Decent Humans is what we call the incredible community we witness on CrowdRise each and every day doing amazing things for good. And each month, we’re going to highlight a Decent Human in the nonprofit world that’s devoting their time and passion to giving back and making a difference. We hope that by sharing their stories of aid, altruism, and passion, others will be inspired to make an even greater impact on the world we live in
This month, we got a chance to talk to Chilton Harper, Director of Development at the Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York. We’ll find out why he swears by ‘making some noise,’ what he was doing on four continents, and what all those letters are in his top drawer.
After travelling the globe across four continents and over four decades, Chilton Harper stopped working for the world’s fair and came home to New York City. He was ready for a change and decided to help a friend at the Epilepsy Foundation. And the rest...is history.
On his role...or, roles...at the Epilepsy Foundation
I do the development, the fundraising, and all the attendant awareness and marketing. The two go hand-in-hand and I don’t think anybody can raise money without doing marketing and communications. Because, as you know, the world is a complicated place and there are so many worthwhile causes. That’s why you’ve got to make some noise that people are going to hear and give people a reason to support your cause.
"Make some noise that people are going to hear"
- Chilton Harper, Director of Development at the Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York
On the learning curve he’s seen with his own eyes
My world before getting involved with the Epilepsy Foundation was all print. Billboards, signs, magazines, etc. And now, it’s cell phones and digital and virtual so I basically had to relearn everything. I’m a print media person by trade and had to learn how to take fundraising online in order to keep up. I’m used to a time when no one looked at monitors all day and all of a sudden, I had to shift from my prior world to one that’s very digital and is a part of all our lives now.
On the company he keeps
I'm surrounded by extraordinarily admirable human beings, including amazing female leadership in our Executive Director, Pamela Conford, MSW, and Professional Advisory Board Chair, Dr. Blanca Vazquez. We work in downtown lower Manhattan in the Wall Street District in the historic American Express building. It also happens to be right next to where Alexander Hamilton is buried.
On the best thing he’s received from someone they’ve helped
If you pulled open my top right desk drawer, you’d find all of these letters that people write to me. The fact that they take the time to write me notes and leave me little things means more to me than anything because I’m here for the people with epilepsy and seizures and when they take time to write notes, which can sometimes be challenging for them, and they leave little thoughts, it really means the world to me.
On the one note that stands out the most
Someone wrote me a note a few years ago saying they had to pinch themselves to know that I was real. That one made me cry and I really couldn’t function for a while. That’s one of the notes in my desk.
On the challenges he sees with his cause space
Having epilepsy and experiencing seizures is a very visual thing and that makes some people feel uncomfortable. It’s a visual external manifestation of an internal neurological disorder. That’s why I try to address the disorder with a greater spirit of generosity and compassion.
On his coined phrase ‘sympathetically segregated’
One of the great successes I’ve had at the Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York is realizing that you can’t just treat someone as a donor...you have to treat them as a human being, an individual. I call it it sympathetically segregated. And, our database is segmented like that and very descriptive. Person X might want to just be involved in athletic events, so we talk to them about our marathon each year. Person Y might be a solid donor, person Z might be a great fundraiser.
On getting to know his supporters
If you can find out what excites someone, you can relate better to them. If someone tells me, ‘I’m an artist,’ I think, ‘Oh great, would you like to come to this gallery opening and maybe we can use your art?’ If someone says they’re a runner, we get them involved in our endurance events. So, we sympathetically and sensitvely segregate a person into what their hobbies are and each person supports us in a different way.
On why CrowdRise is like Elizabeth Taylor
CrowdRise is the star of what we do. If we were doing a film, you all would be Elizabeth Taylor.
Thanks so much Chilton. We had such an amazing time learning from you and could tell from the very first minute we spoke that you are beyond passionate about your cause. If you were a film, you’d be our Marlon Brando.
To learn more about the Epilepsy Foundation of Metropolitan New York, please click here.