How much should charity workers get paid?

Somewhere between “a living wage” and Dan Pallotta is the truth.

To ask a nonprofit professional – and in particular, those who actually have to work to earn a living – to make less money than their for-profit peers is to take advantage of their compassion and altruism.

People (not so much those who donate, because they tend to get it) who scold nonprofit professionals for whining about how little they make compared to their for-profit peers seem to believe that nonprofit professionals are content to suffer. Indeed, that they should have to suffer a little bit.

Consider these scenarios:

When your daughter is in the hospital with a long-term condition, and your family needs a place to stay nearby to be by her side, how much do you think the staff at the Ronald McDonald House – the staff person who’s helping your family get through this ordeal – should make compared to the concierge at Four Seasons?

When Hill Country Conservancy saves more than 5,000 acres of historic and environmentally sensitive land in Onion Creek from being developed into a shopping center, and works with environmentalists; federal, state and local agencies; developers; business leaders; and ranchers to secure that part of Central Texas for you and your grandchildren, how much do you think the Hill Country Conservancy lawyers should make compared to your average real estate attorney?

When we complain that too many of our children are obese, that they’re being fed too much junk food and playing too many video games, and we hear that the staff at the free People’s Community Clinic is teaching mothers about how to make their at-home meals more nutritious, how much should that staff person make compared to the franchise owner who’s opening yet another Church’s Fried Chicken on the East Side?

This is not about how much a nonprofit professional should get paid. It’s about what they’re worth.

Win a weekend getaway with Hyatt Regency Austin!

Photo from Chasing Austin blog(DEADLINE TO ENTER IS MONDAY, OCT 18, MIDNIGHT.)

Win a weekend getaway in Austin from Megan Schiebe, GivingCity Austin and the Hyatt Regency Austin!

Megan Schiebe is the host of a weekly online radio show for Travel Volunteer Search. This week, her show features an interview with GivingCity Austin. To hear the show, click here.

Listeners of the show are also invited to enter a contest for a weekend getaway for two to the Hyatt Regency Austin, a gorgeous hotel centrally located on Lady Bird Lake with an amazing view of downtown. Even if you live in Austin, think of this as the luxurious mini-staycation you really need! Can you tell we’re excited about this?!

To enter the contest, just “Like” GivingCity Austin on Facebook, then enter your name and email address on Megan’s website, Travel Volunteer Search. A winner will be notified by October 19.

Here’s how to enter:

  1. Go to Travel Volunteer Search.
  2. Become a fan of GivingCity on Facebook. If you’re already a fan, thanks! Please proceed to Step 3.
  3. Enter your name and email address on the entry page.

And don’t forget to listen to the radio interview to learn more about how GivingCity started  – and our next issue. Thanks Megan Schiebe and Hyatt Regency Austin.

This Weekend in Bushwhacking:

If you’re anything like me, seeing the new Robert Rodriguez film Machete (which was shot here in Austin!) rekindled your desire to reconnect with your favorite sharp object. If you’re not, well, you can still probably feel me on this one. National Public Lands Day is this weekend, and Austinites are getting together to clean up the Barton Creek greenbelt, which is in need of maintenance after Tropical Storm Hermine did some damage to the trail system. Volunteers will also be removing invasive species. It’s the perfect chance to get your machete on. Here’s the down-low:

Austin Parks And Recreation - Barton Creek greenbelt

Who: Hosted by the Austin Parks Foundation, City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Hill Country Conservancy, Central Texas Mountaineers, and Greenbelt Guardians.

What: Greenbelt cleanup, including trail maintenance, invasive species removal, and removal of debris left by Tropical Storm Hermine.

When: Saturday, September 25, 8:30AM

Where: Barton Creek Greenbelt trailhead in Zilker Park (map)

Volunteer sign-up and more information is available here.

Registration begins at 8:30AM, followed by a 9:00AM speech by Congressman Lloyd Doggett which will include an announcement about funding for Austin’s trail system. Breakfast and lunch will be provided for volunteers. Get out there and get to cutting!

Putting Homelessness in Reverse

With the exception of Leslie, everyone’s favorite cross-dressing perennial mayoral candidate with his own iPhone app, the homeless in Austin don’t have much of a net presence. With more and more of our interaction taking place on the interwebs, this digital divide excludes the homeless from public discourse – and our community as a whole – in a pretty big way.

Enter Tom Baum, founder of Homeless Coach and all-around awesomely-named dude. Tom’s starting Homeless Coach as a way to help the homeless get back on their feet by providing that much-needed sense of community. The goal is to provide the homeless with a network of good connections and, in his words, “a life transition plan that the individual and community own and continue executing.” They hope to start as early as next month.

In order to accomplish its goals, Homeless Coach will consist of an intensive six-month program. After getting sponsorship, homeless enrollees will live in the titular Homeless Coach – an RV retrofitted with a ton of high-tech gadgetry to keep its occupants connected to the outside world.  While living in the RV, enrollees will receive life coaching to plan their transition from homelessness. They’ll remain connected with sponsors through weekly meetings and videoconferences, and stream live webcasts to engage with the community as a whole.

