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

Published by Daryl Upsall on

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.

BRICS 2014Whilst 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!”

Adrian Sargeant Donor LoyaltySo 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.


International Fundraising Congress (IFC)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.

Daryl Upsall

Daryl Upsall

Madrid based, Daryl has 36 years working with over 232 non-profits in 62 countries. Known for his leadership and innovation, pioneering digital fundraising a co-creator of face to face fundraising during the 1990s when leading Greenpeace International fundraising worldwide. Daryl Upsall & Associates SL provides strategic consulting support to the world’s leading UN agencies and INPOs whilst Daryl Upsall Consulting International SL has recruited 581 positions for 205 different organisations in 125 different locations worldwide. He is the founder/co-owner of Spain's leading telephone fundraising agency, The Fundraising Company SL and the F2F agency International Fundraising SL in Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Peru. In Spain these agencies raised over 1.25 billion Euro for non-profits. He co-owns the digital fundraising agency dgtl fundraising SL. Daryl has spoken at conferences in 32 countries and writes for the leading non-profit journals. He is a Fellow of the UK Institute of Fundraising, former Chair of EUConsult, and former Vice-Chair, the Association of Fundraising Professionals.


Ralph Leonard · August 21, 2014 at 16:32

Bravo Daryl!

I would add that anyone planning to go international must show commitment by being international – this means having people in the field who are savvy with the region, the culture(s), and of course the language(s). Flying in a few times of the year makes those you might be approaching feel looked down upon and valued only for the size of their wallet. You have to live, breathe and share the world your international prospects/donors live in otherwise how could you ever speak their vision or language?

If you are not willing to make the commitment then please do not start, you will damage the reputation of us fundraisers who already are working internationally. We constantly must educate and support our donors. When some brand name comes in from the outside and fails it just complicates our work and makes our donors that much more doubtful if not outright skeptical.

    Daryl Upsall · August 21, 2014 at 17:33

    Hi Ralph, Great to hear from you again and I could not agree more and you are certainly someone who has committed your life to such a mission. It is also our role as fundraisers to spend much of our time listening and understanding rather than applying a “one size fits all” approach. I still have non-profits coming to Spain, where I live, insisting that they will apply their universal direct mail model much against my advice only to sadly watch them fail having wasted large sums of money better spent on their mission our culturally sensitive fundraising. Regards Daryl

Susan Rae Ross · August 23, 2014 at 17:17


I agree that fundraisers need to do more “external research” but I also find that many nonprofits do not have clear strategies of how they want to engage in these relationships, particularly with corporations. This places fundraisers in a challenging position because they do not have all the information to effective “sell” the value proposition of the organization, It is very hard to negotiate with another party if the key objectives are not clearly articulated, other than a dollar amount.

Ryna Sherazi · August 25, 2014 at 11:12

This is a very welcome piece Daryll, and I agree with the other commentators on cultural knowledge and strategy. As a UK fundraiser who decamped (for non-fundraising purposes) to India and then Nepal, it has been interesting and challenging to see the ‘scramble for Asia’ and how much is based on very little evidence (CAF Giving Index anyone?). There is no doubt that much important, interesting fundraising work can be done here (and some super examples of foreign-led and local fundraising) but INGOs need to apply as much rigour in scoping, information gathering and thought to these new funding enterprises as they do to programmatic ones.

Usha Menon · August 28, 2014 at 05:06

Hi Daryl, thanks for the post, which got me thinking of some APT considerations that INGOs should be well aware of when developing / enhancings their new-market strategies for Asia.

Love to hear more.


Let’s go global…there’s gold in them hills | Print my recipes · August 23, 2014 at 06:00

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