Stacey Vanden Heuvel — Philanthropy can change our world

By Stacey Vanden Heuvel

Since the tradition of charitable giving first took root in North America centuries ago, so much has been accomplished in the name of philanthropy. We have seen people and resources mobilized around the world and right here at home in southern Minnesota.

While there is still vital work to be done to strengthen our communities, we have much to celebrate because of what philanthropy has accomplished for all who work and live in our region. The Southern Minnesota Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) has been proud to be part of a worldwide-celebrated event to recognize some of our region’s most generous individuals and organizations.

National Philanthropy Day is Nov. 15 . The day’s purpose is to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy — and those people active in the philanthropic community — to the enrichment of our world. It also provides an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of giving and all that it has made possible. It is a celebration that applauds all of our roles in community betterment.

Since 1986, National Philanthropy Day — with its theme, "Change the world with a giving heart" — has acknowledged the spectrum of services provided by the not-for-profit community and recognizes the impact philanthropy has on society. Beginning in 2004, AFP Southern Minnesota has honored individuals and groups that, through charitable giving and through hard work and dedication, have made a difference in their communities. AFP Southern Minnesota has formally recognized but a handful of generous participants in the philanthropic process at its Philanthropy Day event. The awards program highlights the contributions of those award recipients. But we also show appreciation for ALL that has been accomplished through charitable giving and offer a reminder that there is still more to do.


In southern Minnesota, we might be quick to think that such goodness and generosity to others comes easily and naturally. We often forget — or simply don’t know — that there is a noble profession called "fund development" or fundraising that helps guide the philanthropic process and connect givers to opportunities for community investment through the not-for-profit sector. Professionals, who are passionate about their respective missions, study and work to learn the most effective and ethical practices in raising financial support for their organizations. Fundraisers are working for you.

The philanthropic community in our region is strong yet varied. Whether we work in large organizations or smaller agencies, each individual voice is equally important on National Philanthropy Day. It remains a day of recognition and reflection, and everyone matters.

I’m proud to be in the fundraising profession. I have the opportunity to work with some extraordinary individuals who are committed to tackling community needs and enhancing the quality of life in our region, and who contribute generously, but wisely, from their hearts. We all can take great pride in that.

Here in southern Minnesota, we’ve seen the impact of philanthropy in health care, human services, arts and culture organizations, environmental agencies, civic groups, service clubs and faith communities. You do not have to look far to see the impact of charitable giving.

You also do not have to look far to find additional opportunities to make a difference through philanthropy. I urge you to consider what makes a difference to you. Consider those who need your help. Get involved with deserving organizations, share a financial gift, and change the world with your giving heart.

The spirit of generosity has never been more powerful or more needed. Last year, millions of men and women around the world donated billions of dollars to their favorite charities. I hope as you enter the holiday season that you will consider what gifts you can give.

Through countless acts of kindness we can show – time and time again – that we can make a difference. We can cure diseases. We can feed the hungry. We can protect the environment. We can help those less fortunate. We can teach our children. We can fight for just causes.

These giving opportunities are not only our privilege, but also our responsibility.


Stacey Vanden Heuvel is the Foundation Director Olmsted Medical Center, and is foundation past president of the southern Minnessota chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.

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