Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) International Fundraising Conference hosted Archbishop Tutu was one of their plenary speakers. I was honored to hear him inspire, invoke, encourage and empower us as fundraisers and human beings to good works. Below are highlights of his comments. You can also listen to two brief Cinchcasts of his comments and others who attended the conference here.

Archibishop Tutu was funny, engaging and serious. He, of all plenary speakers I have heard at AFP, knows our work best and first hand. He has seen the difference money can make for people, neighborhoods, communities, cities, states, countries and the world. I respect him and his words and they meant a great deal to me.

He said philanthropy is a noble profession – the opposite of selfishness. Our work can and should promote women everywhere, help people, communities, the Earth. Help dire situations and make them better. Philanthropic work can offer calm during instability and resentment. I never thought of that way. We are raising money to help a situation, whatever that may be. But I never considered how providing financial resources, which provided water or food, also calmed instability, fear, helplessness…those in the situation need food, we need to get it to them…raise money to do it. I didn’t consider how those we helped felt before or after…just need to help them. We are a global family and thru philanthropy can and should empower and uplift those who need assistance.

Change is not making chains more comfortable, it is removing the chains that makes a difference. We must always work to remove chains. I know many of the agencies I work with talk about working with dignity and keeping the dignity of the client in mind.  But I had not thought about it relative to chains – it is a great analogy and one I will carry forward….a little bit of food is helpful – a home to live in and a job is independence. How can we raise money to remove chains and make breakthroughs, not just incremental change. I know that is where we want to go always, but I think this is a compelling conversation to have with donors as well as staff. (see Dan and Chip Heath’s book Switch – all about change.)

The lesson from 9/ defense system that can guarantee or guard against the resentment and anger of those who have been left behind. Why are we spending money on military defense, rockets, arms when there are starving children? Children who need food and clean water and money spent on military deterrence could help every child on Earth. Well I don’t think I need to say anything else.

Politics mixes with everything. All decisions are political. Corporations can no longer quarantine themselves from the places in which they operate or the people. They have a corporate social responsibility. Well I think we all know this…but how different companies are applying this (especially international companies) and how we choose to spend our personal dollars as well as partner with them is another matter.

With his humor, Archbishop Tutu mentioned his wife reading this bumper sticker to him, “Any woman whose goal is to be equal to a man has no ambition.” She was, “more imperious than usual.” But the bumper sticker speaks volumes and we need to work for more than equality for everyone, everywhere. The gap between those who have and those who don’t continues to grow along with resentment. We have an obligation to make a difference – as fundraisers and as people.

I am renewed, revitalized, recommitted. I hope reading this post did the same for you or I encourage you to find someone or something that can. Let it wash over you, take it in, make it yours.

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