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Notes from the Field: Attending the “Academy Awards of Philanthropy” – CLASSY Awards

September 27, 2012

Autumn Walden, Program Manager

It’s not everyday that I get the opportunity to step away from the computer screen, leave the office, travel across the country, and connect with fascinating people doing great work. That’s why I was so delighted that our Center was invited to attend the 4th Annual CLASSY Awards in San Diego last weekend.

The CLASSY Awards were started in 2009 by Stay Classy, an online fundraising platform, with the goal of highlighting charity efforts in San Diego. Now in its fourth year, it has expanded to include charities throughout the United States, and, most recently, to Canada.

The event was sponsored by big names such as eBay, PayPal, event 360, Southwest Airlines, Verizon, GuideStar, and Network for Good. Other partners included organizations such as the United Nations Foundation, Oxfam America, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Huffington Post Impact, and Social Media for Nonprofits.

After sharing a cab with Michael, Justine, and Sean of the Global Poverty Project; talking with Chris Helfrich of the UN Foundation’s Nothing But Nets at the New Children’s Museum; meeting Rob Birdsell of the Cristo Rey Network on the red carpet; laughing with Pat, Scot, Joe, Tori, and others of the Stay Classy Team; converting virtual facebook friends to real-life encounters—all after reading Steve Martin’s Harvard Business Review article, 98% of HBR Readers Love This Article on the power of “social norms”—I began to see with my own eyes an emerging “social norm”: people dedicating their lives to make a positive impact, to right a social wrong, and to help people in need.

Each person I talked to—whether it was someone whose organization had been nominated or who was currently working for social change—was even more amazed at the other people and organizations’ achievements. Everyone was talking, laughing, sharing, and learning with one another. It was a very “we’re all in this together” type of feeling, strongly reinforced by the social nature of the entire event weekend with activities like the Classy Collaborative, the Movember Happy Hour, and the CLASSY Awards Pre-Party, Ceremony, and After Party.

I tried to capture the inspiration, fun, and sense of community in the photo gallery below. Enjoy!

2012 CLASSY Award Winners

CLASSY Awards Photo Gallery

6 Comments leave one →
  1. David permalink
    September 27, 2012 1:16 pm

    Being able to see everyone’s achievements and their mutual admiration is why I love the CLASSY Awards. We all have something to learn from each other. Here’s to the social norm of positive impact!

    It was so great to have you at the CLASSYs, Autumn, thank you for coming. And thank you for the great write-up and beautiful photos!

  2. September 28, 2012 3:13 pm

    Reblogged this on and commented:
    Great write up on the entire Classy Awards experience from Autumn Walden, Program Manager at the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at UPenn! Check it out!

  3. September 28, 2012 4:21 pm

    Great post and photo album, Autumn! Looks like you had an excellent time at the event. Our attending staff members shared similar stories. It was a wonderful weekend with a great group of people that are truly making a difference in the world. We will be sharing this with our Facebook followers!

    Tyler Stover
    Community Outreach Director
    Halifax Humane Society

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