Detailed Checklist: One Scenario in Planning for Advancement Efforts Overseas

Photo of Big Ben, London

Happy New Year! As we saw in the first installment in my series on international advancement efforts, it is critical to know key international holidays to best inform staff or a delegation about when (and when not to travel). Once you understand those parameters, the planning must begin and adequate time is necessary to create a successful advancement initiative based on strategic outcomes.

I suggest working from nine months out. This advance planning with the academic year is necessary and intentional for several reasons:

  • First, budgets will be accessed for the same fiscal year for your advance work, travel and volunteer management needs. This creates a systematic way to fiscally plan and manage resources.
  • Second, the international initiative is competing for time with other priorities and travel for busy volunteers, donors and institutional leaders. Plan ahead and confirm your spot on their calendars!
  • And, third, international travel is not inexpensive, and the extra time will afford ample opportunity for advancement staff to shop for the travel deals and to negotiate with venues.

Advancement officers are not holding the responsibility alone for reaching out to constituents abroad. It is critical to keep the institution’s entire international agenda in mind and that requires a coordinated effort from alumni, development, special events, communications and marketing, and other departments such as admissions and graduate schools’ external relations offices. Advancement officers will also need to communicate with campus leadership and with volunteers abroad on a regular basis to best manage the expectations for everyone’s participation and support.

Everyone involved is a “brand manager” and will have a piece of the promotional timeline.


I want to offer two scenarios — one in this article (below), and one in a follow-up article. These scenarios are precursor events or meetings that will support the overall goals of a new comprehensive campaign. I offer these scenarios in a “timeline” format to guide the staff when working with volunteers and campus VIPs. I have also included tips and checklists for each month of the planning process.

If you find these scenarios useful, please share them with your colleagues!

Scenario A: European Advisory Group for Advancement – Initial Meeting in London

The Context:

  • Sherman College, a small New England liberal arts college with 35,000 contactable alumni worldwide (3,000 international and 1,800 within UK and Europe).
  • New President since July; she has charged the community to investigate what it means to ‘go global’ academically, as well as with admissions and with our advancement outreach.
  • Sherman College will launch its first campaign in the fall of 2015. Only since the President’s arrival have we been talking about a global campaign.

The Challenges:

  • Sherman College has never proactively cultivated gifts from or engaged with international alumni, parents or friends.
  • The college is well known regionally within New England, modestly across the U.S. and scarcely outside North America.
  • Sherman has alumni chapters in 30 states and cities in the United States, including Boston, Washington D.C., and New York City.
  • Leadership, staff, and volunteers have two years to “create our international story” – is this enough time?

The Opportunity:

  • “It takes a village” – the college needs to assemble a campaign advisory group in Europe in the next 6 months. The advisory group will be composed of alumni, parents and friends who share an interest in building presence for the college in Europe and to advance their academic, advancement and admissions agendas across major UK/European urban and academic centers.
  • The College European Advisory Group planning committee will meet for the first time in early September. The following timeline provides a sample overview of how to move the planning forward between this initial meeting in September and the spring meeting in London. Even though much of the campaign agenda will be discussed in person in London it is still important that Sherman College is thoughtful, proactive and strategic to get the most from this initial meeting


  • Meeting held in President’s office to review goals for advisory group
  • Along with the President, her chief of staff, the Chief Advancement officer and the Director of Alumni Relations attend initial meeting along with Director of Parent/Family Programs and Director of Undergraduate Admissions.

Sherman College European Advisory Group
Meeting #1: September 10, 2014


  • Review President’s charge (“going global”)
  • Status update on silent phase of campaign
  • Discuss existing top prospect relationships in UK/Europe
  • Hold travel dates on calendar for late April  — Thursday-Monday (while in London the group will co-host a Sunday afternoon tea for accepted students and families from across UK/Europe)
  • Set the next 5 monthly meeting dates for October 2014-March 2015 and review the expected outcomes of these meetings (see below)


  • Meeting date/time:
    • Outcomes:
      • From Family Weekend (September 26-28, 2014), we have identified at least six parents who are interested in serving on advisory board. Discuss capacity to attend meeting in late April and make initial gift to College.
      • Review donor prospect report from Advancement Research on all UK/European contactable alumni, parents and friends
      • Review potential venues for Advisory Board Meeting


Before the Thanksgiving holiday:

  • Meeting date/time:
    • Outcomes: Review November Trip to London
      • Chief Advancement Officer and designees from Special Events/Alumni Relations/Parents Program officers travel to London for:
        • Meetings with potential advisory board members (CAO may invite those with whom he meets to join board)
        • Site visits to potential venues for meeting (main contact is Special Events) and accepted students event (co-sponsored with Parents Program)
        • Meeting with alumni interested in forming London chapter (Alumni Relations)
      • Review donor prospect report from Advancement Research on all UK/European contactable alumni, parents and friends


No meeting this month.

  • The College will send out a Holiday E-Card to all contactable alumni, parents and friends in UK/Europe with additional notes to join the alumni on-line community, Facebook and LinkedIn communities and to stay in touch in 2015
  • Advisory Board meeting venue is confirmed and BEO is started (Special Events)


  • Meeting date/time:
    • Outcomes:
      • Review Committee Membership:
        • 12 of the 16 advisory member positions are confirmed by end of January. Confirmed members have all pledged a least $1,000 (US)
        • Goal is to have no more than 60% of members from UK; others from other strategic regions across Europe based on new student demographics, giving potential and leveraging other networks that may benefit Sherman College.
      • CAO writes to thank each of the confirmed members for their interest and gifts and invites them to meet with him if personal/professional travels brings them to Boston, Washington D.C. or NYC and/or to Sherman College.
      • Alumni Relations and Parent’s Program report on their events in London (see suggested April trip schedule below)


  • Meeting date/time:
    • Outcomes:
      • Review Committee Membership:
        • All members of the 16-person European Advisory body are confirmed. All initial contributions are booked and donors thanked.
        • Review Advancement Research profiles on each Advisory Board member
        • Discuss responsibilities of Advisory Group Co-Chairs
        • Confirm a short-list of potential co-chairs  – CAO will call each in order to invite and confirm co-chairs


  • Meeting date/time (President in attendance)
    • Outcomes:
      • Co-Chairs confirmed – they join the March and early April meetings by phone/Skype
      • Review Advisory Board Meeting invitation (this will be emailed by March 6 (including discounted hotel rates and related information for out-of-town members).


  • Full Advisory Board Committee meeting (with President) to review:
    • Final travel, meeting and event plans
    • Confirmations, schedules and agenda emailed to Advisory Board members week of April 13 (to be received right after the Easter Holiday break – Easter is April 5, 2015)
    • Briefing Books finalized and distributed to President and staff traveling to London (with copies to Chief of Staff and other key offices)

APRIL 23-27, 2015: TRAVEL WEEK

Tentative schedule:

  • Travel overnight on Thursday, arrive Friday morning
  • Friday visits with top prospects from advisory board
  • Friday night – Advisory Board meeting begins with a reception/dinner
  • Saturday morning – Advisory Board meeting from 8:30 AM – 12:00 Noon
  • Saturday evening – Young Alumni Networking Event
  • Sunday afternoon – Accepted Students Tea for students/families
  • Monday – travel back

I hope this sample scenario proves useful in helping to guide your thinking! Please share it with your peers or your staff.

I also recommend that you review the second scenario here. This next scenario will describe the nine-month planning timeline for a campaign prep launch event in Asia, in spring 2015.