NEW! GivingCity Austin Issue 3

 GivingCity Austin Issue 3 cover

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Inside this issue:

The New Philanthropists
We photograph the young, active, and engaged people making a difference in Austin now.

Are There Too Many Nonprofits in Austin?
“Yes, no… maybe. That depends.”  We let the experts have their say.

Unscripted Collaboration
The We Are One video proves nonprofits can – and do – work together.

Tom Spencer on Austin’s philanthropic culture.
An all-girls football game for charity.
What you don’t know about Goodwill.
The “social entrepreneur” poster child.
What’s so cool about Leadership Austin?
Teaching philanthropy in schools.
New Austin-born films about giving.
Mando Rayo’s argument for social media.
Katie Ford’s encounter with the convicted.
DJ Stout’s SIGNS for change.
…and photos from the fundraising event, Austin Under 40.

SEND THIS ISSUE to a friend.

Red McCombs: “I want the joy of giving while I’m living”

I grew up in the shadow of that big American Indian chief statue on NW Loop 410 in San Antonio, the one that sits on the Red McCombs car dealership, so I’ve known the name Red McCombs all my life. For a while, I thought he was an Indian chief.

I was able to meet him this past weekend (he is not, BTW, and Indian chief) and the emotional and inspiring YMBL Sunshine Camps grand opening celebration. McCombs donated about $1 million toward that project, which opens next week to about 70 at-risk Austin kids with high leadership potential.

(There’s a concert tonight to benefit the camp tonight at Umlauf Sculpture Gardens. Tickets $10 for teens, and $25-$75 for adults. Kids under 12 are FREE. It’s from 6 -9 pm. Great place to take kids, see sculpture, have some wine/beer/appetizers… consider.)

ANYWAY, doing what it is that I do, I interviewed him. He’s got such a great voice and presence (he was one of the best car salesman in the country, remember?) that video was the best medium.

And he did not disappoint:

Guess who gives the most during a downturn?

BTW: Along the lines of this article, consider giving $5 to a charity this month. Every bit helps, or as the badass Pamela Benson-Owens puts it: “Even a donation that jingles is a donation.”

I spent yesterday afternoon with seven volunteer leaders from the Capital Area State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC), learning about how the campaign works and some of their challenges. These are remarkable people who’ve taken on the job – in addition to their full-time job – of inspiring and encouraging their co-workers – tens of thousands of them – to take advantage of the payroll deduction opportunity for charitable donations.

What’s so amazing about their energy is that they wholeheartedly believe, as do we at GivingCity, that all people want to give, and that they just need to be asked or given an easy opportunity to give. The positive vibes in that room made me want to sign up for paycheck deductions, too. And I don’t even work for the state. Or have a paycheck! (My temporary unemployment, though, is a whole ‘nother story.)

One thing they said toward the end, though, has stuck with me. In this sour economy, it’s inevitable that some donors would make smaller or less frequent donations. But there’s a inspiring phenomenon that happens as well.

At a time when everyone is rethinking their spending, more people of less income tend to donate a higher percentage of their income more often.

“People criticize us because we invite state employees who don’t make that much money to participate,” said Tammy Vega, chair of the Capital Area committee.

“Some people assume that they wouldn’t want to give,” said Holly Chacona of Hospice Austin, an active supporter of SECC. “But why would we assume they don’t want to give?

“It’s not about tell people they should, it’s about givine people the opportunity,” says Chacona. “What we’ve seen at Hospice Austin in the past is that donations from individuals from low incomes homes actually increase. They also tend to give a higher percentage of their income that high-income donors do.

“And I don’t know if it’s because maybe they finally feel secure and now they want to help the people below them feel secure. Or that they’ve been recipients of services in the past, and realize that more people are getting those services and so they should help… we just don’t know.”

Vega, who works at Texas Youth Commission, concurs. “We repeatedly see the correctional officers, who don’t make a lot of money in the first place, give the highest percentage of their wages and give on a more consistent basis than a lot of other TYC employees.”

