JULY 30: Events, workshops and other news from Austin philanthopic community

A bit of a round-up of interesting items I came across this week.

1. Homeless Coach: Missioned to “ssensselemoH” …reverse Homelessness!

Homeless Coach

For two years Tom Baum and friends have put all their energy into helping more homeless people get coaching and support to turn their lives around. They also find RVs and turn them into Homeless Coaches, gutting them, renovating them and using the entire process to bring more people into the effort.

Each Homeless Coach Houses 1-2 homeless people, employs 5-10 homeless (part time), coaches 10 homeless off the streets every 6 months while sharing life stories, meals, fun, etc. Participants graduate with renewed purpose, a life plan and a “family” of community contacts who recognize their God-given talents and gifts.

This Saturday, they’re doing an “Extreme RV Makeover,” and it begins with a gutting of an old RV. Can’t make it up to Pflugerville to help? Then watch it online via livestream. The fun happens from 10 am – 3 pm. Livestream access and more information here.

2. Free workshops and brown bags for nonprofit beginners

Mando Rayo of Cultural Strategies

I don’t know why I’m just now discovering this. If you’re trying to start a nonprofit or take your early nonprofit to the next level, please send someone to the City’s Cultural Arts Division workshops in August. Here are some of the offerings:

AUG 17: Multucultural Marketing (this one by the incomparable Mando Rayo)
AUG 18: Creating a 501(c)(3) Nonprofit
AUG 25: Lessons in Advanced Grant Writing

Find out more here.

3. Good news for the Long Center

Courtesy Long Center

Thanks to you, the Long Center exceeded its fundraising goals for its fiscal year, which ended on June 30, surpassing the $1.6 million mark. See the Austin Business Journal story here.

4. Habitat for Humanity one of biggest homebuilders in America

photo from Tom Hubba

As Habitat celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, it’s worth noting that the organization was recently ranked among the top-ten builders in the nation by Builder Magazine.  See this from the Wall Street Journal earlier this month.

As the housing and financial crisis struck several years ago, the large publicly traded builders, including D.R. Horton Inc. and KB Home, pulled back. But Habitat kept building.

“We’re a lot less tied to the market as a whole,” said Mark Andrews, Habitat’s senior director for U.S. operations. “We’ve been able to keep chugging along at a pretty solid pace.”

As a result, Habitat, a Christian group founded 34 years ago in Americus, Ga., around a philosophy of constructing and rehabilitating homes for low-income families, was recently ranked as one of the nation’s top 10 builders for the first time in a closely watched industry list compiled by Builder Magazine.

Learn more about the good work Habitat’s doing in Austin here.

Sometimes you can’t even give it away

Social entrepreneurism is an important model to observe and perfect if we’re going to make fundamental changes. It’s also important that we define and support it… and that’s not always easy to do.

When I interviewed Laurie Loew last year, what she told me about being a social entrepreneur stuck with me. Laurie is an Austin realtor who gives 25 percent of her commission to the charity of the seller’s choice in the seller’s name. She’s essentially a “realtor for good,” as is the rest of her team at GiveRealty. (Which donated almost $37,000 to local charities last year, BTW.)

And although you’d think nonprofits would be lining up to support her, that’s not always the case. Here’s Laurie:

“I think social entrepreneurs feel they need to do more for the community and be more involved and helpful, and we’re trying to figure out ways to do that. But it’s much harder for a small business – the price of admission to get on the nonprofit radar is way too high.

“Big companies can write the big checks that get attention. But the local coffee shop is just struggling to stay afloat. And it’s very hard for small businesses to feel like they can have an impact when the dollar amounts they can give are very small.

“I guess you would hope the nonprofit community would encourage small businesses – the ones that give back – and support what we’re doing. They can be some of your biggest promoters in a lot of ways. Their audience is the kind of people you’d want to be your clients.

“I understand why nonprofits can’t promote any particular small business. That’s why I’m a part of several groups – from Bootstrap Austin to I Live Here, I Give Here, the Austin Chamber, and others. We’re looking for ways for small businesses who want to have a social impact to work together to make the whole thing easier.

“Maybe that’s what it will take – someone forming a larger group that can make the case for social enterprise. But it’s got to be genuine and it’s got to be easy. I’m a small business owner. I’m very busy!”

 Learn more about social enterprise in Austin.

GivingCity Austin Issue #4

Cover of GivingCity Austin Issue 4

CLICK HERE to download (takes about 10 seconds)

Inside this issue:

John Thornton launches the new Texas Tribune website, the $4 million nonprofit. Learn how you can help reduce the number of high school dropouts in Austin. Sara Hickman offers the merits of volunteering with your children. Thousands of state employees in Central Texas give millions to local charities every year – who knew? The Lance Armstrong Foundation is a global organization with a local commitment. Just because you’re unemployed doesn’t mean there’s not work you can do. Dozens of small churches are cropping up in Central Texas, ready to serve. Finally understand what all this Obama “call to action” business is about. Alissa Magrum starts a nonprofit with a jersey and a dream.

