One only needs to talk with Brady Forseth, CEO of the nonprofit African Community & Conservation Foundation, for a brief time to understand his passion for philanthropy and causes that impact people’s lives.
“Everything we do has to do with the circle of life,” Forseth said. “It includes anti-poaching, conservation and environments and protecting the world. Protecting the people.”
The ACCF, headquartered in downtown Chanhassen, was founded with the purpose of preserving Africa’s wildlife by raising awareness and funding for key conservation projects and community programs in Africa.
Its charitable partner in Africa is the Grumeti Community and Wildlife Conservation Fund Company Limited (the “Grumeti Fund”), which carries out wildlife conservation and community development work in the western corridor of the Serengeti ecosystem in Tanzania. The Grumeti Fund was created in 2002 by U.S. investor and philanthropist Paul Tudor Jones.
Drawing on the experience of Forseth, the vision is to raise awareness and much-needed funding for the continuation and growth of critical conservation and community programs in the Serengeti and throughout Africa.
Forseth, a Victoria resident, is the former executive director of the Starkey Hearing Foundation, long known for its philanthropy and celebrity studded fundraisers to provide hearing aids around the world. Forseth came aboard ACCF in 2018.
CIRCLE OF LIFE
“We’re the new kids on the block,” Forseth said in a phone interview last week. “We’re still relatively new, but we’re making a meaningful difference.”
As Forseth talked, he frequently used the words “circle of life” and “sustainability.”
“Unfortunately for the fathers, countries in Asia will pay them for poaching,” Forseth said. “They may get arrested, but they will take a chance to poach to support their families. So how do you disrupt the system? You shift them to agriculture, to farming, to starting small business enterprises.”
There’s been a success, Forseth said, of former poachers becoming wardens, their lives transformed by their new opportunities.
Educating boys and girls is also another avenue.
What prevents girls to stop attending school? Forseth is blunt. The lack of access to feminine hygiene products prevents many young women from attending school and continuing their education upon reaching puberty. And female genital mutilation creates myriad health problems for women, preventing them from independence and autonomy.
“I have a wife and three daughters,” Forseth said. “We need to create women’s and girls’ empowerment programs.”
Among the tools ACCF is using is social media. Since the ACCF began last summer, it has more than 90,000 followers on its Facebook page. And, pulling a page from his Starkey Hearing Foundation days, Forseth is excited to talk about the influencers — the actors, musicians and athletes who’ve jumped on board to support and promote ACCF’s fundraising efforts.
Among them are musician Dave Matthews, actor Josh Duhamel of the “Transformers” franchise, and former professional boxer Evander Holyfield.
Working with celebrities is the new model in fundraising and getting people thinking about Africa, Forseth said. Another way of raising visibility is by offering African safaris through a program called Safaris With a Purpose.
“It’s all about connectivity,” Forseth said. “It has a lot to do with our founder (Paul Tudor Jones) and his success in business and philanthropy and people who gravitate to him, a philanthropist. And over the years, I’ve made connections and become friends with activists and influencers, dealing with people who want to make a difference away from the stage.
“But it’s important to identify the right influencers for the right programs,” Forseth said. “They have to care about the plight of Africa and making a difference.”
ACCF hosted a group of donors with Duhamel, an ACCF ambassador, in the western corridor of the Serengeti. The team experienced and contributed to wildlife conservation, anti-poaching and community outreach initiatives in and around the Grumeti Reserve.
“And, coming up soon, we’ve got information on our website, for a minimum $10 donation, people have a chance to win a free trip to Africa, and see a Dave Matthews show in Florida.”
Sustainability is what sets ACCF apart from other African aid groups, Forseth said.
“What if you’re someone who cares about animals?” Forseth asked. “If you’re going to protect the animals, you have to give people an opportunity to have other options to support their families. That’s why we’re helping small business endeavors, and providing education programs.”
In Tanzania, children in primary school go from speaking Swahili to speaking English when they enter secondary school. If they don’t speak English, they’ll fall behind.
“That’s why we’re working with Concordia College (Moorhead), which is conducting the language camps with us,” Forseth said. Concordia is known for its International Language Villages, providing language and cultural immersion.
Another Minnesota partnership is with the University of Minnesota, which has provided 300 motion sensor cameras to be used for the anti-poaching initiative.
The ACCF is also working on Safaris with a Purpose with the Glen A. Taylor Foundation. Taylor is a Twin Cities businessman who owns the Minnesota Timberwolves and the Lynx professional basketball teams.
“It’s all about the circle of life,” Forseth said. “It’s converting the use of propane instead of charcoal so it’s better for the environment. It’s providing people with economic opportunities. It’s helping girls stay in school. It’s all part of it.”
The foundation is less than a year old but Forseth said it’s on track to raising $2 million this year. He encourages local communities to be involved, and “I’m looking for people to spread awareness. It’s not only about individuals giving money, but to give them the tools to raise funds as part of a group, toward an experience, or a contribution. Every bit counts.
“We want to make a sustainable impact with Africa,” Forseth said. “If we can’t focus, we’re going to lose Africa. What we want people to know is, you don’t have to go to Africa to protect the animals, the people, the land. You can make a difference from right here.”