Don't look now, but you just missed National Philanthropy Day.

Back in 1986, President Ronald Reagan designated Nov. 15 as the day to honor "all who have given of themselves for others.'' Nearly 25 years later, hardly anyone remembers it.

But a seemingly unlikely organization has been carrying the torch all these years -- the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Its members, who raise millions of dollars for nonprofits, know a lot about volunteers and community supporters. As the guardians of National Philanthropy Day, they dutifully hold awards dinners and other events each year.

"National Philanthropy Day has never been more important than it is today," said Paulette Maehara, president of the national AFP. Although charity and volunteerism have climbed over the decades, so have demands for services, she said.

Minnesota, not surprisingly, was one of the first states to build an event around National Philanthropy Day, said Jean Gorell, development director for the Minnesota Medical Foundation and president of the local AFP chapter. A year after Reagan signed his proclamation, Minnesota began honoring outstanding volunteers, donors and fundraisers.

This year's winners include the Travelers Foundation, with headquarters in St. Paul, as well as several individuals.

Individual philanthropists: Lee and Penny Anderson, who have a long history of generous giving, including $60 million to build the University of St. Thomas student center.

Youth fundraiser: Madi Arends, 15, from Minnetrista, who has collected more than $5,000 a year for nonprofits such as the American Lung Society.

Professional fundraiser: Mark Davy, who has raised millions of dollars for more than 400 nonprofits .

Volunteer fundraiser: Roger Hale, former CEO of the Golden Valley-based Tennant Co. and a prolific fundraiser.

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Jean Hopfensperger • 612-673-4511