An International Perspective (Part 2)

The second part of our blog on international development and prospect research by Allan Berezny & Ibrahim Inayatali. Read the first part here

WHY are we entering into this relationship, what are the benefits to us, and are there any risks or downsides? Will we be proud of this relationship, or fearful of what may eventually transpire? In short, might we be concerned about any aspect of this relationship? This might prompt an interesting internal discussion as to our firmly held core beliefs and values. Might we decide to commence research on, or ultimately accept funding from, someone who has made their fortune from alcohol, drugs, gambling, tobacco, cutting down trees, overfishing, employing slave labour, supporting an active army, selling weapons, owning sports teams (and taking advantage of government subsidized stadia) and/or being a perceived foe of the environment? Such individuals, and others, constitute a broad spectrum of people we may wish to avoid, with some being more or less appealing than others. How far to the line, or over the line, are we prepared to go? Values may shift and morph over time, and so all the more reason to remain open to a reasonable amount of organizational introspection, situational ethics and doing what is appropriate at that particular time. Will our organization do the right thing?

WHERE is the prospect interested in receiving favourable tax consideration, media profile, and recognition in his/her various communities? Are we able to deliver on these expectations? Do we have a charitable foundation in that country, or nearby, that may be a vehicle for maximizing the financial return for both parties? The establishment of such is often time-consuming and expensive. Do we have friends or volunteers who can assist with legal issues, media and navigating the maze of unknown communities and social hierarchies? If in doubt,

discreet enquiries from embassy and consular officials may prove to be useful. On this note, it may be advantageous to check in with these officials on a regular basis. They can be a wonderful source of information and, if on side, may assist with offering advice, and helping to organize and stage cultivation and stewardship events in their region. Perhaps there may be a benefit for/to them as well. Often, there may be an opening to collaborate and to explore additional unforeseen opportunities, as mentioned at the outset. Constantly growing and expanding one’s network of advocates and friends has tremendous benefit. Research is needed throughout this process.

Might the prospect have a meaningful footprint in our city/country/continent? Quick research ought to tell whether the prospect (or family members) has a company, home or other liquid assets nearby. Keep in mind there are some jurisdictions that restrict the outflow of capital, and we must be prepared to learn about such issues in advance. As well, while we consider philanthropy a commendable behaviour, at some times and in some places, directing money out of the country may not be well-received and may result in embarrassing questions being asked in the prospect’s home country. It is important to keep in mind that one must be an advocate for one’s organization and the prospect. It is our responsibility to deliver a positive outcome for all parties.

WHO will cover legal and/or other costs in this relationship? Consultants and lawyers are expensive, and it should be determined in advance whether the donor might agree to cover these costs up front, whether we will absorb these costs from our operating budget, or whether we expect to recoup these costs from the gift—the risk being, what happens if the gift does not come to fruition and real expenses have been incurred? Can we live with this outcome? Not every opportunity and/or prospect will result in a successful solicitation. Is there another prospect waiting in the wings in the same locale, ideally, and/or is there a Plan B that may serve as an insurance policy against such an outcome?

WHAT will the funds be used for and can we deliver on time and as promised? Do we have meaningful input into how and when the funds will be used, or at least have a seat at the table with the end users)? Is there an accountability framework already in place? Will we be able to report back in an accurate, honest and timely manner? Research and development

professionals have a vested interest in helping to create a satisfying outcome and to ensuring success. If all goes well, we may become part of the donor’s life and philanthropic narrative. If not, we are relegated to being a short chapter and forgotten, making our one-time investment less rewarding than it should, and could, be.

WHEN is the best time to proceed? This comes down to the interplay of many factors, most of them beyond our control. What has the research shown us? Are the prospect’s personal and financial circumstances suggesting that he/she may be in a positive and open mood and not distracted by unfortunate business or personal affairs? What is the state of his/her local and global economy? Is the government interacting well with other countries, or are they becoming nationalistic and isolationist? Is your prospect affiliated with a political party that has fallen out of favour, or is he/she aligned with the party in power? Given these factors, one might think that, in the absence of reasons NOT to proceed, one should be prepared to take action and therefore remain vigilant as to the best time and opportunity.

Have we done our research and are we attuned to ever-changing cultural realities? It is important for researchers to keep in mind their work may be impeded in certain jurisdictions where access to information and issues around privacy are somewhat different than those to which we are accustomed. In some cases, there may be legal implications around trying to delve too deeply into corporate and personal information. As well, some cultures are rather private about their business, family affairs and personal wealth. Our friends and contacts may be hesitant to divulge too much information simply because “it’s just not done” in their culture and carries risks if discovered. The worst-case scenario has the prospect being informed that enquiries about him/her are being made. The best-case scenario has the prospect being aware that enquiries about him/her are being made, and he/she understands it is due diligence in action (and this is best when being conducted by both parties). Chances are, the prospect may have his/her staff looking into the state of our organization and personalities therein. Very sensitive research is required, and, ideally, senior decision-makers ought to be aware and engaged in this process, especially if active discussions involve a third party.

In conclusion, if we find ourselves on the positive side of the ledger, is there organizational commitment to embarking on this adventure and seeing the process through to successful

resolution? If so, then commence and re-evaluate on a regular basis, with ongoing input of new research. Fortunes come and go, families realign, governments and regulations change, natural disasters strike, and epidemics and diseases arise and are cured. The world is always changing, thereby affording myriad challenges and opportunities.

If we do proceed, enjoy it. We may meet interesting people and be part of a positive and beneficial relationship stretching across continents. Few things feel better and are more commendable than such an approach to work and life. As well, be mindful that this modus operandi is not our sole domain. Our colleagues on other continents are likely employing a similar approach in seeking funds from donor prospects residing in our city/country/continent. Perhaps we may assist each other and share a common spirit and intent. Perhaps we are all seeking funding that will enable our respective organization(s) to succeed in our endeavours. Even better? Perhaps we are addressing some of the world’s most urgent needs and helping to create positive solutions that will benefit generations to come.

In the next part of this blog Ibrahim Inayatali will talk about International prospects and changing Canadian demographics