See Jane Give event packs them in

If the See Jane Give event last night were any indication of whether the I Live Here, I Give Here campaign is working, than here’s an early congratulations. Of the 150 seats available last night, 190 were filled. An hour after the event’s official end, at least one-quarter of the participants stuck around to share stories and make new contacts.

After all, part of the campaign’s mission is to raise awareness about the nonprofit needs in Central Texas, and almost every woman I talked to told me she was “horrified” when she heard just how little Austin donates to community charities. Each of us was there to find out how we could make a difference.

Get almost 200 women in a room, and you’re going to hear things that nobody ever talks about. In this case, it was money and more specifically, income. Myndi Garrett, who chaired the event, blew the doors wide open with her kick-off speech about her own personal philanthropy journey. Her confessions about overspening as a young woman, changing her area of study to a more lucrative field, and, later, wanting to move up the philanthropy ladder just to be in the same company as people she admired… all of it revealed just how personal personal finances can be – and how sharing your money has a way of leading to more.

After the speeches, each table was led by a “mentor” who shared her personal story, then opened the table up for discussions. I was lucky enough to have as a table mentor Pamela Benson Owens, an entrpreneur and philanthropist who also helped put the event together. I’d never heard anyone talk so frankly about their donating decisions. She talked about her discussions with her husband on which charities to support; her conflicts with the African-American community and their wondering why, as an African-American woman, she chooses to invest in charities that aren’t specifically for African-Americans; and her misgivings about the United Way’s new funding model.

I never knew people talked about personal philanthropy this way.

At my table, there were also some pretty frank discussions about whether nonprofits compete for dollars and if they should collaborate more. The problem is, when you do have money to donate and you choose a cause, there can be a number of agencies that address that cause, so how do you choose?

The only complaint I heard? Once is not enough. Look for more donor education events from I Live Here, I Give Here, and make sure you sign up early. These things tend to get out of hand.

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