The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

seaFundraising in the US and UK is going through not just hard times but fundamental change: on one hand, new regulation driven by the Devil – sorry the tabloid press – is wiping out or threatening swathes of fundraising techniques such as telemarketing (several companies have gone under), ‘opt out’ is fast replacing ‘opt in’ (with thousands of donors becoming unreachable) and researching donor wealth has resulted in major charities being fined. Though the US has yet to experience the same attacks, they cannot be far behind as the gutter press loves saints becoming sinners, and what better targets than charities set up to do good in the world. Canada already has draconian opt-in laws that is making direct-marketing fundraising very difficult.

There is also a deep blue sea change going on in the way that donors join organisations, respond to appeals and the channels they use for philanthropy. Suffice to say, direct mail and its associated mass marketing techniques is not what it was and social media has not replaced the lost income as the baby-boomers retire and generation X holds the disposable wealth required for philanthropy.

Given that background, it is a no-brainer to look overseas for new sources of funds, and that is what our clients are doing with increasing rapidity. Globalisation has bought increasing wealth to many countries and huge wealth to some. Countries we thought were mere Third World basket cases, where we invested our development funds, are now reaping the reward of those investments, the cancelling of crippling debt, Chinese investment in infrastructure and communist governments turning to capitalist economics.

A few years ago, our clients were mainly concerned with expansion into Europe and building fundraising operations in its advanced economies, or asking us to work with their local committees, branches or sections to help improve their professionalism and their income. Today new clients are asking us to research the market for fundraising in East Asia, Latin America and to a lesser extent Africa, but the stage two of their MOUs is all about the actual deployment of staff, training and mentoring the operation into profit and then, once it has proved itself, rapidly scaling it up.

This is why we predict that 2017 will be the year that overseas expansion moves beyond the UNICEFs, Action Aids, World Visions and the more imaginative NGOs and becomes the everyday reality for large numbers of medium and even small organisations. Why compete in such a challenging marketplace when you can reap the rewards of being a big fish in a small but pretty affluent pond?