Without the ability to answer ‘yes’ to the defining characteristics of a truly global organisation, the temptation is to undertake some general ‘Development Tourism’ so that you have ‘warmed up’ a community of friends and created a network of potential supporters.
Yet this inclination often results in a shotgun approach, with no guarantee that these efforts will align with your domestic fundraising programme, institutional vision, and engagement opportunities. At best, time and resources would have been misdirected, but at worst, you will damage relationships by being unable to join them up with your confirmed priorities and model.
My advice is to leave Development Tourism to one side, and instead focus on the following:
1. Invest in initial prospect research and SHOUT about it
Knowing where your initial prospect opportunities are and developing market insight into global philanthropic trends and patterns will not only help your fundraisers to hit the ground running, but should get you a seat at the table when your organisation is planning its international strategy and priorities.
2. Support the international student experience
All students are alumni of tomorrow, and engaging volunteers to enhance and support the international student experience will:
- Begin to increase international engagement and awareness among local and overseas constituents
- Create a community of happy former students, who will naturally begin to advocate on your behalf and seek out informal opportunities to maintain connections to your organisation via forming their own networks and communication channels that can be leveraged at a later date
- Increase your knowledge of key markets and create a list of unofficial ambassadors that you can call upon to provide valuable local area knowledge when entering a new market
3. Map connections and interests of internationally mobile faculty and administration
Being part of a ‘Going-Global’ organisation does not mean you shouldn’t seek to raise funds from overseas prospects. Conversely, a few successful donations in the early days should only help to motivate your organisation’s commitment to international engagement. Mapping out opportunities arising from existing faculty and administration travel should help you to see where you can gain some ‘quick wins’ in identifying:
- Regions where there is already frequent travel from your organisation to support cultivation, engagement, and stewardship
- Overseas activity and research priorities that align with your current fundraising case for support – i.e. student travel programmes and overseas research connections
So yes, international advancement is something that should be on all our radars as our institutions seek to find opportunities and solutions in a challenging and ever-changing world. But before you dust off the passport and ask for substantial increases in travel budget, consider whether your institution is ready for you to leap into action, or if it would be better served by you first laying the groundwork.
— Victoria Barthram, Senior Consultant