The fundraising event calendar for Austin

We’re happy to partner with Laura Villagran Johnson and Kevin Smothers of Austin Social Planner to create THE fundraising event calendar for Austin.

Actually, I’m not doing much. Laura and Kevin and team created this amazing platform with Austin Social Planner, and GivingCity Austin is just directing folks to use it. I get lots of “can you please list my event” requests, but without a calendar on which to list them, I couldn’t really fulfill that request. So here’s the answer.

Austin Social Planner is simple yet robust, fun yet thorough, and geared especially for those non-Chronicle type events that seem to fall off other calendars so often. Please check it out, and PLEASE list your fundraising event on this calendar.

Thanks! ALSO, please add our event to your calendar: The next GivingCity Givers Ball is 1/11/11 at El Sol y La Luna! I can’t wait to see you all again.

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I’m all for slacktivism after all.

Does this guy look like a slacktivist to you?

Oh, haters. I understand you. I am one, too — critical of anything that looks too cool, to0 simple or too clever.

I’m the one who coined the term “slacktivism” in the first place … well, I mean, I used it on this blog about a year ago, before it was cool. (Is it cool, yet?)

Back then I was worried that these acts of slacktivism were replacements for genuine engagement in social issues, and now I know better: They’re not replacements, they’re a part of something bigger.

Let’s take HelpAttack, for example. It’s  a new application that works with your Twitter account. You register with HelpAttack by connecting it with your Twitter account, pledging a penny or 10 cents or a dollar – any amount – per Tweet to any nonprofit organization of your choice. The system estimates how many Tweets you tweet per month and estimates what you might donate to that nonprofit per month, and even lets you set a limit just in case you find yourself in a Tweeting frenzy and wind up pledging your house away.

Simple? Yes. Too simple? Maybe. And your point is…?

“But these people aren’t doing anything! They don’t care about that organization! Why wouldn’t they just donate the money directly to the nonprofit? This makes them feel like they’re doing something — they’re not!”

Here are three reasons I think these actions are worthwhile.

1. Slacktivism is an entry point to philanthropy. For people who have never donated to a cause before, apps like these can be a simple way to start. Philanthropy has offered these types of opportunities for years; think about the Salvation Army’s red bucket or the Jerry Lewis telethon. What’s the point of making it difficult for people to make a donation? Remind me…?

2. Slacktivism is another way for people who already give and care about a cause to give even more. If I’m already a volunteer and I make an annual donation, why not tag on an extra 10 cents per Tweet? It’s simple to do and even kind of fun. Again, remind me why this is bad…?

3. Slacktivist enablers (yes, I just coined that term) bust their asses to bring you these “simple” applications. Have you ever met Alex Winkelman, founder of Charity Bash? She has every opportunity to spend the bulk of her time shopping, but she’s chosen to organize these parties that raise about $5,000 per month for charity. Yes, attendees just have to pay $10 at the door and look hot, but if you’ve ever organized an event with sponsors, entertainment and a beneficiary, you know what a ton of work it can be. Sure Alex is an enabler… an enabler that donates about $75,000 a year to local nonprofits.

And as for HelpAttack… I was actually asked by Dave Neff to serve on the board for HelpAttack, and I have to say I’ve learned more than I’ve given back (as usual). What I’ve learned is how much time, money, sacrifice and long nights it takes to create and launch these applications. Sarah, Dave and Ehren have every right to have ignored their idea for HelpAttack and pursued something sexier — like bringing the world another location-based application. (Yawn.)

But they chose to use their powers for good. In the meantime, they’ve taught themselves how to launch a new business, how to promote cause-oriented applications, how to partner with nonprofits and how to work together as a team. And, by the way, they’ll probably raise thousands of dollars for charity.

Too simple? Hardly. Worthwhile? Totally.

Donate: The man is selling space on his arms, people.

Rob increased the distance "to give my donors the feeling that they're getting their money's worth."

On September 2, Rob Cunningham will swim in Town Lake from the 360 Bridge to Tom Miller Dam, 4.1 miles total.

Then, in October, he’ll ride his bike from Dallas to Austin, 200 miles.

He’s not a “fitness freak,” per se. No, Rob’s more of a philanthropy freak. Because you don’t just jump in the lake or on a bike and go, by the time Rob completes these tasks, he will have trained for months, swam about 100 miles and biked about a 1,000. All to raise $4,000 and awareness for four Central Texas nonprofits.

And you can either make a pledge or purchase space on his arms — think, Your Ad Here.

“I honestly want my donors to think of me in a lot of pain on event day and to be satisfied that they’ve given money for a significant effort.”

As per usual when I come across crazy interesting people, I have to ask a lot of questions.

Q What are you doing, swimming out there in Town Lake every morning?

Usually trying to keep my mind off of how bad my arms hurt. That is, until they go numb.

I made a commitment to my supporters and four local nonprofit organizations to not only raise money but to complete this physical challenge.

Thinking of my supporters and the nonprofits that I’m working for is a pretty powerful motivator for long training sessions. I know that if I’m not out there training and getting ready, then I run the risk of falling short of my physical goal on event day, and I don’t want that to happen.

Plus we have a great team of 19 other Got2Swim(mers) who have taught me a lot.  They’re a big group of fun loving people who make great training partners.

Q. Group training makes a difference. And no one ever does this stuff alone, do they?

My family has also been an integral part of my fundraising efforts over the last seven years.  For the 100-mile-rides for the Ronald McDonald House, Amy, Finn and Barton served as our rest stop coordinators and traveled with our ride team, over a 10 hour day. In the sixth year of that ride Amy even took on the 100 mile challenge herself.

The memories that my family have from those events are some of the best memories we have together.

I’m also fortunate to work at FOX 7, a company that is a big part of the community and has a big commitment to giving back.  I’m certainly not the only person at the station that supports a nonprofit or two throughout the year or raises money for a good cause.

To name only a few, there are ladies at the station that have a bake sale every year to raise money for the JDRF Walk to Cure Diabetes; Keri Bellacosa is on the Board of Directors of JDRF Austin; and Loriana Hernandez co-founded Maggie’s Hope, which is a nonprofit that helps families dealing with Autism.

From FOX 7’s the top floor down to the lobby we feel a strong sense of being a community builder here in Central Texas, and I’m just happy to be a part of it.

Q. Why did you choose these four organizations?

I chose the Ronald McDonald House, Colin’s Hope and the Capital Area Food Bank’s Kids Café Program because I like the idea of helping local kids. I may not be able to give my own kids everything I’d like but at least they know that they’ll always live in a loving home and (by the grace of God) always have food on the table.

It breaks my heart to think that not all kids are that fortunate so I gravitate to causes that focus on helping kids. I also like the idea of giving back to wounded soldiers in the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior program. Those “kids” deserve all the help we can give them.

Rob in the water, training for the big swim on Sept 2, with help from his wife.

Q. What’s your “dream” for all this? What impact do you hope to have?

This all started seven years ago when, as a new board member of the Ronald McDonald House, I was trying to figure out a way to make a significant financial contribution to the House. Since I couldn’t just write a check, I made an impromptu decision to ride my bike 100 miles and ask people to sponsor me by the mile. That year I raised $1,700.

After that first year, through word of mouth, other riders joined in the fun and over the six-year history of that ride together our ride team raised a little over $200,000 for the Ronald McDonald House.

Q. How can we support you?

You can support my 204.1 mile effort by making a donation on-line at www.Got2Give.org/rob.html.  If you prefer to write a check you can make it out to Got2Give and mail it to 102 Squires Drive, Austin, Texas, 78734.

I’m also selling both of my arms to help raise money. I have ad space available on each shoulder for sale to a corporate sponsor for a donation $500 or more.  Just think, I’ve been training really hard…your logo here?

(Editor’s note: Rob is about 6’13” tall, so no worries about running a big logo.)

Trying to raise a minimum of $4,000 I really need support from anyone and everyone in the community that I can reach for both small and large donations, they’re all important and every donation makes a difference.

I was thinking that if all of my Twitter followers and Facebook friends donated just $10 that would equal $8,000, which is a real illustration of how everyone can help no matter what size the donation is.

Hopped up on coffee and ideas

Coffee and meetingsThis morning I hustled up to Genuine Joe’s to meet Matt Kouri, Ann Starr and Haila Yates of Greenlights. Then down to Scholz’s to meet Jason Denny of the Austin Jaycees. Then to Lift to meet Priscilla Cortez and her new daughter, Isabella, of FuturoFund this afternoon. And I am still wide awake and hopped up, man.

It’s great to ramp up GivingCity and soak up all that positive, “be the change” energy again. It reminds me of why I wanted to do this in the first place. I could stay up and work all night! Yes, the caffeine has something to do with it, but what really gets me hopped up are the people.

The fact is, I get to talk to some of the best people in Austin almost every day. Smart, interesting people who care deeply about the city and spend significant time and energy working to make it better. I sit across from them at those tiny coffee shop tables, listen for the clues and put them down in my handy-dandy notebook as fast as I can.

Do you work around smart people who inspire you every day?

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Don’t forget!

  • Greenlights & OneStar team up to bring us the Texas Nonprofit Summit, September 23-24 here in Austin.
  • The last opportunity to become a member of this year’s FuturoFund is to make your pledge by July 31. FF will choose its grant winners this November.

It’s going to be a fun fall.

(Re)Introducing GivingCity Austin

It was almost exactly three years ago that I wrote the first blog post for GivingCity Austin. A few months later I started messing around on Twitter, then we launched our first digital issue, then a Facebook page and suddenly I was calling Evan Smith to write an article for the magazine … as if I had any idea what I was doing.

Luckily, GivingCity had a few guiding principles (and the best designer in Austin) on its side. Among those guiding principles were these:

1. People like stories. Of course, people like infographics, databases, reports, charts, graphs, lists and I hear some weirdos enjoy Excel pivot tables. But nothing inspires, intrigues and connects people like a story does. And thanks to the Internets, there are a million more ways to tell a story.

2. Magazines can support communities. I love the way Tribeza supports the community of Austinites who love fashion; how Edible Austin supports local foodies; how AustinFit supports people who look great in workout clothes. The trick to making a magazine that supports a community is in the editing — or what they call “curating” these days. Curated, targeted and relevant content can foster shared affinities. And again, the wonderful Internets is a great place to grow a magazine.

3. