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Fundraising Fundamentals, Section 12.2


How to Engage the International Community

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).
Getting Started

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.

Action Item
  • 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.

You Might Also Want to Read:

Role and importance of alumni relations
The financial and legal implications of international development activities
Cultural sensitivities
Being Global: Making the Case for International Alumni Relations


CASE provides a variety of resources on international fundraising and engaging international alumni, including an international schools survey (to trace the growth and innovation of the development sector in international schools) and an international alumni relations survey (ICARS).

Roger Makanjuola talks about alumni associations.
McWilliams talks about staffing and organizational structure.