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NARSOL’s vice-chair attends AFP conference in San Antonio

By Sandy . . . At NARSOL, each of us wears many hats. Robin Vander Wall is the organization’s vice-chair, president of its foundation (Vivante Espero), sits on several working committees, and is chair of the marketing and finance committees. It is in that last role that he left his home state of North Carolina, where he is also the president of our state affiliate organization there, and spent nearly a week in San Antonio, Texas, among the nation’s preeminent leaders of philanthropy and professional fundraisers.

Robin represented NARSOL and Vivante Espero at the AFP 2019 international conference. Founded in New York City by three charter members in 1960 as the National Society of Fundraisers (NSFR), the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) is the nation’s oldest and largest organization seeking to empower individuals and organizations to practice ethical fundraising through professional education, networking, research, and advocacy. The founders’ vision for the organization was outlined in its original Articles of Incorporation:

To these ends, AFP’s members are expected to adhere to a code of ethical standards and a Donor’s Bill of Rights that ensure the highest level of professional integrity in the performance of their fundraising activities. As a non-profit, all-volunteer organization, NARSOL depends on your membership and generous donations in support of the initiatives that enable it to continue the many services and projects undertaken in the pursuit of its vision and mission. And NARSOL’s board of directors is determined to assure the organization’s continued presence in the future of our important advocacy work, however long that may take.

NARSOL’s primary work is two-pronged: educational and legal. Because of your membership and generous support, NARSOL continues to grow into a formidable instrument for social change and the eradication of dehumanizing registries.¬†Educationally, our staff and volunteers write and publish op-eds, research pieces, and issue press releases. We give interviews. We host a national conference each year (now in its eleventh year!). NARSOL publishes an expanding newsletter/magazine in several formats. And we maintain a comprehensive website.

Legally, and through its foundation Vivante Espero, NARSOL offers support by providing supporting briefs in critical appellate level cases, assists with legal strategy, and extends financial support to legal actions that have the potential to positively affect a significant number of those with sexual convictions who are required to register.

These things don’t just happen. They cost money. Lots of money. And every dollar we receive from you, our wonderful and generous donors, and from our fundraising efforts is expended in support of either educational or legal initiatives. We thank you for that, each and every one of you. And we encourage you to continue making your voices heard throughout the nation by continuing, or increasing, in your financial support of both NARSOL and Vivante Espero.

Still recovering from oral surgery that was scheduled for the day after his return, Robin was able to speak with me about his experience at AFP’s conference in San Antonio.

“From the very first workshop I attended about major gifts to the very last educational session on increasing board participation in the cultivation of donors, I was just amazed at the quality of content and experience of the presenters at this conference. There were more than 3,400 people there from all over the continent; the US, Canada, Mexico, and even a handful of attendees from China. Often I was asked why I was there and who I represented. I shared our story, our mission, and why we feel called to fill our space advocating on behalf of registered citizens and their families. Prepared for the worst kind of responses, I was really surprised. Everyone I spoke with about NARSOL and Vivante Espero fully appreciated the importance of our work and understood how critical our advocacy is under the broader umbrella of civil rights. At one point, a very nice young lady from Arizona made a point to share with me how much she appreciates what we’re trying to do because it directly impacts her family (she has an uncle and former law enforcement officer who’s doing time for a sexual offense),” Robin said.

Asked about some of the things he learned in San Antonio, Robin paused in reflection. “You know, I am still trying to soak it all in. There are a lot of things we’re doing right. But there are a substantial number of areas where we have to improve. I am compiling a report for the boards. And some of what I will share will call upon the directors to re-evaluate board level investment of time and devotion to donor cultivation. We have to make sure that the people who support us feel appreciated and acknowledged for the sacrifices they are making. We’re all in this together. This is, for many of us, our life’s work. And we have to get it right the first time. We can’t afford to rest on our laurels and imagine that we’ve got it all figured out. The strength of NARSOL, in my estimation, is the collegiality of its leadership model. Our advocacy is not built around anyone. When you think of NARSOL, no particular person comes to mind . . . and it shouldn’t. We’re building a movement. We’re building towards a future free from dehumanizing registries. We’re building something that can, I hope, sustain itself long after any particular individual involved has ceased to exist. Our members, our donors, our volunteers, our state and local affiliate leaders, these are the people who make all the difference for the thousands of registered citizens and families we advocate for. We can’t lose sight of that. Ever!”

The goal of our advocacy is that we are no longer needed in that future of which Robin speaks. But as long as we are, with the help and generosity of our members and donors, NARSOL will be there.

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Sandy is communications director for NARSOL, editor-in-chief of the Digest, and a writer for the Digest and the NARSOL website. Additionally, she participates in updating and managing the website and assisting with a variety of organizational tasks.