As I prepare to attend my third CASE International Advancement Conference in New York this week, I have reflected on my experience as an international advancement professional. I’ve come to realise that my work has broadly fallen into supporting two types of education institutions: the truly global organisation, which has integrated international opportunities and priorities into its core mission and business activity; and the going-global organisation, which recognises the opportunities and expresses a general commitment to strengthening its international reach, but has yet to fully embed this goal into the heart of the organisation.
Whether you are just starting out in the world of international advancement or considering how to grow your existing programme, I ask you to consider whether your organisation can be defined as truly global.
Do you have:
1. A mature, established local advancement programme?
√ This will provide a successful model of processes and a toolkit of systems and materials that fit the culture and skills of your organisation, and can therefore be easily adapted and tailored to suit different markets.
X Establishing an international and domestic programme simultaneously will leave you fighting on two fronts: duplicating start-up efforts, and multiplying the impact of initial problems. A lack of proven track record in fundraising could also risk faculty misconceptions – namely, a lack of understanding about the long-term nature of major gift relationships and the misconception that international advancement is a ‘nice’ activity that increases funding for overseas travel.
2. A clear institution-wide global vision with identified priorities?
√ This will create a ‘roadmap’ to guide proactive prospect identification and prioritisation, ensuring that your advancement programme is aligned with leadership travel plans and able to support student recruitment, employability, and research strategies.
X Without visible evidence of your institution’s commitment to a given region, prospects will start to question your authenticity in reassuring them that their region and interests are genuinely aligned with the institution’s priorities and able to have a transformative impact in supporting the overarching vision and mission.
As with your local prospects, overseas donors do not want a relationship with the fundraiser. They want a meaningful, impactful relationship with your organisation, and this will not be possible without interaction with and examples of some of the following:
- Leadership undertaking high-level visits
- Study abroad and exchange programmes
- Recruitment fairs and presentations
3. Borderless engagement opportunities?
√ A ‘menu’ of opportunities that enable meaningful engagement from afar will bring overseas prospects closer to your current priorities and vision, increasing momentum in driving your pipeline towards successful solicitations.
X A campus-based engagement programme focused on onsite volunteer opportunities, facility tours, and local events will only serve to reinforce prospect concerns that you are not genuinely invested in building international relationships. Difficulty in facilitating remote and overseas engagement opportunities will also leave prospects questioning your ability to steward their support and keep them updated on the impact of their gift after you have received non-local donations.
Too often, the decision to ‘expand international fundraising’ is driven solely by a need to simply raise more funds and increase the number of principal and major gift prospects. The logic follows that increasing the size of your pool will increase the funds raised. Yet, without laying the foundation outlined above, it is difficult to see how you can build and maintain a sustainable and long-term international advancement strategy.
So what does this mean for advancement professionals tasked with pursuing international opportunities at organisations that don’t fulfil these three criteria? Part 2 of this blog will discuss three advancement priorities to consider for organisations in the process of ‘Going-Global.’
— Victoria Barthram, Senior Consultant