An AHA moment: Austin’s heart health success

We are living in The Future, people. The phenomena that we used to call unexplainable or incomprehensible are now being explained, thanks to Science! One notable example is dementia. 50 years ago, losing one’s mind was considered a normal part of the aging process. We know now that’s not the case, and we’re starting to understand why. According to a recent study conducted at UT, there may be a link between middle-age obesity and memory problems down the road. Researchers hope that this information might help prevent the onset of dementia.

Pretty cool, right? What’s really exciting about this story is that a huge part of the credit for the research goes to Central Texans like you. The study was funded by the American Heart Association.  AHA supports some $23 million in research throughout the UT system, and a significant part of that funding comes from fundraising events here in Austin.

One such fundraising event is AHA’s annual Austin Start! Heart Walk, which took place earlier this month. The walk was a huge success, surpassing its $440,000 goal and beating last year’s total by over 75%. Almost 3,000 people came out to support AHA, and what they were able to accomplish is astonishing. Heart disease is an issue that really hits home in Austin, with more than 1 in 4 deaths in the Austin area caused by cardiovascular disease. That makes for a lot of people for which AHA’s mission is personal.

Austin Start! Heart Walk

Almost 3,000 Austinites came out for the Austin Start! Heart Walk

Take, for example, Paul Lally. Paul’s a survivor of heart disease: he underwent quadruple bypass surgery in 2008. Two years later, he’s still fighting heart disease – this time by raising money for AHA. Paul was the walk’s top individual fundraiser, gathering over $15,000 in donations. On top of that, he persuaded his employer to give a $10,000 matching donation.

Ed Baca and Paul Lally

Paul Lally, right, raised over $15,000 for the AHA Heart Walk

Inspired yet? You may have missed the Heart Walk, but there are plenty of opportunities to support the Austin chapter of AHA. Check them out here.

GivingCity Austin Issue #5 – Available Now!

Click the cover image below to launch the magazine.

GivingCity Austin #5


Please let us know what you think.

Free glasses for kids at Texas Book Festival

Free Glasses for Kids at Texas Book Festival

Free eye exams and glasses for kids 5 – 12 years old
Prescription lenses and designer frames offered at no cost to families

Texas Book Festival
Saturday, October 16 from 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Sunday, October 17 from 11:00 am-5:00 pm

Texas Book Festival, Children’s Tents, west of capitol,
corner of 13th Street and Colorado

Who is eligible?
Children ages 5-12
Qualify for free or reduced lunch (no proof of income or birth certificate necessary)
Targeting children without vision insurance, CHIP or Medicaid

Parents must sign consent for before exam
Proof of residency or income not required
Exams and prescription glasses and frames will be provided at no cost to families
Dozens of volunteers will be on hand
Se habla espanol

NEED A FLYER? Download the English version or the Spanish version


The Essilor Vision Foundation and the Austin Kids Vision Coalition will offer qualifying  young children free eye exams and glasses at the annual Texas Book Festival, October 16 -17, in Austin, Texas.

A screening team and eye doctors will be on-hand to offer free vision screenings and eye exams from a tent and a large van set up in the children’s area of the festival. Technicians will be able to offer new, prescription glasses to the children who need them but can’t afford the exam or glasses.  Most glasses can be made on-site the same day.  The free 2-day pilot to offer glasses for needy kids is a pilot project called Kids Vision for Life, a collaboration lead by Essilor Vision Foundation, the nonprofit arm of Essilor, the world’s largest manufacturer of ophthalmic lenses.

According to Essilor Vision Foundation’s research, 25% of school children living in the U.S. have a vision problem significant enough to affect learning.  Studies also show that 70% of juvenile delinquents have uncorrected vision problems.

“To think that our children are failing because of the very fixable issue of not seeing well is a problem we can solve, together,” says Ken Gladish, president and CEO of Austin Community Foundation. “I’m proud that so many great Austin organizations are participating in this pilot project and identifying ways to ensure that all the children in Austin who need glasses get them.”

The teams of volunteers, doctors and Essilor Vision Foundation staff will have spent four days working with hundreds of kids at three Austin ISD elementary schools earlier in the week.

Communicating your work

Association of Small Foundations 2010 ConferenceThe Association of Small Foundations invited me to be a part of a panel today about “communicating your work.” This was at their annual conference, which was held here in Austin.

First — and there is no false modesty when I say this, so — first, I have to ask: Really? Uh, okay.

Second, I have to ask: Is this “communications” thing something the attendees are even interested in? Because a lot of times when I talk to people about communications in small organizations, they don’t want to know, and for good reasons:

1. Chances are there is no one on staff dedicated to communications at their foundation, so they’re the ones who have to get the work done… and they have plenty to do already, thank you Miss Panelist.

2. They feel obligated to avoid any kind of PR or marketing because they don’t want it to be about them. “Who, little old me? Why, no one cares about foundations! We want the focus to be on our grantees!” Come on.

3. Thirdly, they actually want to hide. They are overwhelmed with grant applications and have, in some cases, removed all contact information from their website so no one can write to them anymore.

So today I faced an audience of about 70 foundation founders, directors, managers and other professional roles, and to kick things off, we asked them about their current communications. Here was their breakdown (from eyeballing a show of hands):

– 0 had a staff member dedicated to communications/marketing
60 had websites
2 had blogs
12 had Facebook pages
2 had Twitter accounts
30 did annual reports

I had to ask, “How many of you have any desire to communicate what you do at all? Seriously, why are you in this room?”

Okay, I didn’t really ask that. But I don’t think it was an irrelevant question.

Instead I felt compelled to give them a pep talk. Here’s kind of what I said today:

Foundations and grantmakers have a responsibility to be an advocate for philanthropy. Do not be the anonymous donor. People need to see that a person or organization is taking responsibility for an issue so that they can envision a role for themselves. Otherwise, they’ll always believe that “someone else” is taking care of it.

Foundations and grantmakers have a responsibility to be an advocate for their field of interest. You know the field better than anyone else. You know the change that has to happen and the programs and nonprofits that are making that change. If you hide that information from the public, you are doing only half the job that you should be doing.

Foundations and grantmakers have a responsibility to be an advocate for policy change. No one wants to speak up for change lest someone call them out on it. If your foundation is helping to make that change, you have a right to speak up. In fact, you have an obligation to the community to speak up. You can be the voice for that need because you are one of the few organizations actually doing something about it.

Foundations, you are doing fantastic work. The city thanks you. But don’t leave “change” on the table. Tell people about what you do, let them know things can get done and invite them to join you. People want a reason to give big. Give it to them!