When is the right time to think globally?

By May 1, 2019 May 10th, 2019 Global Economy & Relations

Thinking globally can markedly enhance a development and alumni programme. This includes organisations that aren’t immediately able to go global, as well as those that do not have an obvious international constituency.

Although global normally refers to international engagement, start by asking what does global mean to your organisation? This could be nearby cities or other regions. The benefits of taking a step back to reframe your development programme with a global perspective does not fundamentally change whether the lion’s share of your high value constituency ends up being a three-hour drive away or 12-hour flight away.

Some organisations will immediately shut the door on considering opportunities outside their local area as they understandably feel resources are stretched with their existing programme of activity. On the other hand, many organisations with a history of international engagement in major world cities cannot share very specific objectives or outcomes of why they continue to visit, beyond feeling the location is important or it is expected of them.

Both decisions might be the right ones, but without taking the time to evaluate the opportunities and define your priorities based on that evaluation and your strategy, it’s just guesswork. Even more, you might be engaging in the right places but in a suboptimal way.

Here are three steps to begin thinking globally to enhance your programme:

1. Take the time to analyse your community

It might have been some time since you reviewed the information on your database, or you may have never undertaken a significant review. This should not be seen as a luxury and does not have to take too much time or be burdensome if done correctly. It does, however, need to be done at key intervals to complement the development team’s experience and intuition. A few guiding points:

  • Run a quick analysis of where your constituencies are based and how this breaks down across key groups of stakeholders.
  • Analyse who is supporting you and where that support is coming from. Are there outliers providing significant support that might not match where you have been engaging to date?
  • A capacity analysis of your community, including a wealth screening if possible, is critical to inform you where and with whom you should be building relationships.

You will be surprised to find that you may have missed important groups as your programme has matured. Changes to the circumstances of key stakeholders may have occurred, or you simply have information that wasn’t available when last looking. This will help you go beyond hunches and really identify the high value opportunities as well as the low hanging fruit.

2. Review your organisation’s existing strategic priorities

It is incredibly valuable to identify which geographies are currently important to the organisation as well as areas that might increase in importance in the years to come. A few points to consider:

  • Talk to members of leadership if these plans have not been made clear in a strategy document. Ask where decisions have been made or plans are currently being considered.
  • There could be important growth markets for admissions or increasing international expat populations that may find themselves back in their home countries after graduation.
  • If there are ambitious plans for the organisation that need to be supported by philanthropy, will your current pipeline of donors meet that need? Will you need to expand your donor pool by exploring new markets?

Armed with your analysis and understanding of the organisation’s future direction, you will find yourself in a much better situation to make the decision on who, where, and when to engage. It will also help you prepare even if this is not the right moment to expand your programme. Think about when and what resources the organisation will need to invest to meet any ambitions that need the support of your global stakeholders.

3. Review your current programme with your non-local stakeholders in mind

If your engagement relies purely on face-to-face interaction, and your global programme needs you getting in a plane/train/car for the relationship to move forward, it will fail.

The dream is to have a borderless programme that allows all stakeholders to engage no matter where they are. Some of the highest value constituencies will often be incredibly time poor, and so you will not see them even if they are down the road. Think carefully about digital tools, such as mentoring platforms or developing a webinar series, that can help capture stakeholders no matter where they reside.

Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with global stakeholders on your doorstep. International or non-local parents will likely visit the organisation throughout the year, so plan to try to capitalise on the opportunity when they are around. In addition, global alumni may regularly travel to your city or a nearby city, and again, for the bigger prospects, it’s worth thinking about this opportunity to engage and plan ahead.

These tools should help whether you are already engaging international constituencies or thinking about small tweaks to your programme to prepare for expanded engagement. There is a lot to be said about the do’s and don’ts of global engagement, but it’s never too early to get the global thinking started.

Samir Farrag is a senior consultant with Graham-Pelton in the U.K. Contact him directly via e-mail or by calling +44 (0)207 060 2622.

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