Thursday, November 8, 2012

10 Questions with Mark Buhrmester of New York City Anti-Violence Project

By Richard Oceguera

Subject: Mark Buhrmester, Major Gifts Officer
Name of Business: New York City Anti-Violence Project
Helping People Since: 1980
Number of Employees: 24 staff and over 100 volunteers
Location: 240 West 35th Street, Suite 200, New York, NY 10001

What is the New York City Anti-Violence Project and what services do you offer?
AVP is a nonprofit organization that empowers the HIV and LGBTQ communities to end all forms of violence through education. And we support the survivors of violence through counseling and victims’ advocacy.  For instance, if a person has been affected by violence, our counselor/advocates will advocate on behalf of our clients. It’s important for people to know that our counseling services are available 24/7. AVP also is also proactively educating first responders and the district attorney’s office to end violence and prevent it from happening in the first place.

How has Hurricane Sandy Impacted you or AVP?
Well, a lot of our staff lives in Brooklyn so it’s been very difficult for our staff to get to the office. Fortunately our hotline remains open and our staff and volunteers have stepped up to the plate to keep the service going. And we do have office hours at other organizations in all five boroughs, such as the Staten Island Pride Center and Brooklyn Community Pride Center, so people can still get services. The hurricane has made things more difficult for us but we had drawn up contingency plans to make sure people who need our counseling and services can access them. As for me personally, I’ve been holed up in my apartment in Sunnyside, Queens. Fortunately I didn’t lose power. It is minor inconveniences compared to what a lot of people are going through.

There is tremendous competition for dollars in New York City. How do you differentiate yourself from your peers at other organizations? Well, I don’t know if I personally do anything differently. The difference is AVP and our mission because no one else provides the breadth of services that we offer. And we do this for free. That’s the difference. And I know that for every dollar I raise we can keep offering these important services free of charge. My job is to introduce potential donors to AVP and that makes a real difference in people’s lives from the donor to the clients who use our services. That is what true philanthropy is about.

As a professional fundraiser, what’s been your greatest challenge and how did you surmount it?

I think the biggest challenge was moving to New York and having to learn a new donor landscape. I moved here without any connections or knowing anyone. So I had to meet as many people as I could to find common interests to help them connect with the work of AVP. So, really, it’s been networking that helped me overcome this challenge. New York began to feel like home quickly. Even though I’ve only been here a year and a half I feel like I have strong roots in the community which is really fantastic.

You have an impressive career background that includes both political and human services organizing and fundraising. What is it about this work that calls to you?

Well, my background was in political fundraising, and I enjoyed that. But electing politicians is a step removed. If the candidate I am supporting wins then she can create polices that lead to change. And eventually that makes an impact on individuals. But I really like what I’m doing now because it is one step closer to the end user. The funds that I raise make the impact directly on the people who use our services. The difference is more immediate and rewarding.

AVP joined NGLCCNY in March of this year. Since then you’ve jumped right in and joined the Social Impact Industry Council. What appeals to you about NGLCCNY? Or what do you find of value? 

The Chamber community has been enthusiastic supporters of the work that AVP does. The people that I meet at M3s and on the SIIC have been really great contacts. I think people like helping people and the more people I meet the better off AVP is. And the folks I keep meeting at the Chamber, those are the folks that are interested in helping the community.

You’re originally from Norborne, Missouri. What brought you to NYC?

I’m definitely a Midwesterner at heart. I grew up in a very small farming community in rural Missouri. My early career then took me to Des Moins, Iowa. Fortunately I had a time line that allowed me to find an organization that I wanted to be a part of. There was a posting on for this job at AVP in Manhattan and from there the stars aligned. It’s been fun!

How  do you keep your saw sharp?

I’m a social person and feed off social environments. So I keep myself in places where I meet people, like at M3. Talking, learning new things about others and finding common causes is energizing for me. Through this I can identify people I can help.

Soda or Pop?

That’s an interesting question! When I’m back home I say “pop” and most other places I say “soda.” I grew up as a pop person but everywhere else I’ve lived has been a soda area. So I’m a chameleon. (

Richard Oceguera is CEO of Merchant Mart USA and the founding President of the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce New York. He’s an Entrepreneur, Visionary Community Leader and Media Personality. Follow him at and @RichardOceguera on Twitter.

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