Lessons From Abroad
I ’ve had the privilege of working for international fundraisers for the past few years. And that’s given me the advantage of seeing great ideas
born and developed around the globe.
Until then, my view of new techniques was limited to thinking that fundraising, particularly direct-response fundraising, pretty much was an American institution.
Was I ever wrong! While learning about sophisticated techniques being used in Europe, Japan and elsewhere, I also learned that a spirit of philanthropy exists in every culture, although in different ways.
I thought it might be interesting to talk to several industry experts and share some observations about what’s happening around the world. First, the great news: The world’s being made a better place by donors in Europe, Japan and emerging nations, as they develop philanthropy and the systems to support it.
At the 25th International Fundraising Congress in the Netherlands last fall,
the discussion centered on philanthropy’s rapid growth in Brazil, Russia, India and China. While all have vastly different cultures, each has a rapidly growing middle class fueled by the principles of democracy and capitalism. It’s a widespread belief among fundraisers worldwide that this new middle class will assume the challenge of solving many 21st century, global human and environmental problems.
Professional fundraising is a mature business in some parts of the world, and a white-hot, emerging growth opportunity in others. International author and lecturer Ken Burnett sees a malaise among those in developed countries who’ve “done it all.”
“No [developed] country is much ahead of the other because they each spend so little on research and development and don’t take the time and trouble to create a culture of innovation,” he says. “It’s something that all fundraisers should take more time to study.”
Burnett cites a new trend in Europe to conduct extensive donor research, but he predicts only a few fundraisers actually will use the information effectively. He applauds the United States for leading the way in using the Internet and e-mail in creative ways, particularly in communicating a commitment to stewardship.