If you work for a private school, college, or university in the United States, your institution likely has enrolled hundreds – if not thousands – of international students over the years. The ties your institution has with these former students may be very weak, however. Many institutions have said goodbye to international students at graduation, never to be in touch again.
Times are changing. Some form of global fundraising is becoming the norm for most educational institutions in the United States. Schools that only focused on domestic fundraising in the past are now interested in reaching out to international constituents.
If this situation seems familiar to you, you probably are wondering how to put a successful international fundraising program into place where you work, given your institution’s particular set of budget and staffing limitations. The first step is to create a solid strategic plan for your global fundraising efforts. To help you start this process, here are a few questions to consider:
Are there specific cities or countries around the world where your institution has large concentrations of alumni?
When was the last time someone from your institution visited those countries? Five years ago? Ten years ago? Never? If you have been out of touch with alumni in a particular country for a long time, it might be best to start out by building a strong volunteer network there.
Where do your top international donors currently live?
Where are the international wealth hubs? If your goal is to raise large gifts from principal donors, then you need to not only look at the places where you have constituents, but also see where those places overlap with concentrations of global wealth.
Of all your international constituents, who are your best potential prospects? A brief wealth screening can help you answer this question.
How up-to-date is the contact information for your international alumni? In some places, this information may be very current. In others… not so much. To help you tackle data quality problems, please see this previous blog post about dealing with the accuracy of names and addresses in your database.
What are your institution’s long-term global priorities outside of fundraising? If you only have a handful of alumni in a particular country, it may not make sense to send fundraising staff there. On the other hand, if that country is a place where your institution is planning to establish a research facility, develop international study programs for its students based in the United States, or start recruiting more students in the next few years, you might find it worthwhile to have a fundraising effort there. You also may consider doing outreach in conjunction with Admissions representatives, department heads, and other institutional executives.