Continually amazed by your commitment

I’m receiving the answers to the short questionnaires I sent to the few dozen young philanthropists we’ll feature in our next issue, and I’m utterly amazed. I thought I was busy!

It’s a diverse group with different levels of engagement, but what shows through is that energy. One of the women in the story remarked that she wasn’t sure she was young enough to be included. I told her, it’s not about age, it’s about energy. She and the other people we’re recognizing seem to have this bottomless well of enthusiasm and positivity, which in today’s media environment is extremely refreshing. Yes, it’s hard not to be cynical about what they’re trying to do, but you’ve got to give it to them for trying.

After Obama’s speech last night, it might be easy to buckle down, lock the doors, and not go out for a few days for fear of spending money. But to hear one of the people in our story tell it, that’s exactly the opposite of what we should do.

She talks about the movement of money as if it were water. She says that if you hold on to it, it doesn’t flow. But if you let it flow from your hands into the hands of others who need it, you contribute to this constant flow of money that always finds its way to the people who need it, even you. She has a remarkable story to tell. I can’t wait for you to read it.

MARCH 4: I’m hosting a RISE Conference session: Bootstrapping your publication

Those who can’t, teach, right?

I certainly don’t claim to know all the secrets to publishing a magazine these days, but I’m happy to share with you what I do know. The way I see it, there’s no such thing as too much competition – the best mag wins. And I’m happy to learn from other magazine makers to see how to make mine better, because chances are if yours is succeeding, mine has a chance.

So Mando Rayo invited me to host a RISE Conference session I’ve titled, “Strategies for Bootstrapping  a New Publication.” In its third year, RISE – a Relationship & Information Series for Entrepreneurs – is an annual conference series dedicated to providing a free forum for entrepreneurs to connect and exchange ideas that inspire the entrepreneurial spirit. This year’s conference is March 2-5 at various locations around Austin.

I figure I’ve picked up some ideas from managing publications, writing for them, working with art directors, freelancers, printers and advertisers over the past 15 years. The thing is there are a million ways to start a new publication – more than ever these days thanks to all the cheap-to- free resources for content and publishing – so I’ll cover which ones I’ve tried and share those experiences.

There’s something to learn from each one, but the most important lesson I’ve learned so far is that there’s no subsitute for commitment – and that means commitment of time and money. The good news is that even if you only have a little bit of each, you can still get a new publication going. I’m a full-time working mother of two, so I’m as strapped as I can be for time. Still, I managed to get GivingCity started “on the side.” And now that I’m not working full-time (as of this morning), I’m excited about what can be….

I hope you’ll attend or share this information with someone you think might be intersted in starting their own publication. All the RISE sessions are free, and there’s tons of really useful info being shared. I know I’ll be at a few sessions other than my own.

Strategies for Bootstrapping a New Publication
Wednesday, March 4
12-1:30 pm
Mexican American Cultural Center

Get more information about my session or about the RISE Conference in general.

So many young philanthropists!

The response to our call for young-ish philanthropists has been incredible. Thanks to everyone who sent us a nomination.

The word “nomination” makes this sound like one of those event-oriented contests, which it isn’t.We really just wanted to recognize the young people in Austin who will help build the culture of philanthropy as the city matures and expands. And I don’t just mean that in the condos-and-development way; I’m talking about how the city will address the growing population of young Hispanics, the gentrification issues in East Austin, the incorporation of growing suburbs like Hutto and Buda… as well as the condos downtown.

We have the opportunity now to have an impact on what Austin will look like in the next five to 10 years, and we want to shout out to the young people out there who have laid a claim to that future. It’s not necessarily that they’re younger than 40, but more importantly, they’re people who are still excited about what could be, still energized by the possibilities, and compelled to make things better for everyone in Austin.

The next issue will feature a photographic story featuring these people and highlighting their contributions… so far. The story’s intent is to recognize them, show our support, encourage them to keep going, and inspire others to take an action, too. There’s one more day to send in a nomination (for lack of a better word). Thanks to everyone who’s responded so far!

To send a nomination, send me an e-mail!

SPECIAL SHOUT OUT: Thank you to J. Blacks’s Lounge for donating the space for the photo shoot. They host many nonprofit events, and offer outstanding food and drinks in a gorgeous setting. I cannot wait to go back when I’m not working… !

We’re looking for Austin’s young philanthropists

Austin’s a great town for volunteers. In fact, we’re ranked among the top five cities for rate of volunteerism. Unfortunately, we still have a ways to go before hitting the top five list for rate of donations. Why are we so great at volunteering but not so great at donating locally?

Lots of people think it’s because we have such a young population. Young professionals, for example, may not have the means to make large donations, but they do show their commitment to the community through volunteerism. So it’s obvious we have a whole generation of caring, committed young people who will help build a culture of philanthropy in Austin. Now we just have to support, encourage, and recognize them.

In fact, we want to recognize a few of these young philanthropists in our next issue. We’re looking for people under 40-ish (no birthday deadline) who are going to become philanthropy leaders over the next few decades. Are you one of these people? Do you know someone who is?

Please send us their name, a little background like a Facebook or LinkedIn page, and some contact information by February 20. We’d like to invite them to a photo shoot later this month, and share their work with our readers.

Feel free to write me with any questions. Thanks for your help.


Network while you work … at the Food Bank





If you’re going to put yourself out there, try to meet new people, find new opportunities… you might as well wipe some  cans and sort some peanut butter.

