Recently, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an article about international philanthropy and a growing focus among American nonprofits on fundraising abroad. At the end of the article, they included a list of tips from experts for raising money overseas. While all of the advice was helpful, I think the list was missing perhaps the most important item: make sure your institution has achievable goals and realistic expectations for these endeavors. GG+A’s consultants have the opportunity to work with many clients who are raising money internationally–from American citizens working overseas, from international alumni and parents, and from supporters from around the world, who are interested in the work being done by a U.S. non profit. The most common concern that I hear from directors charged with overseeing these fundraising programs is that their institutions have unrealistic expectations for short term fundraising results and don’t understand the necessary investment of resources and the cost of that investment when moving into international philanthropy.
Institutions considering a move into international fundraising should begin with considering a set of key issues: what is our expectation of international fundraising? Why do we believe this is an opportunity for us and why now? What resources will be required to set up a program like this and is this the best use of those resources? Will this expansion of our fundraising program support the strategic direction of our institution? Are we committed to invest resources not just to run this program, but also to manage it from afar? How do we identify the right partners in our new markets and what will we need to do to establish those partnerships? What will our competition be in those markets? Once the institution’s senior leadership, volunteer leadership and senior fundraisers believe that they have addressed these key issues and others they identify and have shared enthusiasm for moving forward, then they are ready to consider seriously an international fundraising program. If your institution hasn’t done this work, then you are probably not ready to make good use of the rest of the advice in this article.