Let’s go global…there’s gold in them hills

How many Fundraising Directors of national charities that have international programmes have been challenged by their CEO or board member to go out and raise funds in countries where their non-profit spends its money? How many times have moderately well informed (they have read the Economist) charity leaders asked why their organisation is not setting up shop to raise funds from the BRICS or BRICSAM or even from the MINTS countries?

Such sentences usually include some bland references to “low hanging fruit”, “look at the competitors” and the view from above, that corporations, HNWI and UHNWIs are just waiting with open cheque books (check books for our American colleagues) ready to bestow enormous wealth on their non-profit.

Whilst there is undoubtedly enormous opportunity to organisations to expand their fundraising internationally and certainly most of our clients have done so with great success over the last decade or so, in most cases non-profits would be far better if they focused their fundraising efforts in their home market. Those of you that know me as an obsessive on the theme and practice of globalising fundraising and as someone that has spent the last 30 years working in fundraising in over 50 countries, this may appear to heretical.

More and more I encounter organisations that see the fundraising gold rush taking place in Asia and Latin America, start packing their shovels and pans and head out for El Dorado. Meanwhile, they ignore the facts that they historically and continue to massively underinvest in legacy and planned giving (“takes too long to get a return on investment”); have played with social media and digital and decided “it does not work for their cause”; spent millions on recruiting donors via face to face but invested “diddly-squat” (Oxford Dictionary: zilch, zip, nada) in analysing and building donor loyalty and retention programmes or any form of customer care; failed to understand what real corporate partnerships mean and have never once developed and tested a mid-level donor programme, usually because “no-one else has!”

So a bit like the English in colonial times packed off their surplus sons to India or another far flung part of the Empire, today it’s all about exploring fundraising opportunities in India, Kenya or Hong Kong.

Instead of taking a hint from another great, in this case Roman Empire builder, Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, and “ Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.” The solution it seems is easier to find in a foreign land.

Having done my “rant”, (Thanks for the lessons the great George Smith), there is indeed fundraising gold to be found in what might be defined as developing, emerging or even underexploited mature markets for those non-profits that look in the right place and with the right set of tools. Just as in any gold rush there are plenty of bodies that line the route and stories of failure to match those that have found fortune.

GDP is as about as good an indicator for finding fundraising success as a GPS. The BRICS…and the rest are a great acronym for use by the lazy of thought and poor in research. Just because you are great at fundraising in your home market does not mean you or your organisation is ready and able to take on the world. To really succeed in fundraising a new market you must have as a minimum:

Knowledge….the right research, analysis and modelling to fully understand the market

Commitment …to see it through for the long term

Investment…and we are talking millions

People….who will make the market work despite all of its challenges

Imagination…..to innovate and adapt to the nuances of a market

Partners…there is a global shortage of top quality suppliers and consultants in international fundraising and especially in emerging markets. You need a culture of collaboration and partnership if you are to really make the investment a success

Finally, you will need to bring your ethical compass. As an international fundraiser we bear the responsibility of making sure that all of the fundraising we do in countries where there few laws, limited regulation or commonly understood culture of professional fundraising we are missionaries and ambassadors for the best ethical and professional practice in all that we do. If you are not already familiar with it please do read the International Statement of Ethical Principles in Fundraising.

Bon voyage. Bon chance. May the international fundraising force be with you.


This post is part of the 2014 IFC Series. 101fundraising is proud to be the blog partner of the International Fundraising Congress! Check out HERE when Daryl is presenting at the IFC.

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