Skip to Main Content

AFPGV celebrates National Philanthropy Month

Nov 5, 2020

AFPGV celebrates National Philanthropy Month by looking back and to the future

By: Special to the RBJ Marlisa Post November 4, 2020

(**this is a reposted article from the Rochester Business Journal, written by our Senior Giving Manager Marlisa Post**)


Jennifer Johnson, Emcee, 2019 AFPGV National Philanthropy Day Awards; Alan Sikora, CEO, First American Equipment Finance, Winner- 2019 Outstanding Corporation; Ben Jacobs, Editor, Rochester Business Journal

 From left, Jennifer Johnson, Emcee, 2019 AFPGV National Philanthropy Day Awards; Alan Sikora, CEO, First American Equipment Finance, Winner- 2019 Outstanding Corporation; Ben Jacobs, Editor, Rochester Business Journal. (Photo Credit: Ria Tafani)


Typically, National Philanthropy Day is a celebrated on the 15th of November. It is a day to recognize the great contributions of philanthropy — and those people active in the philanthropic community. NPD highlights the endless daily contributions individuals and organizations across the world give to countless causes and missions. The Association of Fundraising Professionals Genesee Valley Chapter (AFPGV) holds an annual awards luncheon to recognize those in the Greater Rochester area who embody the idea of philanthropy. But in a year when the generosity in our community is more critical than ever, it is not possible to come together to recognize it.

Instead, this year AFPGV has chosen to celebrate all past award recipients by making November National Philanthropy Month. Videos and stories will be shared throughout the month on the organization’s website ( and Facebook page, highlighting the depth and breadth of the philanthropic spirit in the region.

“Rochester has a rich history of philanthropy and we celebrate that it continues during this unprecedented year, creating a sense of hope and in many cases, profound recovery for so many,” said AFPGV Board President Jillian Carter.

Many people recognize George Eastman as the embodiment of Rochester’s civic philanthropy. During his life, Eastman donated over $100 million to a variety of causes, chiefly education, the arts, and health care. But beyond the legacy of George Eastman, Rochester’s history is filled with stories of charitable giving from both individuals and groups. In 1837, a women’s group opened the first orphanage in the Rochester area. And as an economic depression gripped the country in 1893, Susan B. Anthony and Mary T. Gannett founded the Woman’s Educational and Industrial Union to provide services for women working in the city. In response to the 1918 influenza pandemic overwhelming area health care resources, a group of citizens formed the Community Chest. It not only supported overburdened health care facilities, but also provided support for social services agencies in the years following the pandemic.

While the issues of 1918 may not seem as remote as they once did, philanthropy in 2020 seems much more complicated, as health care is just one of the issues facing the region and nation. In 2019, US charitable giving was at $449.64 billion in 2019, one of the highest years on record. 2020 was on track for the same.  However, the COVID-19 pandemic, issues of racial injustice, and economic and political uncertainty have caused distrust with traditional institutions. Factoring in the financial crisis, the strain on medical and social service providers and on the donors that support them seems monumental.

But a recent report from the Council on Foundations, Philanthropy California and Dalberg Advisors indicates that at least among charitable foundations, the news is not all bleak. In a survey of 250 foundation leaders, 60% of respondents already have or intend to increase beyond planned 2020 levels with an average increase of 17%. This same report found that foundations are streamlining processes for grantees by loosening restrictions and reporting requirements. At the same time, when fundraising platform CauseMatch analyzed current giving data, it found that more people were giving to local organizations than national ones, who traditionally have a broader reach. CauseMatch also found that the average gifts to those local organizations were bigger.

For local nonprofits in the Greater Rochester area, this news is encouraging. As Jennifer Leonard, President & CEO of the Rochester Community Foundation, noted: “Fundraisers will remember 2020 as the year that giving froze, events evaporated, government reneged on contracts and social needs exploded — a perfect storm for nonprofits. Fortunately, many individual donors moved on from ‘pandemic paralysis’ to shore up favorite charities, particularly those that stayed in touch and ‘pivoted’ to remain relevant. Many foundations, businesses and individuals sought to support the equity goals of Black Lives Matter.”

For some in the corporate sector, 2020 provides new ways to think about philanthropy. “Giving back has always been a passion of our colleagues” said Alan Sikora, CEO of First American Equipment Finance, the premier sponsor of National Philanthropy Month. “When 2020 presented challenges for our community, our colleagues saw it as an opportunity to think creatively about fundraising, developing a new donation-matching program and establishing a Corporate Citizenship Team to strengthen our giving efforts.”

2020 sees Rochester and the rest of the country standing at a crossroads. While discussions of diversity among donors and fundraisers and of how funds should be allocated are not new, 2020 has thrown these issues into sharp relief. By using National Philanthropy Month to look back on those who have generously supported our community, AFPGV hopes this will open a dialogue on what the future of philanthropy could and should be.

AFPGV is a volunteer-based organization representing more than 230 fundraising professionals in the Greater Rochester region. Its mission is to advocate for philanthropy and to promote ethical and successful nonprofit development. Videos highlighting past National Philanthropy Day honorees will be posted on weekdays throughout the month of November on AFPGV’s social media channels.

Marlisa Post is Vice President of Marketing for AFPGV and Senior Giving Manager for Goodwill of the Finger Lakes