"When trying to developing a significant donor base abroad, every effort should be made to make gift giving convenient"
Accepting local currency donations and locally preferred payment methods are important to international fundraising success.
Finding out exactly how to make contributing as easy and comfortable as possible for foreign donors can seem to be a daunting task, with so many cultural variances to investigate, and the expense may seem too high.
Once an organisation has identified a significant group of sympathetic donors in a foreign market, however, it is well worthwhile to take the steps necessary to make them feel at home. Many organisations understand the importance of knowing when to ask, and how to ask.
Many organisations forget, however, that it is equally important to know how to receive. "Localization is indispensable for attracting large numbers of customers in Europe's fragmented market.
Even customers who speak English prefer sites that offer their local language as well as local product selections, relevant payment options, and localized versions of customer service" (Torris, Dr. Therese, Forrester Research, "The Best of Europe's eCommerce," August 1999).
The above statement applies equally to online giving, direct mail solicitations and to other fundraising channels, in Europe, and around the world.
It is of primary importance to develop an awareness of the different value systems, giving practices and attitudes toward money and payment in foreign countries.
International organisations with a network of offices that span many countries are easily able to use the localised approach mentioned by Dr. Torris above.
As many international charities will attest, for better, or for worse, each office lives and breathes the culture of the region in which it is located. Registered locally, with local knowledge and bank accounts, they will naturally seek gifts in a way that best fits in with their community.
Organisations that are not international, but which have identified and wish to target sympathetic groups abroad, are altogether different. When trying to developing a significant donor base abroad, every effort should be made to make gift giving convenient, including accepting gifts in the local currency of donors, and offering payment methods that they are familiar with.
While this may not have the effect of lifting the average gift value, it will have the effect of lifting the number of gifts, helping to maximise return on every pound spent speaking to the target group.
Many small and large organisations alike feel that it is too expensive, or too complicated to encourage gifts from new markets around the world.
Over sixty percent of charitable organisations soliciting donations on the web actively discourage donations in any but their home currency because it is costly to clear foreign currency items through their bank, and they do not have the resources to maintain international bank accounts.
It is true that bank fees are often diabolically high when it comes to clearing foreign items, but there are at least three options.
It is possible to cash foreign cheques without exorbitant fees by setting up lock box services in the specific countries that are most important to an organisation, by negotiating an agreement with a bank that has a strong retail presence around the world, or by banking cheques through a payment processing company that will clear foreign payments, forwarding funds in pounds sterling instead.
International credit cards can, of course, be charged in pounds sterling. The sum will be converted and the equivalent amount will show as a charge in the local currency on a monthly credit card statement, often at unfavourable exchange rates.
How much more attractive it is for donors to agree to a sum in their local currency, and have that sum debited from their account without a costly currency conversion on their statement.
This too, can be effected by negotiating an agreement with a bank that has a strong retail presence around the world, or by requesting multi/currency merchant accounts through a payment processing company instead. The associated fees for a merchant services such as this are not great and can be often be offset by the additional gifts received.
In markets that represent significant potential, it is worthwhile to research preferred means of gifting. One way to do this is, find out what payment methods charitable organisations within the target market accept, and emulate them as far as possible.
Organisations should take the time to consult with other charities and with banks or payment processing companies that have a presence in their target region.
In the U.K., cheque and credit card payment options invariably rule as preferred payment methods. While cheque and credit card are popular in many parts of the world, they are definitely a less popular choice in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands the Scandinavian countries and Asia. Alternative payment methods to consider offering beside cheque, and credit card are bank giro transfer and direct debit.
According to Jane K. Winn, an expert in consumer payment methods, people in Continental Europe are traditionally more comfortable with payment in cash, or a method with the same finality as cash, such as bank transfer, postal order or debit card. In every country, it is taken for granted that a remittance form of some kind will be provided with a direct solicitation, or that payment instructions will be provided.
In the Netherlands and in Scandinavian countries, the common choice of payment (around 80%) will be bank giro transfer or direct debit in their local currency rather than cheque, postal order or credit card, so offering these options on a remittance form or website is wise.
To clear the above payment methods in the local currencies it will be necessary to build relationships with either local banks in each target market, or a consult with a reputable payment processing company. A payment processing company can offer centralized reporting and can often clear payments less expensively than the banks. In countries that prefer bank giro transfer and direct debit as payment methods, approximately 18% of transactions will still be paid using credit card and a few will be paid by cheque or postal order, so these should still be offered as options.
There are rich opportunities in international fundraising for many organisations. By approaching each market with a desire to make giving easy and comfortable for people and corporations, it is possible for many charities to significantly increase their donor base. With the sound advice and some research, catering to donors need not be expensive. Any additional expense is very likely to be paid off in lifted response on international campaigns. Renée Frappier, PacNet Services Ltd. 405/595 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 2T5
Tel: +00 353 1 604/689/0399
In Ireland: Shannon Airport House, Shannon Free Zone, Co. Clare, Ireland
Tel: +353 (0)61 714 360