November 12, 2010
Autumn 2010 has been “conference season” for many Latin America and the Caribbean colleagues. For Steve Little, Public Awareness Director for LAC, the regional Resource Development conference marked the fourth in a row–carting his suitcase from the Communications, to Volunteer Mobilization, to the regional Leadership and Resource Development Conferences. Later this month, LAC representatives will meet for two additional workshops: Community Development and Mapping.
As a light pause in the midst of the season, the Resource Development and Public Awareness teams hosted a noche de gala, or awards dinner, to recognize the hard work of national organizations in resource development and communications initiatives. The dinner, which was the closing event of the Resource Development Conference in Puntarenas, Costa Rica, aimed to reward Habitat organizations and encourage them to create a more positive impact on the issue of poverty housing, which currently affects some 190 million people in the region.
The award categories included: Greatest number of volunteers mobilized, Greatest growth in tithe contribution, Largest international volunteer team, Largest proposal approved, Greatest local fundraising, Greatest solidarity between countries, Best media campaign and Special humanitarian mission.
More than 60 guests from national Habitat for Humanity organizations in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Paraguay and Costa Rica were present at the conference and awards dinner.
“In addition to our colleagues from the national offices, we also hosted many of our coworkers from the area office and headquarters,” says Steve Little. “Having opportunities to build relationships between offices, brainstorm ideas and share our visions for the future was an invaluable part of this conference.”
According to Juan Carlos Rodriguez, Resource Development director for LAC, the height of the conference was being able to recognize the efforts national organizations had made throughout fiscal year 2010 to resolve poverty housing issues in their countries.
“This first awards ceremony was a great surprise for national organizations, as Habitat put on its gala attire to recognize some award-winning efforts,” says Rodriguez. “We’ve set a high standard, and hope that throughout the next year we can periodically recognize the ways in which each national office is advancing towards its goals. We also hope that a little healthy competition will help us to improve upon each year’s achievements.”
Prior to the event, Rodriguez expressed his hope that during the conference participants would also rediscover the donor as one of the fundamental axis of Habitat’s mission. “We need to understand our donors' needs, in order to provide them with appropriate services and motivate them to strengthen their relationship with Habitat and increase giving.”
While the conference was hosted by the LAC Resource Development department, the Public Awareness department was also invited to play a key role. According to their respective directors, the link between the two departments is a vital one.
“The LAC Public Awareness department represents the dual functions of Communications and Volunteer Mobilization — our messages to the public and our volunteer initiatives are key parts of not only our program initiatives, but also have a strong impact on our resource development activities,” says Steve Little. “While each department has its own unique role to play, in LAC we recognize the interdependent aspects of our work, and are actively working to build a unified team.”
Rodriguez echoes this commitment. “As members of the same area office, the Public Awareness and Resource Development teams are working together towards the same goal… Habitat’s mission.”
During conference presentations, many of the national organizations identified brand awareness as one of the key proofs of success in their resource development initiatives. Steve Little explains this link. “Underlying everything Habitat for Humanity does is a message — a clarion call to assume responsibility for the state of the world's housing situation. In and of itself, brand awareness doesn't mean much. What's important is what we do with that awareness. When we reach people with our messages, are they inspired to act? Do they donate? Do they volunteer? Do they actively support programs that address poverty housing? What's important is influencing people with our messages. Brand awareness simply shows us that people are listening.”