The other part of this, they say, is that a lot of these people wind up giving more later, when the economy improves.

“People don’t mind being asked when you present it as an opportunity,” says Chacona. “This just gives them a chance to shine.”

How to tell your friends to Give5

The United Way Capital Area is a great opportunity to get first-time donors keen on the idea of philanthropy. It’s happening now and through Memorial Day weekend… but they’ll probably take your $5 any time of the year.

So YOU give money, and you want to encourage your friends, co-workers, and family to give some money… but what do you say? The following are some suggestions for conversation starters.

“Sorry I’m late for the meeting. I was donating $5 to the Austin United Way online and the stupid computer froze up. Did that happen for you guys, too?”

“Saw this homeless woman on my way in to work. I was thinking, you know, if each of us put in $5, we could probably feed that woman for a week. We should just do that, you know? There’s this Web site…”

“You know the sales this weekend will be awesome. And there are lots of stores that are donating 5 or 10 percent of sales to the Austin United Way… like I need an excuse to shop!”

“Did you know [INSERT NAME] just got laid off?  Sucks. All these people not working… and you know if every person here put in $5, we could probably pay their bills for a month? There’s this Web site…”

“Dude, it’s $5. Don’t be so cheap. Just go online and use the AutoFill. And hurry up, we’re late.”

Here’s where to send them:

Update from GC HQ

Wanted to update you on some of what we’re working on…

1. GC3: This issue is our biggest to date, and the most hands-on effort so far. There are probably three times as many photographs and five times as many people included in this issue, and we have to check every single caption, name, word, punctuation, link, etc. Please keep an eye out for it via Facebook, Twitter, and email. We’ll let you know! Also, check out some preview pages below.

2. GC4: We are heavy in execution mode for the next issue with lots of content being made as we speak. We’re looking at a cover story on mentoring – why it’s so effective, why Austin needs it, and how you can support it or get involved. We also have stories planned about the State Employee Charitable Campaign, the Lance Armstrong Foundation, the impact of the Serve Act on Central Texas, church plants, and a few other leads we’re hunting down. Look for a wonderful essay by Sarah Hickman, too.

3. We support and help Hands on Central Texas as much as we can by doing pro bono collateral and content as well as getting the word out about their volunteer opportunities. Right now there’s some fun stuff in the hopper, like a volunteer fair for Hispanics on June 18, some report that we’re making “look pretty,” and a number of volunteer project leadership training sessions over the next few months.

4. We’re looking for advertisers/sponsors for the upcoming issues. I meet so many people who appreciate what we’re trying to do, but the fact is we can’t do it ourselves. And we certainly can’t fund it ourselves. Our business model includes two bottom lines: profit and social impact. It also includes two forms of revenue: advertising and sponsors.

Local businesses, restaurants, consultants, and other professional service providers can really benefit from placing an ad in GC. First, because GC is read by people who really care about the community, these tend to also be people who invest in the community, and that means spending their money locally. Second, because GC is digital, pass-along is X5. And your ad it totally clickable – we link your ad to your Web site. So you can easily track the value of your ad purchase just by checking incoming links. For more information, check out our media kit.

I’ll be seeking advertisers and sponsors for the next few issues as we expand our readership. We’re about to enjoy some really exciting growth over the next few issues, and we’re super excited to help Austin nonprofits get their messages out.

5. As always, please continue to send me your news and story ideas. I can’t cover them all, unfortunately… but we’re working on it.

Thanks again for your support.





THURS MAY 14: AmeriCorps Idol – That’s right, folks, it’s a singalong

Did you know it was AmeriCorps week? These are the fabulous young people who do the important work at nonprofits all over the country. Well, tomorrow night, they’re singing… and you’re invited!

See this:  

Known as the “domestic Peace Corps,” AmeriCorps is part of a growing national initiative to eliminate poverty and address critical, unmet needs right here in the United States — including Austin!

