas students can provide valuable insight into how you might get activities started in their home country and will often offer to help when they have returned home. The parents of current students (and alumni) can also be useful contacts and supporters.
Be Culturally Sensitive
You cannot expect one style of fundraising or alumni relations to work in every country. You must adapt your practice to local cultural norms or you risk alienating your constituents and causing more harm than good. Embrace the differences between cultures and make an effort to understand the customs and lifestyles of different countries.
Determine what international engagement activities are currently happening at your institution, where there are geographic clusters of current students and alumni, and then choose a few key areas for fundraising-focused engagement efforts.
To successfully engage with constituents from a variety of countries, you must tailor your communications and approach to each country’s customs and practices. You must do your research diligently and discover:
How to address the constituent (in writing or orally). Be aware of customary salutations or terms of respect, as well as if the surname is first or last (e.g., in many Asian countries, the surname typically proceeds an individual's given name).
Customary introductions and formalities.
Attitudes to money. In many countries it is impolite to talk about money or ask people for a set amount.
Religious observances. You need to be sensitive to the religious beliefs of different nations (e.g., do not offer refreshments to Muslim guests during Ramadan).
Significant dates. Look at local calendars for major holidays and other significant dates, as well as the typical local working days.
Attitudes to food. In some countries it is impolite to leave anything on your plate; in others you must always leave a small amount of food to demonstrate to your host that the hospitality you have enjoyed has been abundant.
Attitudes to alcohol.
Attitudes to gender and sexuality.
Differences around body language. What is an inoffensive hand gesture in one culture might be totally taboo in another.
How to behave when invited to someone’s home. Do you bring a gift? What other customs exist?
How to give and receive gifts. What is appropriate? Should a gift be wrapped? Should you open a gift immediately or wait until the meeting is over?
There are numerous online resources relating to the cultural differences between countries, and often a friendly local constituent will also be happy to advise you. The CIA World Fact Book is a useful resource.
Tailor your communications and approach to respect each country’s customs and practices.
You may want to keep a list of key customs and practices for your institution’s target international communities/constituents.
Please note that the term advancement is often used when talking about fundraising in an educational context. As defined by CASE, the term encompasses alumni relations, communications, fundraising, marketing and allied areas.
Whilst this resource touches on all areas of advancement, its primary focus is on fundraising, or development. The terms development office and development director have been adopted to reflect this approach.
Many institutions have broad-based advancement offices, and the CASE website provides in-depth guidance on the wider aspects of advancement, including alumni relations, communications and marketing.