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Chapter Spotlight: Baja California Chapter Growing Quickly

December 18, 2002

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(Dec. 20, 2002) - Sometimes, all it takes is a simple introduction. For the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Baja California Chapter, it was the First Course on Fundraising that got them interested in the organization and all it has to offer. Since then, the Chapter, which is only one year old, is growing quickly and has set high ambitions for the coming years.

Located in Tijuana, Mexico, just across the border from San Diego, the AFP Baja California Chapter is currently led by Carmen García-Montaño, president-elect, and Carlos H. García (no relation), advancement director at CETYS Universidad, Ensenada, and vice president-elect. AFP spoke with Carlos García about his Chapter's growth, short history, and goals for 2003.

AFP: How did your Chapter get started?

García: It all began in 2000, when 60 individuals attended the First Course on Fundraising in Tijuana and were introduced to the "true profession" of fundraising as well as AFP. Sure, we were all already fundraisers, but many of us were not tuned in to the professionalization of the industry. We knew what we were doing, but we didn't know that an organization like AFP existed and what it had to offer us here in Mexico. After the First Course, a bunch of us grew excited about the possibility of having more courses and perhaps even forming an AFP Chapter in our area. Thanks to the AFP San Diego Chapter, we were able to learn more about AFP and how a local Chapter would help us here in Tijuana and the rest of the Baja province. Our Chapter was finally chartered in 2001.

AFP: Aside from the First Course in Fundraising, what other AFP events have you attended?

García: Even before our Chapter was created, I was able to attend the International Conference on Fundraising in San Diego as a Chamberlain Scholar through the sponsorship of the AFP San Diego Chapter. That conference truly opened up my eyes to the world of fundraising. I had so much in common with others from all over the world. Not only did I share my knowledge of fundraising in Mexico, but also I learned about fundraising in the U.S., Canada, and other countries. After that Conference, I was primed and energized to create our own Chapter.

AFP: So now that your Chapter is up and running, what kinds of activities have you had?

García: So far, we've had monthly meetings in Tijuana for the general membership, which now numbers around 30. At the meetings we've held so far, we've had guest speakers and different workshops on annual campaigns, marketing, etc. We've even been fortunate enough to have Colette Murray, J.D., CFRE, AFP's incoming chairperson, and Roderick Reinhart, CFRE, director of development and strategic planning for the City of Chula Vista, Calif., and president-elect of the AFP San Diego Chapter, visit our group and talk to us about the state of fundraising. But because we're a new Chapter, the board leadership has met twice a month to help set the agenda and direction of the organization. It's a lot of work, especially for me since I am still an hour away from Tijuana by car. But we are all really committed to making our Chapter a success, so we don't mind all of the hard work.

AFP: What are some of the challenges facing fundraisers in Mexico right now?

García: In general, the fundraising profession is still not highly regarded in Mexico. In fact, many boards of directors do not appreciate the importance of ongoing professional training for fundraisers and they do not appreciate the importance of an organization like AFP. Whereas many fundraisers in the U.S. and Canada have their AFP dues paid for by their organizations, the majority of our members are paying these dues directly. But that's exactly why we started our Chapter, so that we can help educate the nonprofit sector in Mexico on the importance of fundraisers, as well as professional development, training, and support.

AFP: What activities do you have planned for 2003?

García: Our main project right now is to identify Spanish-language materials on fundraising and the nonprofit sector in Mexico so that we can donate these materials to the AFP Resource Center in Washington. AFP staff told us that there is an increasing demand for fundraising information and resources in Spanish and on Spanish-speaking communities. So we're collecting books, research papers, pamphlets, and even digital presentations and websites. We are also hoping to work closely with the government to have them officially declare National Philanthropy Day in November 2003. By building on this relationship with government officials, we will work to create a more suitable giving environment and giving process in regards to charitable tax incentives.

AFP: Do you have any advice for other fundraisers who are interested in starting an AFP Chapter?

García: Even though our Chapter is so young, we're already starting to see a difference in the way we view ourselves, our profession, and the entire philanthropic sector here in Mexico. My advice to interested individuals is to attend as many AFP functions as possible at first, including the International Conference on Fundraising or maybe a local Chapter function. And if you can't afford to pay right now, apply to be a Chamberlain Scholar like I did. It was so easy and it really opened my eyes to all the possibilities.

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