Scott Ingram of NetworkIn Austin and Austin TopGuns came up with this pairing of networking and giving/volutneering, and they’ve chosen the Capital Area Food Bank as the recipient. There are two ways to be a part of this effort:

1. First, you can make a donation. Between now and the end of the month, you can make a financial contribution (from $5 on up!) to the Virtual Fund Drive. Every little bit helps, and you’ll see that all dollars contributed to the Food Bank go a very long way. Please give generously!

2. Second, you can volunteer. They’ve set up 4 volunteer shifts (see below).  Their goal is to completely fill all 185 volunteer shifts, a contribution of 505 volunteer hours!

Thusday – 2/26: 6:00 – 9:00pm 
Friday – 2/27: 7:30 – 9:30am 
Friday – 2/27: 9:00am – Noon 
Friday – 2/27: 1:00 – 4:00pm

What a cool idea, huh? If you’ve never volunteered at the Food Bank before, you’re going to find it fascinating. They do a great job of training you, and eveyrone seems to enjoy the “Lucy Ricardo at the chocolate factory” atmosphere. Sign up, and bring a friend!

Austin realtor gives 25% of her commission to charity – every time






So let me get this straight: Give Realty gives 25% of its commission to charity? In my name? 

Yeah, I think that’s how it works. I get this realtor, Laurie Loew of Give Realty, to help me find a house. She makes a commission when I buy it  –  from what I remember commission is 6% of the house’s selling price. So if I buy the house for $200,000, for example, Laurie and the other realtor who worked with the seller split a commission of $12,000 total or $6000 each.

But then… while the other realtor pockets all most of the $6000 (their broker/office usually gets a portion), Laurie pockets $4500 and gives the remaining $1500 to the charity of my choice. I get to make the donation. I write the check. I get the tax deduction.

So what’s the catch?

I met Laurie at Jo’s yesterday to ask her about that. The thing is, there isn’t a catch. She just wants to do this. She just wants to help the community. What makes this so odd, mostly, is that no one else is doing this. She’s done the research and cannot find a realtor anywhere in the country who is giving away so much of their commission – and in their clients’ names. I mean, I think about moving once in a while, but this makes me want to go house hunting immediately. It’s kind of unbelievable.

Lots of people want to help the community, but how many can take 25% of their income and give it away, and not even in their own name?

But still you’re wondering… what’s the catch? Let me break this down for you:

…she’s independently wealthy? Laurie used to be wealthy-ish, but she got a divorce, gave up on the stuff aquisition, and started to feel good about her life. So now she’s trading wealth for health and happiness. Go figure.

….she’s taking a cut somewhere else? Nope. She’s met with accountants, lawyers, entrepreneurs, lots of people to make sure she’s doing this in a straight-up, totally kosher way.

…she’s doing this as a marketing gimmick? She’s not, actually. But think about it… even if she is… so what? She gives 25% of her commission to charity. Nice gimmick.

….she’s a little nuts? I know why you’re thinking this. You’re thinking this because you think realtors in general are greedy or lazy or a little bit of both, so she must be a kinda crazy. But a.) realtors can be cool people and b.) Laurie’s not crazy. She’s extremely sane, in fact. And she’s definitely not greedy or lazy. She worked her butt off for years to become one of the best realtors in Austin before starting Give Realty on her own.

The thing is, there is no catch. She’s just a super-nice lady, and in fact, she has two other super-nice people working with her, Robin LeTourneau and Joe Menefe. I hope you’ll hire them or refer them to someone you know who’s looking to buy or sell their home. Because it might be fun writing a big old check to the nonprofit of your choice.

Learn more about Give Realty here:

(Since August 2008, Give Realty Austin has already given away $7,400 to local nonprofits. And within the next month, Laurie thinks they’ll be at $10,000. What an incredible impact one realtor can have!)

March 5: Weird party for TAP

Weirdness has its charms, of course. Especially when we’re talking about fundraisers.

We’ve all been to those lame old fundraisers with their cold samosas and silent auctions and cash bars. They’re nice and all, but I always stand around wishing I could dim the lights, make the music louder, and funk the place up.

That’s why I’m going to try to get permission from my husband to go to the TAP party on March 3. I’m a fan of Theatre Action Project and what they do. I have kids and help with Sunday school once in a while, so I know how hard it is to engage children and encourage them to express themselves. TAP does a great job of that. They also throw a great – albeit, weird – party.

There’s a video you should watch to see what I’m talking about. OR…

Or you could go to the next party. It’s March 5 at Mercury Hall. For a fundraiser, tickets are cheap. And you’re not going to go to a … ahem, more interesting fundraiser than this one. (Trying to take it easy on the weird thing. Sorry.)

Big Kids Birthday Bash

An event celebrating Theatre Action Project sponsored by Jackson Walker

Thursday, March 5, 2009
Mercury Hall
615 Cardinal Lane

a fun-filled night featuring :
Musical Improv by Girls Girls Girls
tunes from the Infinite Partials
Chalk Mandala Drawing with
emcee Sara Hickman

and, don’t forget:
Cakewalks featuring Austin’s finest bakeries!
Fortune Tellers!
Zany Photobooths!
Ring Toss for Wine!
Balloon Artistry!
Hilarious Birthday Party Games!
Delicious Carnival Foods!
Cash Bar!
And, there is still more:
An unbelievable Silent and Live Auction with items valued from $30-$20,000, including vacations in Aspen, personal trainer packages, gorgeous artwork, gift certificates to local theatre, restaurants, tickets to local rock shows and oh, so much more!


$35 tickets–includes food and cash bar

$15 tickets starving artist–includes food and cash bar

$500 table–10 tickets, extra drink tickets, valet parking, goody bags and reserved seating.  (it’s a GREAT deal, get 9 friends and join us!)

For more details, visit
Theatre Action Project
or give us a ring!