Looking through Homeless Coach’s press, you can tell Tom is buzzing with ideas. Every facet of every part of the process is laid out in intricate detail and explained in a complex diagram. It’s a lot to take in at once, and a convincing argument to pitch in. The amount of collaborative effort required to get things going will be a proving ground for the sense of community Tom hopes to bring to the homeless.

You can help make it happen! You can donate money or sponsor a homeless enrollee. Homeless Coach’s FAQ has a wishlist for volunteers and donations. Volunteers are needed for design, construction, coaching, fundraising, and plenty of other tasks. Your business can become a sponsor by donating in-kind goods and services ranging from netbooks to lumber to web hosting to accounting. Chances are, Homeless Coach could use your help.

Lawyers? Working for free?

As a hopeful future attorney, I’ll admit I can’t get terribly outraged at the fees lawyers can sometimes charge for their work. But there are 5.3 million people in Texas that qualify for legal aid – people unable to afford the often high cost of legal services. Less than a quarter of that need is met,  leaving Texas ranked 39th in the nation in per capita legal aid.  As a result, the Texas Bar Association encourages attorneys to donate 50 hours of pro-bono legal services each year. Pro-bono attorneys in Texas do good work, serving as advocates for immigrants, veterans, the impoverished, and other underserved populations.

National Pro-Bono Week is coming next month, and to help spread awareness of pro-bono opportunities the Austin Young Lawyers Association and the Association of Corporate Counsel are co-hosting a pro bono fair to connect Austin-area attorneys with local non-profit organizations. The fair will be held at the Austin Bar Association Offices (816 Congress Ave., Suite 700) at 5:30 PM on Thursday, September 23.

Here’s what Kennon Peterson from AYLA and Geoffrey Brow from ACC had to say about the event:

Is this AYLA’s first pro bono fair?

AYLA has organized community service fairs in the past.  But this is the first time AYLA has organized a fair focused solely on pro-bono legal services.  We decided to focus on pro-bono legal services because there is a great need for these services and, during these tough economic times, a greater supply of lawyers who have the time to work free of charge.

What compelled AYLA to organize the event?  Are members looking for volunteer experiences?

Many AYLA and ACC members are interested in providing pro-bono legal services but are not fully aware of the opportunities that are out there or how to get involved.  We hope that all lawyers who attend the fair will be able to find pro-bono opportunities that match their passion and interests.

What kinds of legal help do nonprofits need? What are the volunteer opportunities?

In the process of organizing this fair, we learned that local nonprofit organizations need a great variety of legal services.  Some organizations need assistance with legal agreements such as leases, employment agreements, and loan agreements.  Other organizations need assistance with legal advocacy in courts and administrative proceedings.  Some of these opportunities are one-time, relatively short engagements, other opportunities can be in duration of a year or more.

Who are the nonprofits attending?

As of now, the following nonprofit organizations are participating in the pro-bono fair:

Association of Corporate Counsel
Advocacy/Alliance for Health Representation
American Gateway
Caritas of Austin
Judge Jenkins Debate
Texas Accountants and Lawyers For the Arts
Texas Access for Justice
Texas C-BAR
Texas Fair Defense Project
Texas Lawyers Care
Texas Young Lawyers Association
Volunteer Legal Service

We are still seeking an organization that focuses on environmental issues.  In addition, we hope that organizations that are not participating this year will let us know if they want to participate in a future, pro-bono fair.

Should people be surprised that lawyers are looking to volunteer their services?

We hope not!  Many Austin lawyers volunteer their services on a regular basis.  The preamble to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct encourages all Texas lawyers to volunteer their services, providing, among other things: “A lawyer should be mindful of deficiencies in the administration of justice and of the fact that the poor, and sometimes persons who are not poor, cannot afford adequate legal assistance, and should therefore devote professional time and civic influence on their behalf.”

Walk, run, pledge, volunteer: Austin 5K fundraisers

It’s 5k season, and that means runners, walkers, strollers, dogs, people in costumes, dogs in costumes, people in ambulances, people cheering from sidewalks, and volunteers take over the streets. I’ve done dozens of 5ks, so allow me to share …

Found under "slow" in the dictionary.

“Monica’s Tips for a Fun 5K”:

1. Wake up at least 10 minutes before the run starts.

2. Park right next to the starting line. Everyone thinks they’d never get parking that close, so nobody tries. Plenty of spaces.

3. Line up ahead of the strollers to avoid being clipped by lazy babies.

4. Wait for the starting horn, then walk calmly to the starting line. What’s the rush?

5. Start running when you finally have room, about 10 minutes after the horn. Take every water break.

6. Find a nemesis — I usually choose a woman fitter looking than I am who I want to eat my dust — and pursue that person until you realize you’re finished with the race.

7. After the race, head straight for the car. Stop by “Tacos & Donuts” on HWY 290 on the way home.

Now go!

Water 2 Thrive 5K
Saturday, September 18
Start Time: 8:30 AM, 9:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Hill Country Galleria, Bee Cave, Tex.
Distance: 5k timed run, 5k walk, 1k kids fun run
$28 adults, $12 kids registration fee. “Our current efforts are supporting rural and impoverished communities in Ethiopia and Sierra Leone.”

