Delbert Warkentin, ’20SPS, Nonprofit Management, recently was tapped to be the country leader for Giving Tuesday in Paraguay. He helped launch the effort, introduced as #UnDíaParaDar, this fall. Warkentin also served as the VP of Professional Development for the Nonprofit Management Student Association and interned with the program. He discusses his experience studying international aid and fundraising at Columbia and how he applied that learning to get involved as a global leader of Giving Tuesday and launch the first online nonprofit directory in his home country.
Tell us about your new role promoting Giving Tuesday, and what kind of impact you would like to make in your career.
Giving Tuesday is a growing global movement. Over 70 country leaders organize and lead the national movements in their respective countries. I have the privilege and honor of serving as the country leader for Paraguay, where I am from. As part of my role, I introduce and invite nonprofit organizations, social enterprises, educational institutions, companies, and society at large to participate in this “global generosity movement.” As 2020 was the first year Paraguay officially participated, many organizations had never heard about Giving Tuesday before. As a result, I had the opportunity to explain the movement and why it is important to celebrate and foster a culture of philanthropy in society.
I hope to contribute to the expansion of the nonprofit sector in Paraguay so that nonprofits can deliver their much-needed services. I have learned in the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program how amazing and valuable the nonprofit sector is, how it complements the private and public sectors, and how it can contribute to society. The sector, however, can only flourish when society understands the need for nonprofit organizations and supports such endeavors. This is why I saw the need for Giving Tuesday in Paraguay and the reason why I decided to volunteer as a country leader.
What drew you to Columbia's Nonprofit Management program? What did you enjoy most about the experience?
I was drawn to the M.S. in Nonprofit Management program because most of the professors are, or were, active professionals who have worked in the sector for a very long time. This was important to me, as I wanted to learn from their many years of experience. Another factor that drew me to this program was that Columbia University has worldwide recognition as a premier academic institution being an Ivy League, which assured me that I was going to get nothing but the best.
I particularly enjoyed the conversations and discussions with my professors and classmates because they challenged me to think about current and relevant issues in our field in new ways. Although these conversations were in person when I started the program in 2019, they continued in the online format when our learning shifted due to the pandemic. I also enjoyed researching and writing papers in Columbia’s many beautiful libraries.
What do you find exciting about the nonprofit sector in Paraguay? Where do you see yourself helping to grow the field?
There is a lot of room for growth for the entire nonprofit sector in Paraguay because most organizations are still relatively young. This is exciting, as I hope to be part of shaping the field in terms of its professionalization and its growth. I see myself assisting organizations with expanding and diversifying their fundraising efforts. Most organizations do not have a dedicated fundraiser, much less a team or board members that fundraise for the organization. I believe that needs to change; most nonprofits that help the most vulnerable do not have products or services that can earn revenue, so donations from generous supporters are needed.
I am also excited about creating more data and encouraging transparency for the sector in Paraguay. This led me to launch PRO ONG, the first online nonprofit directory for Paraguay. The directory includes basic information about each nonprofit, such as its mission and vision, location, and contact information. All nonprofits are also categorized by their subsectors like health, education, environment, or human rights. I hope to continue expanding this directory and adding more features and data to help improve the entire sector.
Were there specific classes, professors, resources, or connections that you valued?
That is a tough question to answer as I have enjoyed so many of my classes, but I would like to highlight Role & Unique Nature, Fundraising Fundamentals, Data Analytics in the Nonprofit Sector, Planned Giving, and the Capstone class. These courses were rich in content and the professors challenged me to think outside the box and push away any preconceptions that I had. Professor Dr. Carlos Ponce was also instrumental to my time at Columbia; he has many years of experience in international aid, especially in Latin American countries, which interests me coming from Paraguay.
I served as the VP of Professional Development for the Nonprofit Management Student Association. That was a great experience as I was able to connect students in the nonprofit management program to various conferences relevant to our sector, such as AFP Icon, the world’s largest conference for fundraising professionals, as well as events hosted by the local AFP New York chapter and many other professional development opportunities. I also interned with the Nonprofit Management program. I assisted with developing various alumni engagement strategies like a comprehensive alumni survey, future fundraising strategies, and more.
Many of my classmates were also active professionals, which is something that I value, as they have expanded my network to many organizations across the entire sector. I have no doubt that being part of the Columbia family will enrich my professional life for many years to come.
What advice would you give future students in the program?
I would say, go for it! This program has many great instructors that will help anyone who wants to learn more about how to manage and grow a nonprofit organization. It offers a variety of excellent electives that will tailor the education experience to the needs of each student. The nonprofit sector has provided much needed support to many around the world during the uncertain and turbulent times of the COVID-19 pandemic. The sector needs more professionals who know how to navigate and lead organizations. This program enables and equips students with the right tools to make and be a positive change in the world.
Learn more about the M.S. in Nonprofit Management.