Join AmeriCorps alumni, members, and supporters for an evening of theatre-wide singing and laughter to “Bold Songs that Inspire Change: a Sing-Along with a Mission.”

Tickets available at

6:45-9pm (doors @ 6:15) @ Alamo Drafthouse South, 1120 S. Lamar Blvd.

Q. Okay, a sing-along? I have never heard of this. Is it a fundraiser, a member event? Who should come to this event?

EMILY STEINBERG: Anyone can come to a Sing-a-Long! It’s in the spirit of the Alamo’s famous Sing-a-long series, where each event has a theme (“Ladies of the 80s”, “Princesses of Rock,” etc.). People eat, drink, watch music videos, and sing a long with their friends. It’s a lot of fun! Everyone and anyone is welcome. It’s $20 but costs go directly to paying for the theater reservations.

Q. So these songs… lyrics are projected on screen, but is there a film that goes with it?

EMILY: Usually, it’s music videos and lyrics (I think), but Rosa can better answer this…

ROSA MORENO-MAHONEY: Sing-alongs are an Alamo Signature event; we worked with them to create a customized sing-along to celebrate the week Austin style.

Q. Sorry, I’m trying to picture this… so there will be people sitting in an Alamo Drafthouse theater, eating dinner, drinking some beer, singing…?

EMILY: Exactly!

4. Congrats on AmeriCorps week. Do you have a link to information about more events?

EMILY: Yes — our flyer and a link to sign up for scheduled events with details is posted at
Celebrate an AmeriCorps volunteer this week, people. Buy them a drink at the Alamo tomorrow night and sing your brains out.

Thank goodness for Recognize Good, new Web site that lets you thank someone

See? I was just talking about this exact thing the other day: A public recognition site for volunteers. Except the RecognizeGood people have made a site with the potential for much more than that.

I’ve tried the site. First you register – name, city, etc – then you just fill out the thank you. You include the person’s email address so they can be informed about the thank you, and it’s otherwise totally obvious what to do.

You have the option to make a donation on the site, and that goes to the site’s hometown beneficiary, in this case Samaritan Counseling Center of Austin. But what’s cool about your donation is matched by the site’s corporate sponsor – and that part of the donation can go to one of 10 partner nonprofits. And the thank-you beneficiary gets to choose which one.

I spoke to Nancy Blaich of the Samaritan Counseling Center of Austin , founding beneficiary and lead nonprofit for the site, for a little more information.

Why this site now?
“I don’t think we say thank you enough. There are thousands of act of unselfishness that go unacknowledged, and we wanted to create a public forum for these thank-yous. We think that the stories of kindness and charity – all of our stories put together in one place have got tremendous power, the power to create a movement toward more kindness in the world, a cultural shift.”

How it started.
“In 2007, we gave our Ethics in Business Award to Tyrex Group. John Bosch, the principal an d co founder of Tyrex, at the same time he received this award from us, had some things occur in his personal life for which he received extraordinary acts of kindness. And he didn’t feel like thank you was enough. He wanted someplace public to tell the world what people had done for him. That inspiration combined with Samaritan Center honoring him inspired him to come to us as a business partner to develop this social media site.”

What you can do to help.
“Use the site, first of all. But also, help us spread the word! Take advantage of the Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Delicious, and other social media tools on the site to share it with friends.

“Our goal is to have 15,000 thank-yous. We also hope to take the site worldwide. Austin is just the first host city; our goal is to invite 500 other host cities, each with their own host nonprofit and then each of those sites will have their own nonprofit partners. We have 10 nonprofit partners… so if we can get thousands more nonprofits involved in this worldwide, that would be exciting.”
“We’re also looking for community reporters. These are people who will commit to finding five acts of kindness a week and reporting about them to us for the site and a future newsletter.” (If you’re interested in helping, contact Nancy at the Samaritan center.)

Check out RecognizeGood and let us know what you think.