Colin’s Hope Kids Triathlon
Sunday, September 19
Onsite Registration:
7:00 AM
Start Time: 9:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Lake Pointe Swim Center
Distance: 5k timed run, 5k walk, 1k kids fun run
$30- $35 kids registration fee. There will be multiple age groups from 5 to 15 years old. No team competition. This race is designed to build confidence by allowing each young athlete to complete all three disciplines on their own. We will have participation awards, T-shirts, goody bags, and age-group awards.

CASA Superhero Run
Sunday, September 19
Onsite Registration:
7:00 AM
Start Time: 8:00 AM, 8:45 AM
Register Online
Location: The Domain
Distance: 5K timed run, 5k walk, 1k kids fun run
$25- $30 adults, $15- $20 kids registration fee. Create a personal fundraising page. Superhero costume contest. Photobooth, craft tables, moonwalk. “Because every child needs a hero, but abused children need superheroes.”

Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s PurpleStride
Saturday, September 25
Onsite Registration:
7:00 AM
Start Time: 8:00 AM, 8:15 AM
Register Online
Location: Hill Country Galleria, Bee Cave, Tex.
Distance: 5k timed run, 5k walk, 1k fun run
$30 registration fee. Create a personal fundraising page.

NAMI Austin Walk
Saturday, October 2
Onsite Registration
: 8:00 AM
Start Time: 9:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Walk begins and ends at Auditorium Shores Parking Lot at the corner of W. Riverside Drive and S. 1st Street
Distance: 5k
No registration fee. All walkers must register to participate. Walk will take place rain or shine.

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Light the Night Walk
Saturday, October 16
Onsite Registration:
5:00 AM
Start Time: 7:30 AM
Register Online
Location: Lake Park at Mueller
Distance: 5k
No registration fee. Individuals may register alone or as part of a new or existing team. Participants pledge to raise money for LLS.

Saturday, October 23
Start Time:
8:00 AM
Register Online
Location: South 1st St. Bridge over Lady Bird Lake
Distance: 5k
$35 registration fee. Individuals may register alone or as part of a new or existing team. Participants pledge to raise money for LIVESTRONG.

Dell Children’s 5K and Family Fun Fair
Saturday, October 30
Start Time:
8:00 AM
Register Online
Location: Dell Children’s Medical Center, Mueller
Distance: 5k and 1k
$30 adults, $10 kids registration fee. All money raised for this event, through generous sponsors and participants, will go to help the areas of greatest need at Dell Children’s and to establish the Carl Teel Music Endowment here at the medical center.

Walk to Cure Diabetes
Sunday, October 31
Onsite Registration:
10:00 AM
Start Time: 11:30 AM
Register Online
Location: Walk begins and ends at Auditorium Shores Parking Lot at the corner of W. Riverside Drive and S. 1st Street
Distance: 2 miles
No registration fee. Individuals may register alone or as part of a new or existing team. Participants pledge to raise money for Junior Diabetes Research Foundation.

Give… but don’t give… to help panhandlers. I think…

PERSONAL NOTE: I keep a few dollars in my cupholder to hand out to panhandlers at a red light. I “tip” panhandlers on the street better than I tip the waitstaff when I go out at night. And when I don’t hand out money, I try to smile and say hello. So all this below is my confused — and confusing – attempt to try to understand this “Know Before You Give” campaign. Geez, people!

Today there was a news story about the “Know Before You Give” campaign, which encourages people to give to social service agencies. Great idea! Please do give to social service agencies.

Need a beer sign

You ever hold a sign like this?

And if you feel like giving a few bucks to a panhandler on your way to drink beers with your friends, go ahead. Throw a few at the valet and the bartender, while you’re at it. Why not? Those guys could use a beer, too!

Wait. What I meant to say was, don’t give money to the panhandler, who probably has to sleep under I-35 (and who will probably just spend the money on beer).

The best way to help him is to give to a charity like Front Steps. Front Steps is a nonprofit that operates ARCH, the homeless shelter. The City of Austin provides the building and a grant to Front Steps to operate the shelter.

So if the city’s giving to Front Steps and you’re giving to Front Steps, these poor bar and club owners won’t have to worry about people outside their doors asking for money — and they can get more of your money inside!

Uh, and what I meant by that was that we should support local businesses and work together to keep downtown safe AND help the homeless. (Except that… well, studies have shown that most panhandlers aren’t homeless, and most homeless people don’t panhandle.* Hmmm.)

Anyway! That’s why we’re asking you, Austin partiers and beer drinkers, to take more responsibility. Know Before You Give partners created this campaign, now it’s your turn: Stop feeding the cats! They’ll just keep coming back! If we stop feeding them, maybe they’ll just go away!

Let’s educate ourselves on the importance of not giving to panhandlers. (At the same time, just in case, feel free to brush up on your own panhandling skills.)

* “Contrary to common belief, panhandlers and homeless people are not necessarily one and the same. Many studies have found that only a small percentage of homeless people panhandle, and only a small percentage of panhandlers are homeless.”  (U.S. Dept of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services)