Wednesday, November 18, 2009

NPD in Guadalajara

There’s nothing more inspiring than attending a National Philanthropy Day® (NPD) event and hearing the incredible and moving stories of donors and volunteers. I hope you were able to attend your chapter’s NPD celebration and be reminded of the impact of our work.

I had the great honor of attending our Guadalajara chapter’s NPD event. It was a wonderful celebration of philanthropy, and 100 people heard presentations from numerous experts on fundraising. I gave a presentation titled “Weaving Ethics into Your Fundraising Program.” Many thanks to the chapter leadership for their kind hospitality. Luis Gonzalez is the chapter president, and he has a terrific and committed board.

The event was held at the Guadalajara campus of Tec de Monterrey, and we were graciously welcomed by Dr. Martin Velazquez. AFP has a partnership with Tec de Monterrey (Monterrey campus) to deliver an online fundraising course as part of their Social Leaders program. Tec has been a wonderful partner for AFP in Latin America.

Mexico is currently undergoing a national dialogue about its legal structure and tax incentives, a debate that more and more countries are having. At the same time, fundraising is growing tremendously in the country, and the search for fundraising expertise is becoming more intense. The Guadalajara chapter is young, but is already playing a key role in providing the knowledge and resources that charities in the community so desperately need.

I also had a very unique experience while in Guadalajara. I visited Trompo Magico (Magic Top), the Jalisco (State) Children's Museum. It’s a great museum, and I was able to experience an exhibit that started in Germany and is being used in children’s museums around the world called “In the Darkness.”

This exhibit takes the participant through a series of everyday experiences in complete dark, emulating how a visually-impaired person lives his or her everyday life. It was fascinating and forces participants to rely on other senses. Graciela de la Vega is the director of Trompo Magico and a member of AFP, and Ana Luisa Ramirez is the museum’s development director. They graciously hosted Julio Ochoa and me. If you have a chance to experience this special exhibition, I highly recommend it.

It’s these kinds of moments that remind me of the extraordinary things that philanthropy and fundraising accomplish every day. It reminds us why we all got into fundraising in the first place, and why every moment—from the challenges to the successes, the lows to the highs—is worth it.

I hope you enjoyed your local National Philanthropy Day celebration, and thank you for the inspiration and extraordinary contributions you make to your community every day.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Greetings from Brazil!

I’m writing from Sao Paulo, Brazil, where the 5th Hemispheric Congress on Fundraising just concluded. The Congress is one of the premier fundraising conferences in Latin America, and it was a wonderful experience. Judging from the initial feedback we’ve received, our attendees felt the same way. Faculdades Integradas Rio Branco did a great job of hosting the event, and I was so delighted we were able to partner with them.

There was an incredible feeling of passion and camaraderie at the Congress. Fundraising is growing by leaps and bounds in Latin America, but there’s a wide level of disparity in the experience and sophistication of different charities’ development offices. However, instead of that disparity keeping people apart, attendees came together, helping each other out, sharing experiences and brainstorming ideas and proposals. There is a freshness and a sense that everything is on the table—the sky’s the limit!—and it made for some great back and forth.

Three hundred people from 11 different Latin American counties were able to attend, and our speakers included some of the finest fundraising minds from Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Spain, Canada and the U.S., including Bernard Ross, Norma Galafassi, Vivian Smith, Laura Ruiz Peres, Bob Crandall, Daryl Upsall, and Marcelo Iniarra Iraegui, to name just a few. Robbe Healey, AFP’s chair, delivered a plenary session on how to build a development program from scratch that was very well received.

The closing plenary was given by Steve Hildebrand, deputy national campaign manager for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, and it was the perfect ending to the Congress. Steve spoke to the importance of creating a case for support and a solid fundraising plan that is inclusive, empowering and inspiring. He talked about the importance of messaging and branding and the use of new technologies. He ended his remarks by stressing the importance of saying thank you. Very inspiring stuff, and it was appreciated by all the attendees.

I have to say thank you to Custudio Pereira, director general of Rio Branco, for his dynamic leadership. Without him the Congress would not have been such a success. We are also very grateful for the support of the Rotary Foundation of Sao Paulo, eTapestry and the U.S. Consulate. I also want to thank all of our speakers for their time and expertise that they shared so willingly with the participants.

I am always inspired by the Congress, and AFP learns as much from these experiences as we give. I am proud of AFP's involvement in this event and of our small contribution to advancing ethical and effective fundraising worldwide.

If you are interested in seeing the presentation or wish to download please visit the Congress website.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Philanthropy on Television: The Good and Bad

A good sign that something is popular is if television begins to cover it, develop shows about it, and most of all, lampoon it. This is exactly what is happening with philanthropy; first with the debut of two new shows about philanthropy and then a whole week of plotlines that feature giving and volunteerism.

The Philanthropist debuted over the summer in the U.S. and generally showed philanthropy in a positive light. While the show implied that the “normal” methods of philanthropy work too slowly and without enough impact, the protagonist tried to do good work and was heroic in his intent. You could have worse role models.

The Foundation, which debuted in Canada a few weeks ago, is different. It’s a dark comedy and spotlights the worst examples found in philanthropy: rare cases of fraud and wrongdoing. The protagonist uses his foundation nefariously in whatever manner necessary to get ahead.

Sure, it’s not a great portrait of charity. But just like the Philanthropist, it’s over the top. WAY over the top. Nothing in it bears any resemblance to a real organization, fundraiser or donor. Criticizing The Foundation for its portrayal of charity is like criticizing The Office for its portrayal of office behavior and relationships. They’re both meant to lampoon aspects of our society.

Philanthropy and fundraising are big time now, and that brings both negatives—like the Foundation—and positives, such as the recent iparticipate initiative from the Entertainment Industry Foundation. During the week of Oct. 19-25, more than 60 primetime television shows featured giving and volunteerism in their plotlines. That’s an exciting development given that philanthropy isn’t exactly a staple of mainstream television.

So we’re going to have to take the bad with the good, and honestly, the plotlines in the Foundation don’t even compare to some of the controversies we’ve seen in real life. The sector has a long list of ethical traditions and safeguards, beginning with AFP’s Code of Ethical Principles and Standards. We don’t need to be defensive about anything.

So let’s appreciate the attention philanthropy is getting and enjoy (if you can) what shows like the Foundation are meant to be: spoofs.