Introducing 12 Baskets for Mobile Loaves & Fishes

12 Baskets Homeless Austin Danny Maggie IAMHERE T3Last fall I was chatting with Alan Graham at some event when he asked me, “So did I see something in one of your Tweets about custom publishing?”

And that’s how 12 Baskets started. Six months later, we’re about to launch the first magazine issue, timed to coordinate with the launch of a huge campaign to raise awareness about homelessness and put Danny & Maggie, a homeless couple from Austin, in a permanent home.

I wanted to thank all the people who contributed, but especially recognize Robin Finlay, who donated her time and talent as an art director to make the magazine…. well, it just works. That’s what great art directors do, and Robin — sitting across from me now, btw — is definitely one of the best art directors in Texas.

Please open it here. More importantly, get to know the people in this magazine and, if you’re so inclined, help them by donating or volunteering. You can even text “Danny” to 20222 to donate $10 to get Danny and his wife, Maggie, off the streets and into a permanent home.

Thank you, and let me know what you think.

P.S. Thanks, Alan, for the opportunity. We learned a lot and had a great time.

Why Austin needs Goodwill now

Thanks to your donations, Goodwill continues to change lives in Central Texas.

As Goodwill prepares for its Hall of Honor awards tonight, I thought it would be fitting to run the story we did about them in GivingCity Issue #3 (opens PDF).

Tonight they’ll honor clients who have overcome several obstacles to change their – and their families’ – lives for the better.

Congratulations to the Hall of Honor recipients!


For the past 14 years, Central Texas Goodwill has put people to work … but it’s not just the people who work in the stores.

“It’s important for people to understand what we contribute to the community,” says Gerald Davis, president of the Central Texas Goodwill, “and what we do is make people self-sufficient.”

Take Latisha Fisher, a young mother who didn’t have a driver’s license, worked nights, and had a second child on the way. And Willie Johnson who, after 20 years of working in the tech industry, found himself homeless, struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues. And James Fowler who lost his job and then had trouble finding another employer who could accept his disabilities.

Thanks to Goodwill, Fisher is now a heath specialist at a shortterm psychiatric facility, Johnson a custodian, and Fowler a busser at Luby’s.

Depending on each person’s situation, Goodwill’s case workers collaborate with area nonprofits, agencies, and employers to put their clients on the right paths.

First, case workers help them resolve some of their survival challenges like food, shelter, transportation, or child care. Next a case worker starts the client on training for job placement; things like interviewing, resume writing, and soft skills like how to deal with coworkers.

A client may need Goodwill’s services for a couple of months or a couple of years to gain that foothold.

“At any given time, we’re working with about 200 employers,” says Davis. “Where we place them depends on what the client wants.” Only a small percentage of clients wind up working at the stores.

Here’s how your donations help:

When you drop off your bags of stuff, workers inside the stores hustle to get the merchandise out on the floor to be sold, usually, within 24 hours of being donated. Goodwill takes the money from those sales to pay case managers, trainers, and other services that get people jobs.

“It’s a system that’s worked for more than 100 years,” says Gerald Davis, president of the Central Texas Goodwill. “The best we can do in our stories is offer good customer service.”

There at 18 donations centers across Austin. Click here to find a drop-off center near you.

Feria Para Aprender: The biggest Austin education event you’ve never heard of

Feria Para Aprender Austin

When I first heard about Feria Para Aprender, I was shocked. How is it that I don’t know about an education fair in Austin attended by 15,000 Spanish-speaking Austinites in its three years?

Am I the only one in Austin who didn’t know about this? Apparently it was brought to Austin Partners in Education by Hispanic leader Sylvia Acevedo, and it caught on like wildfire. Wow. Here’s some background about Feria from their Facebook page: (Become a FAN!)

Overview: Feria Para Aprender is an education fair for Spanish-speaking parents and students in the greater Austin community. This one-day event brings together over 75 non-profit organizations, school district departments and universities to spread the message that education is the key to economic prosperity.

strong>Mission: Over the last 3 years, Feria Para Aprender has reached over 15,000 Spanish-speaking parents and students by providing educational resources and materials entirely in Spanish. Feria Para Aprender has also raised awareness of the need for bilingual staff members in local non-profit organizations.

