|US Men's Winter Fundraising Team marches at opening ceremonies|
The world’s 23rd Winter Fundraising Games have opened in Sochi, Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin officially opened the games by lighting the Eternal Flame of Philanthropy in the Sochi Winter Donations Palace, watched by more than 50,000 spectators and an estimated TV audience of several dozens of AFP members around the world.
The Sochi Games will feature 21 winter sports events at nine different venues and run concurrently with the Olympic Games. More than 1,500 fundraisers from 17 countries will be competing.
Team USA is the favourite, with some estimating that it will bring home more than two dozen medals.
“We’re the most experienced, the most driven fundraisers in all the world. Our team have been training for this for years. We’re ready to bring home the gold,” said US Team CEO Dibble Brewer.
The US is expected to take gold in Men’s Downhilll Major Gifts Skiing. University advancement Manager Derek Snidely is the two-time world champion in the event, raising more than $2 million in the world cup race in Geneva last year. In Women’s Annual Giving Speed Skating, US fundraiser Cybil Makeup, a perky, go-getter fundraiser from a US hospital system in Atlanta, is also expected to do well, but faces tough competition from British fundraiser Turner Highhandle, who won gold during the recent Commonwealth Games with a skate that set a new record in direct mail responses.
Experts say the host Russian fundraising team has the edge in planned giving events, especially the Gift Planning Triathlon, which combines cross-country skiing, rifle shooting and getting donors to leave a substantial gift in their will.
“When it comes to getting someone to put something in their will, the Russians are just killers,” admitted Brewer. “But we’re ready for their rough-and-tumble strategies. We’ll be more than a match for them.”
In Donor Recognition Hockey, experts can’t agree on which country will come out on top – Russian, the US or Canada. Brewer says each country has differently playing styles.
“The Russians think donor recognition is just about drinking vodka. The Canadians have to do everything with extra warm clothes on because of their climate. Our style of having big gala dinners with ever-evolving themes like Mardi Gras or the Circus Big Tent will rule the day,” said Brewer.
“The last thing we need is to have some of our advanced fundraising database technology falling into the hands of local philanthropic terrorists who could use it to start a capital campaign bent on destruction,” said Brewer. “We’re warning all our fundraisers to stay within the Games village for the duration of the Games.”
The Opening Ceremonies of the Games featured a parade of fundraisers, including the single fundraiser from the Vatican. The Russians then put on a 10 hour stage show featuring ballet dancers re-enacting fundraising moments from the famous novel War & Peace.
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