WIN A WISH LIST JERSEY! We’re giving away a Wish List Jersey to the person who best describes their reason for participating in a “ride for the cure.” Do you ride for someone you care about? Have you participated in a ride that had a particular impact? DOWNLOAD this issue and visit the WIN A WISH LIST JERSEY page to enter.

FEEDBACK! Tell us what you think below. Thanks for your support!

“Happiness Is” not found in a solid-surface countertop

Happiness IsIt’s hard to write a thoughtful reaction to a film that left me so emotional. And I wasn’t the only one. There were quite a few beefy guys walking out of the theater with puffy, watery eyes last night, too.

But “Happiness Is” by Austin’s Andrew Shapter will do that to you. It’s not that it’s a sad film by any means. In fact, it’s pretty hilarious. Shapter interviewed some characters, for sure. The woman who admitted to thinking that happiness could be found in a solid-surface countertop sticks in my mind. (HINT: It can’t.)

What it is is hopeful because the message is this: Happiness is within your reach. It’s not something to strive for, it’s something you find within yourself. For proof, Shapter talks to happiness historians (they exist), scientists, and anthropologists. They’ve done the research and can pinpoint exactly when most Americans stopped being happy. (HINT: Rampant materialism, duh!)

Then, to further prove his point, he interviewed an incredible mix of people from all over the country – men, children, immigrants, scholars, artists, musicians, comedians, old people…. Though they all get there differently, eventually they all come to the same conclusion.

There are a couple of things you should know about the film:

1. It’s going on a screening tour around the country, and they’re paying for that tour in DVD sales. If a quarter of the population in America saw this film, it could change this country for the better. Seriously. So if you can swing the DVD, buy it here: http://www.happinessisthemovie.com/blog/shop/

2. The film is being used to raise money for the sponsoring nonprofit. In the case of last night’s screening, the nonprofit beneficiary is Mobile Loave & Fishes, the organization that takes food out to the homeless and is run by the incredible Alan Graham. (He’s featured in the film.) You can support that organization here.: http://www.mlfnow.org/site/PageServer

There were hundreds of people at this screening last night. I wonder what they’re thinking today.

A smart, easy way to double your donation

A $4000 donation to Heart House via GiveRealty.

A $4000 donation to Heart House via GiveRealty.

This is genius.

We’re obviously fans of GiveRealty‘s business model; the real estate broker donates 25 percent of its commission to the charity of the seller/buyer’s choice, in their name. But using the new website RecognizeGood– also born and raised in Austin – GiveRealty was able to double that donation.

A recent home sale through GiveRealty resulted in a $4000 donation to Heart House, a free afterschool program that provides over 200 low-income and at-risk children in Austin with access to caring adult mentors, homework assistance, art enrichment, computer learning, health and safety education, and literacy programs.
Because the gift to Heart House was channeled through RecognizeGood, an Austin-based philanthropic website, and doubled through a matching gift program generously supported by RecognizeGood’s corporate sponsors TyRex Group and ABC Home and Commercial Services.
“The generosity of TyRex Group and ABC Home and Commercial Services significantly increased the impact of our donation to Heart House”, said Loew. “By providing a forum where Central Texans can recognize and reward acts of kindness, RecognizeGood is encouraging philanthropy in a very innovative way.”

All this from a home sale. Think about how many home sales there are in Austin. Think about a25 percent of all that real estate commission, double it, and picture that going to a local charity.

Donors, it’s not always easy to give your money away

Our mission for GivingCity (when we can finally get back to it after all this ridiculous for-pay work) is to make it easier for donors and volunteers to connect with the best-fit opportunity for them. We want to help you navigate the nonprofit world.

But folks, I mean this in the nicest way when I say it … you still might have to do a little bit of work.

Take this recent conversation I had on Twitter with a person who was looking for a very particular nonprofit to donate to. I was happy to help point her in the right direction, as were many of her followers, I’m sure. But I think she was looking for the easy click. I mean, I think she’s become so used to communicating, connecting, creating, and in general, executing everything online that she’d forgotten about other useful means of communication, like the phone.

It can happen to anyone. The fact is, it should be much easier for donors to connect with nonprofits. If only you could Google the type of organization you want to donate to, and the exact match would pop up every time!

Unfortunately, the same people who deliver services to the people in need are the same people SEO-ing their homemade websites. Which of those two tasks do you want them to do better?

NEW! GivingCity Austin Issue 3

 GivingCity Austin Issue 3 cover

CLICK HERE to download

(file size 14 mb – download time 10 sec.)

Thanks for your feedback! Post a comment below.

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.