Feria Para Aprender spreads the “Para Una Buena Vida” message:

1. Graduate from high school and earn $1 million in your lifetime.
2. Graduate from college and earn an additional $1 million in your lifetime.
3. Learning English and Spanish fluently will give you more employment opportunities and higher salaries.

How you can get involved: Feria Para Aprender couldn’t happen without the support of hundreds of volunteers. Volunteers are need throughout the day on Friday, February 5 to help set up activities and equipment as well as sort the thousands of donated books. Spanish-speaking volunteers are encouraged to volunteer at the event to help guide parents and facilitate the numerous activities around the Expo Center grounds.

Please visit to register for as an exhibitor or a volunteer.

For more information, please contact Christin Alvarado at

GivingCity Issue 1: Download it here!

Please feel free to send this link to a friend of colleague. Also, thanks for adding us to your media list – we’d love to hear more about your organization and cause.

To download your copy, just click on the cover or on the link below. Please let us know what you think. Feel free to send me any feedback or post a comment below.

(File size 5MB)

The guide to doing good in Austin
The guide to doing good in Austin




Spark: The next generation of philanthropists

Some nonprofits are just lucky. They get calls from corporations asking how they can help. From restaurants looking to host free events. From ad agencies looking to do some pro-bono work.

Of course, it’s not luck, really. Chalk it up to longevity, success at meeting its mission, and over the years becoming a vital and well-recognized part of the community. It takes a lot of work to get this “lucky.” But beyond that, it takes a vision and an energetic staff to take advantage of all that luck. Caritas seems to be in a great position to pull this off – and use it to enact some innovative ideas.

Last week I went to the kick-off event for Spark, a new initiative of Caritas’ to engage young professionals in its mission. According to Carol Thomas, development director, it’s an idea they’d had a while, but it took the donated efforts of Kolar Advertising to pull off. This past summer, Kolar called Caritas wondering if the nonprofit could use some pro-bono services. (Well, yeah.) Then, a new restaurant at The Domain called The Daily Grill called Caritas wanting to donate their services for a party. (And who’s going to say no to that?)

Still, a cool name and a cool restaurant do not a party make. Cool parties take cool people, like Maria. Maria is a young lawyer who heard about plans for Spark from a colleague, a board member of Caritas. In telling Maria about his chairing the new initiative, Maria grew more interested and eventually agreed to co-chair the effort. I talked to Maria (a fellow San Antonian) about what got her involved.

She told me she just really connected with the goals of Spark and the mission of Caritas. Like a lot of young professionals, she said she just didn’t identify with the stereotypical philanthropists (which I’ve always pictured to be octagenarian millionaires with a closet full of ball gowns and tiny, tiny shoes – my words, not hers). She was more into casual socializing, meeting friends for dinner or drinks out. But at the same time, she said, she knew she wanted to contribute to a good cause – but had never really found an entry point. Of course the goals of Spark include encouraging young professionals to volunteer and donate, you’d expect that. But there’s more – and less – to Spark’s goals: Spark really wants to introduce Caritas to young people – just let them know Caritas is out there – so that it can build a relationship with future generations of Austin philanthropists over time.

As we’ve talked about before, Austin enjoys/suffers from a mostly new, youthful, and mobile population, many of whom moved here because they valued the various burgeoning “scenes,” be it music or art or outdoor or technology or whatever. These are all worthwhile characteristics for a communuty to have, but good schools, safe communities, diversity… these are things families and more established residents care about – AND invest in.  

So it makes sense that Caritas and other groups INVEST IN young professionals. To me, it’s even better that Maria is a Hispanic young professional, because as the needs of Austin grow so do the needs for people who understand the culture and perspective of Hispanics – who happen to consitute a large portion of the needy in our town.

Sure, Caritas was lucky to enlist Maria to help lead Spark. But they also were smart enough to invest a little of their resources on the future supporters of their organization. The investment can’t help but pay off.

BTW: If you’re interested in being a part of Spark, consider attending the December 12 Happy Hour from 6:30 to 9:30 and the Continental Club. Bring a few cans of food for the pantry and check out the games, raffle, and live music. Plus the people. Don’t underestimte this Spark crowd. The room at The Daily Grill was packed and even after the food ran out, most everyone stuck around.