From Alfred Nobel, inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Prizes, to Bill Gates, inventor of computer and internet operating systems and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the tradition of philanthropic giving around the world and around the country is long and rich. Famous philanthropists have left indelible marks on the world, turning their fortunes into longstanding bastions of goodwill and good works.

On a smaller scale, but no less important, are the philanthropists of the local community – those people and organizations who dedicate a portion of their time and money to support and enrich the communities in which they live. On November 13, the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater New Orleans chapter will celebrate the 24th annual National Philanthropy Day, and local heroes will be honored with a reception and awards luncheon, held at the Intercontinental Hotel in downtown New Orleans.

At the event, entitled “Change the World With a Giving Heart,” participants will celebrate both the tradition of charitable giving and the community leaders who are paving the way to a more robust and community-focused New Orleans through their generous donations of time and resources. “It will be wonderful to have so many philanthropic people in one room,” says  Beverly Lamb, who is director of development at the Preservation Resource Center and President of the Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater New Orleans Chapter. “These are the people working to make New Orleans, and the world, a better place.”

This year’s honorees are a diverse group, representing many of the different sectors of the city. The Greater New Orleans Foundation took honors in the Outstanding Foundation category; the New Orleans Saints captured the Outstanding Corporate Philanthropist award; Shirley K. Haspel was crowned Outstanding Philanthropist; Joseph S. Exnicios took top prize in the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser category; Madeline Baay took distinction in the Outstanding Youth in Philanthropy category; Peter Quirk was awarded Outstanding Fundraising Professional; and the Fleur de Lis Ambassadors were honored with the Board of Directors Award.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP), which sponsors National Philanthropy Day events around the world, is an organization dedicated to professional development and the fostering of relationships between financial sponsors and the nonprofit organizations that use those resources to support neighborhoods and projects on the ground and in the streets. There are 297 chapters and over 30,000 members of AFP internationally. “As a profession we are trained to highlight the need for organizations to build a culture of philanthropy,” Lamb says. “The first step is to build lasting relationships between community nonprofits and donors. This is not about just asking a donor to give a gift.”

The AFP Greater New Orleans chapter was founded in 1980, and has grown to more than 160 members spanning nearly every category of nonprofit in the metropolitan area, from education to health care, from arts to fair housing. The local chapter hosts two main events per year – a series of workshops held every June, and the community awards luncheon held in concert with National Philanthropy Day each November. Monthly meetings include guest speakers and sessions on professional development and networking.

Additionally, in March of 2009, the AFP Greater New Orleans chapter is thrilled to host the 46th annual AFP four-day conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, bringing over 5,000 attendees to the city from around the world. The conference is also partnering with the National Center for Black Philanthropy’s Seventh National Conference. “New Orleans has been a beneficiary of so much giving and kindness,” says Lamb, who is co-chairing the conference with Darlene McGarry. “So many people and organizations helped out after Katrina. We’re happy to say thank you to everyone and hope all of the participants experience our warm New Orleans style hospitality.” The conference is packed with professional exhibitors and outstanding speakers covering every aspect of fundraising, event planning, capital campaigns, how to build a board of directors, career development. Visitconference.afpnet.org for details.

In that spirit of honoring the dedicated service of others, and inspiring the philanthropists of Greater New Orleans as well as the professionals in the nonprofit sector of the community, the celebration of National Philanthropy Day in New Orleans promises to be another tremendous success. Having outgrown some local venues, the event now boasts over 500 participants and occupies the hotel ballroom. “It’s the largest event of its kind in the city,” Lamb explains, “and we’re honored to celebrate the philanthropy spirit.”