June 28, 2014

Philanthropy Conference Is ‘Eye-Opener’ for International Attendees

, ANN, writing from Baltimore, Maryland, U.S.

S ome Adventist organizations have neglected to harness the power
of philanthropy and need to get past a mindset that fundraisers are little more
than professional beggars, participants of an church-organized conference heard
this week.

About 350 people, including a dozen international delegates
for the first time, gathered in a hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, for the
weeklong PSI Conference on Philanthropy, which ended Friday.

The foreigners’ expenses of $15,000 were covered by the
General Conference in an indication of the significance given to the event. Several
expressed astonishment with what they had learned.

“When I get back to Africa I would like to see something
like this start,” said Masamba Eliudie, director of financial administration
for Rusangu University in Zambia. “Philanthropy introduced at the right time
will yield great results.”

Eliudie decided to attend after hearing a seminar conducted
at several African universities last year by Lilya Wagner, director of Philanthropic
Services for Institutions, or PSI, a fundraising consulting agency of the church’s
North American Division and the organizer of this week’s conference.

“This is an eye-opener,” Sophie Masuku, research coordinator
at Solusi University in Zimbabwe, said at the conference, which is held every three years. “It makes you want to
go out and do it.”

Her favorite tip from a session was to remember to inform donors of how
recipients would benefit and not simply focus on the organization itself.

Masuku said she hoped more Adventist organizations would increase their professional
philanthropy efforts. “Right now we’re not really doing it,” she said.

PSI director Wagner said an institution’s commitment to philanthropy often started
with the crucial first step of hiring an expert and educating its leader on his
or her role in charitable giving.

“It’s equally important to educate both fundraisers and nonprofit leaders
because that has to be a partnership,” Wagner said.

Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Wagner said PSI
has fielded an increasing number of consulting requests from outside North America
in recent years. “We’re designed to serve North America, but we answer questions
from around the world,” she said Thursday. “It’s definitely growing,”

PSI associate director Kristin Priest said the Adventist
church could do more to promote fundraising, including by encouraging university
students to pursue it as a career option.

“Fundraisers are sometimes seen as professional beggars, which unfortunately
deeply misconstrues what the profession is about,” Priest said.

Philanthropy, she said, is about relationships and inviting donors
to be part of an organization’s mission.

Sometimes it can benefit the donor in a big way.

For Lois E. Peters, philanthropy helped her realize she was capable of greater
accomplishments in her own life and career. Peters, president of At Home Pediatric
Nursing Team, got into charitable giving after an Adventist institution’s
fundraiser visited her growing business of nursing homes. The fundraiser asked
for a donation larger than she could give, and she said the encounter motivated
her to increase the size of her business.

“We need [fundraisers] to teach us to know what we’re able to give,” Peters
said during a keynote address. “God’s wealth is bigger than you can imagine.
All you philanthropists go out today and bless somebody.”

Related link

Philanthropic Services for Institutions website