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Philanthropy conference is ‘eye-opener’ for international attendees

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Philanthropy conference is ‘eye-opener’ for international attendees

Nearly 350 people registered for the PSI Conference on Philanthropy, held this week at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel in Baltimore, Maryland, United States. The conference, which is held every three years, drew for the first time a dozen international participants sponsored by the denomination's General Conference world headquarters. [photo: Ansel Oliver]

Adventist Church’s philanthropy promotion gaining more traction worldwide

June 26, 2014 | Baltimore, Maryland, United States | Ansel Oliver/ANN

The Seventh-day Adventist Church’s world headquarters sponsored several international scholarships to a philanthropy conference in an effort to promote the profession’s best practices in more denominational institutions.

Headquarters contributed $15,000 for a dozen international attendees to participate in this year’s PSI Conference on Philanthropy, which is being held June 24 to 27 in Baltimore, Maryland. Nearly 350 fundraisers and nonprofit leaders are in attendance.

The conference, held every three years, is sponsored by Philanthropic Service for Institutions, a fundraising consulting agency of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s North American Division.

The headquarters’ sponsorship highlights the growing need for professional fundraisers in more Adventist churches, schools and hospitals worldwide. PSI leaders say the agency in recent years has fielded an increasing number of consulting requests from outside its territory.

“We’re designed to serve North America, but we answer questions from around the world. It’s definitely growing,” PSI director Lilya Wagner said on the sidelines of the conference on Thursday.

Several participants described their first such conference as “eye-opening” for education about the profession’s best practices.

“This conference is quite a good one. An eye-opener. 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 said he was attending the conference because of Wagner’s trip to Southern Africa last year. Wagner presented a seminar at several universities, many of which have sent representatives to the conference.

“This [conference] is an eye-opener. It makes you want to go out and do it,” said Sophie Masuku, research coordinator at Solusi University in Zimbabwe.

Her favorite tip she learned in a seminar is being sure to inform donors of how recipients will benefit, not just focusing on the institution.

Masuku said she hoped more Adventist institutions would increase their professional philanthropy efforts. “That would really be beneficial for the institutions because they will know how they’re going to go about doing fundraising. Right now we’re not really doing it.”

“It should really be taken seriously because many institutions are languishing,” Masuku added.

An institution’s commitment to philanthropy often starts with the crucial first steps of hiring an expert and educating the organization’s leader on his or her role in charitable giving, said Wagner, PSI’s director.

“It’s equally important to educate both fundraisers and nonprofit leaders because that has to be a partnership,” Wagner said. “It’s deeply challenging when either one of those parties doesn’t have the education and information they need for an organization’s philanthropy program to flourish.”

PSI Associate Director Kristin Priest said the agency offers resources to Adventist institutions at no cost and promotes the industry’s professional accreditation: Certified Fund Raising Executive.

Priest said the Adventist Church can do more to promote philanthropy, including presenting it more often to college and university students 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 institution’s mission. Sometimes it can benefit the donor in a big way.

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

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

—For more information on Adventist philanthropy, visit PSI’s website at philanthropicservice.com.

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