On why we do this

Before GivingCity came to the Austin Community Foundation, we produced a lot of content for a lot of other people. One of our favorite things to work on was and is 12 Baskets Magazine for Mobile Loaves & Fishes. We still do 12 Baskets now.

Here’s how we got that gig: I was standing in the lobby of Alamo Drafthouse, waiting to watch the first showing of Andrew Shapter’s film, “Happiness Is.” Alan Graham was also there to see the film, and we were chatting a bit about what it is I do, exactly. I gave him the overview (“You know, I just like working on magazines.”), and then he asked me if I could make him a digital magazine that was provocative and awesome.

Who’s going to turn that down?

So we made a 12 Baskets magazine. And then another. And they’ve had more than 11,000 views so far, which is not bad for what is basically a spiffed up-nonprofit newsletter. These two issues have included amazing stories, but they’ve spurred some amazing stories, too. Here’s one:

Two weeks ago we received an email from a woman asking us if we could tell her anything about Joseph Coleman.

We’d photographed him for a recurring story, “Everything I Own,” (above) in which we ask a homeless person to display the contents of his or her bag. Other magazines use this concept to offer insight into a person’s interests and personality. We use it to offer insight in to a homeless person’s hope and/or desperation.

Turns out the woman who emailed us is Coleman’s niece. And she’s been looking for him.

There wasn’t much I could tell her except that we found him around Woolridge Park. Coleman’s story was particularly sad: He owned two blankets wrapped in a scarf and a prayer card. That’s all.

She told us she’d go look for him, see if she could help him. Her family had taken care of him in the past, but hadn’t seem him in about 10 years. Coleman has addiction problems that keep him from staying in one place for too long. She sent me this photos of Coleman as a boy. I hope she finds him.


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What Austin philanthropists can do right now about the state budget cuts to nonprofits

Last night, Jason Sabo terrified a small group of philanthropists by describing the devastating effects of the budget cuts being considered by the current Legislature. Many of the cuts would put the neediest Texans in real life-or-death situations.

Sabo has been the United Ways of Texas man at the Capitol for more than 10 years, and represents the interests of nonprofits across the state. His message: Nonprofits need to decide and then focus on what’s most important to save, because we can’t save everything.

His talk was an updated version of the cover story of the current issue of GivingCity. Please read this story and share it with others. Thank you.

Here’s a link to download a PDF printable version of the story.

OR

Here’s a link to start reading the story right away in the magazine.

The more we know as a community, the smarter our decision-making will be. As Debbie Bresette, president of Austin’s United Way said last night, “Most people don’t want to come and hear this news.” But if you care about Austin, you must.

Have your day at the Capitol

Today is CASA Day at the Capitol, and here’s why this is important.

Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) is taking a strong stand to stop budget cuts proposed for Child Protective Services, the agency charged with protecting children and caring for those in the Texas child welfare system and advocating for full funding for CASA.

Hundreds of CASA volunteers from across the state of Texas will gather at the Capitol to dedicate a memorial in honor of the 227 children who die from abuse and neglect each year in Texas. For more than 30 years, CASA has been speaking up for abused and neglected children in the Texas foster care system, often helping children who are in life-or-death situations. CASA programs recruit and train committed volunteers to help guide children through the foster care system and into safe and permanent home.

Tim for CASA storyIn our current issue, we have a story about Linda, a CASA volunteer who was assigned to Tim when he was just three years old. Linda has stayed by Tim (in photo, left) his whole life, protecting him from getting lost in the system and helping him become the productive and capable human being he is today.

We also have a story advising Austin nonprofits to step up to the Legislature and speak up for the children and people they represent.

There will be many more of these “Days at the Capitol” during this session. You don’t have to attend them to support the cause.

Send a letter or email today to your representative and let them know why they should work harder to keep these vital services intact. Just go to Texas Tribune to find your representative. Speak up for Austin this session.

Easy way to help an Austin kid go to college

College tuition varies—from $7,000 per year at a public, four-year college to $27,000 per year at a private four-year college—but no matter what type of college you choose, that amount adds up quickly. For many Austin students, it’s completely unaffordable.

Imagine working hard enough to be accepted for college only to realize you can’t actually afford college. This doesn’t have to happen. You can help!

Volunteers are needed to help families complete financial aid applications at Financial Aid Saturdays, here in Austin.

Volunteers at Financial Aid Saturday events provide personal assistance with filling out the FAFSA. Students and families can also bring other financial aid applications they need help with, including the Texas Application for State Financial Aid (TASFA) and scholarship applications. It is our mission to help students secure the financial aid they need to go to college.

Events take place Saturdays (Feb 5, 12, 19, 26, March 5, 26) from 8:30 am – 12:30 p.m. at schools across Austin. They could sure use your help.

Just think: You could be the final push an Austin kid needs toward his college degree. Wow.

LEARN MORE HERE

SAT DEC 11: Because toys make children happy, people

Look at these photos. Just look.

Did I tell you about the time I got the Barbie Dream House? It was amazing. I adore(d) Barbies, and getting that Dream House is one of my favorite memories — never mind that my grandmother actually pulled it out of a trash can to give to me.

I don’t mean to get sappy on you, because for me that’s still a happy memory. There’s no other way I would have ever had the Barbie Dream House; it just wasn’t in the budget for my family, you know? The point is, toys make a difference to kids. And YOU can help make that difference to kids this Saturday.

This Saturday is the 13th Annual River City Youth Foundation “Merry Memories” holiday event in Dove Springs, a community just southeast of Austin. More than 95% of the children living in Dove Springs receive federally subsidized lunch. (So in other words, ALL of them.) If they can’t afford lunch, what kind of Christmas do you think they’re going to have?

Here’s how you can help:

DONATE TOYS

VOLUNTEER TO SORT TOYS

Merry Memories

13th Annual Toy Give-Away

WHERE

Dove Springs Recreation Center
5801 Ainez Dr, Austin, TX 78744

WHEN

Sorting of toys starting at 9 a.m. Event runs from 12-3 PM

Individuals and groups welcome!

To donate or volunteer contact
Oné Musel-Gilley (pronounced onay)
(512) 576-0219
PR@rivercityyouth.org
or Mona Gonzalez at (512) 633-9708

We’re on The Huffington Post!

A story about Rain appeared in the latest issue of 12 Baskets magazine. Photo by Austin photographer Jessica Attie

So grateful to Andrew Shapter for making us the subject of his latest blog post for The Huffington Post. See it here: “Need Inspiration to Give? Read Stories, Not Statistics.”

In that post, he writes about how stories rather than statistics inspire people to give. And he uses the two magazines I produce – GivingCity Austin and 12 Baskets for Mobile Loaves & Fishes – as an example of that.

Our goal has always been to highlight and help grow a culture of philanthropy in Austin. With 12 Baskets, we get to share the stories of area homeless people and the good folks who are trying to help them. With GivingCity we call out the good works people are doing in Austin and offer ways for you to get involved, too.

Please share these magazines via email, social media, word of mouth with whomever you think might need a little inspiration to give right now.

Thank you for your continued support!

Get shopping, save Christmas. An Austin family needs you.

Foundation Communities family

The Tolfree family, helped by Foundation Communities.

PROBLEM:

More than 2,000 Austin families will consider “canceling Christmas” this year because they can’t afford the toys, gifts or even food to celebrate.

SOLUTION:

You or your company can adopt a family and save Christmas.

It’s simple. Just visit Foundation Communities to download a family sponsorship form, fill it in to let them know what size family you’d like to sponsor, etc.

Send in your family sponsorship form by Thursday, December 9.

This is your chance to be a hero, folks. Your donation goes straight to the families with the most need, and you can spend as much or as little as you want. Foundation Communities offers lots of gift ideas for each person in the family, so this is a easy, fun way to share the joy of the season.

And if you’ve ever seen a child on Christmas morning opening a present and seeing exactly the toy they asked Santa for…  Seriously, it will make your whole year.

What I love about Foundation Communities is that they have an amazing way of helping not just families with the most need but Austin overall because they’re repurposing empty hotels and apartments and condos into affordable housing that helps get families off the streets. They also give them a leg-up offering classes, training, community daycare and other services that give families a solid base for success.

So I don’t feel bad about pulling out my marketing copywriting hat to sell this opportunity to you.

Get the form & sponsor a family here.

Send in the sponsorship form by December 9.

Get your co-workers, employees, and family involved.

Save Christmas!

(Want to donate single items? See here for drop-off locations and drop them off before December 18!)


PS: For more opportunities to give this holiday, see our “75 Ways to Give” in GivingCity Austin Issue #5. Because once you start giving, you’re not going to be able to stop.