Strategies to increase international fundraising results by building development programs to strengthen relationships with Chinese constituencies.

Chinese alumni, parents, patients, and friends have become a new and growing prospect base for American colleges, universities, and healthcare centers.

According to the Institute of International Education Open Doors, more than 250,000 Chinese students attended a U.S. higher education institution in 2015 and made up over one-third of all international students studying in the United States. This number has seen a steady increase over the last 15 years and is anticipated to continue to grow as international degrees provide greater opportunity for jobs and earnings in China.

The Wall Street Journal reports the number of Chinese coming to the U.S. for medical care is also booming, increasing by 400% between 2004 and 2014. Increasing wealth is enabling more Chinese access to American healthcare.

Alongside this increase in wealthy Chinese, wealth in the Asia-Pacific region, including China, has grown drastically in the past decade. The Asia-Pacific region is now home to more high-net-worth individuals than North America, according to the 2014 and 2015 World Wealth Reports. Additionally, Forbes’ most recent billionaire list shows that the number of billionaires living in China increased nearly 40% last year to 335, second only to the United States, with most of the Chinese wealth held by young entrepreneurs.

As the base of Chinese students enrolling in, and graduating from, U.S. universities continues to rise, and as medical tourism continues to boom, higher education and healthcare development programs are looking at ways to generate increased philanthropic support from Chinese alumni, parents, patients, and friends.

In order to strengthen relationships and increase giving from these Chinese constituencies, development programs will need to alter their strategies and be intentional with their interactions and approaches. At the 2016 CASE Summit for Advancement Leaders Bruce Flessner (Bentz Whaley Flessner principal) and other experts offered the following recommendations on building development programs to build bridges to these growing and important constituencies.


  1. Educate. Philanthropy is slowly becoming a part of Chinese culture. Many individuals and families may not be aware of opportunities to donate to your organization or understand why philanthropy is important. Being intentional about targeting Chinese students, patients, and families about philanthropy and opportunities to invest in and where they can make a difference can start the cultivation process and open the door to new gifts.
  2. Invest. One trip to China every three years to meet with donors will not show great returns. Organizations that make traveling regularly and frequently to China a priority to build relationships, not just on a fundraising level, but on an organizational level, see the most success. Travel by academic and medical leaders and/or development staff to China on a regular basis can help to build your organization’s brand knowledge and promote understanding of philanthropy. When budget considerations might not allow for travel, using Skype and other new technologies are good ways to stay more closely and personally connected with prospects in China.
  3. Utilize Resources. Many times professors, researchers, and doctors at universities have connections to China. Working with your academic, professional, medical, and other non-fundraising staff to cultivate their existing relationships in China can open doors to potential major donors.
  4. Recruit Staff. China is a vast country with multiple languages, ethnic groups, and cultures making navigating social and cultural norms difficult. Hiring development officers of Chinese descent and others who speak Chinese and are familiar with the country and culture can help organizations better understand the nuances of sophisticated Chinese families and navigate building philanthropic relationships.
  5. Adapt. Make sure that all departments within your development program are aware of processes that might need to be adjusted in order to meet the needs of Chinese constituents and prospects. Is your software package designed to hold Chinese spellings of names so that individual prospects aren’t lost? Do your counting processes take into account potential international taxes or bank fees?

Bentz Whaley Flessner can partner with you to think strategically and productively about your Chinese and other international prospects. To learn more, please contact us at (952) 921-0111 or visit Together we transform philanthropy.

Originally published August 4, 2016

Copyright © 2016 Bentz Whaley Flessner & Associates, Inc.

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