June 12, 2018 Print

Participants of Atlas Network’s Fundraising Training gather on the rooftop terrace of the Hotel Cumbres Vitacura in Santiago, Chile for a group photo.

Encouraging a culture of philanthropy toward free market think tanks is a common challenge among many organizations in Latin America. Before the start of this year’s Latin America Liberty Forum in Santiago, Chile, 23 think tank professionals from 14 countries gathered for a specialized training in fundraising, hosted by Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy to tackle this issue. Facilitated by former Atlas Network staff member, Gonzalo Schwarz, now the president and executive director of Archbridge Institute, the training included sessions on planning and strategy, international fundraising, best-practices for developing individual donors, and interactive sessions where participants develop and present their own plans.

“The four keys to a successful fundraising mindset are consistency, persistence, humility, and impact,” said Schwarz. “You need to maintain consistent and organized contact with donors and prospects; you need to have a persistent mindset because on average only one in five proposals gets funded; you need to maintain a humble approach and be comfortable knowing that you don’t know it all when talking with donors and prospects; and finally it’s essential that you can demonstrate more than just outputs, like reports or activities, and instead be able to demonstrate to donors the real impact on the lives of the individuals you are setting out to serve in your mission.” 

Luis E. Loría, president of the San José, Costa Rica-based organization IDEAS, has plans to implement the lessons from this session on a current project he is leading.

“IDEAS is leading a fierce battle to end legal plunder in Costa Rica. During the past few decades, political, academic, business, and union leaders have hijacked the lawmaking powers in order to pervert the laws and create immoral benefits, in the form of ‘luxury pensions’ and ‘luxury salaries and benefits’ for public sector employees. According to public figures, in 2017, the privileges of ‘Ticos con Corona(Costa Ricans with Crowns) amounted to 8.4 percent of GDP, in a country with a fiscal deficit of 6 percent of GDP,” said Loría. “We owe the success of our public campaign against legal plunder to Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy. I learned about how to design and implement public campaigns, coalition building, and structure effective advocacy efforts in the Think Tank MBA program. Also, the access to successful reformers, such as Juan José Daboub, Cristián Larroulet, and Simeon Djankov has proven invaluable in terms of insights and feedback about how to focus our efforts in order to maximize their impact. I'm now participating in the Fundraising Training Program, because we need to raise additional support to scale our efforts to put an end to the immoral privileges of the ‘Ticos con Coronas.'”

Gonzalo Schwarz (left), president and executive director of Archbridge Institute (United States), Carmen Vergara Rodríguez (center left), fundraising coordinator of FUSADES (El Salvador), María Boulin (center right), fundraising coordinator for LyP (Argentina), and Luis E. Loría (right), president of IDEAS (Costa Rica).

Carmen Vergara Rodríguez, fundraising coordinator for San Salvador, El Salvador-based Fundación Salvadoreña para el Desarollo Económico y Social (FUSADES), came to the training to help her solve one of her biggest challenges.

“Our single biggest challenge in El Salvador is to introduce the fundraising culture into our society,” said Vergara Rodríguez. “And I strongly believe that Atlas Network’s fundraising training will give me new ideas and the right support to start doing it through our Think Tank. Everyone in the training class is doing a tremendous job in their countries to raise funds, and I'm taking a lot of ideas and solutions with me. It's my first training with Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy, and I hope it is not the last one!”

UPDATE: At the conclusion of the training, participants shared portions of their fundraising plans and lessons learned from the time together. Carmen shared that "I'm sorry that I had to miss a portion of the last session, but I had to take a donor call up stairs. Donor calls, as we all know, have to happen whenever the donor is free. But I'm pleased to share with you that the contents of the this training were fresh on my mind as I talked with this donor. And I'm happy to tell you all that I used some of the practical tips from our training, and at the end of the conversation, the donor agreed to a generous 5-figure gift to my think tank in El Salvador, so I can attest that this training was worth attending!" 

María Boulin, fundraising coordinator for the Buenos Aires-based Fundación Libertad y Progreso (LyP), described one of the big challenges of her organization.

“One of the biggest problems in Argentina is that the state spends more than it takes in. This creates enormous pressure on and several problems for society like massive inflation and an irresponsible fiscal deficit. And on top of all of this, state-run solutions often break or are in disrepair,” said Boulin. “Our job at LyP is to educate politicians, press, and business owners on these issues. This education campaign is only the start of the true reforms that are necessary in our country. And this type of work requires us to raise a significant amount of funds to be effective. This training will help us build upon our existing plans. In particular it is helping me rethink how we can improve the communications with our donors and prospective donors. Lastly, I’m thrilled that I can learn from the successes and failures of the others in the training throughout Latin America so that I can help implement the successes back home in Argentina for our think tank.”

The obligatory group selfie!

The training took place at the Hotel Cumbres Vitacura, which afforded participants some spectacular views of Santiago and the Andes surrounding the city.

Additional facilitators during the workshop included Jose Ignacio Betata, president of Peru-based Contribuyentes por Respeto; Gerardo Bongiovanni, president of Argentina-based Fundación Libertad; Bettina Horst von Thadden, sub-director of public policy of Chile-based Libertad y Desarrollo; Luís Larrain, executive director of Chile-based Libertad y Desarrollo; Darío Paya, president of Chile-based Fundación Leadership Institute.

Learn more about Atlas Network’s Leadership Academy.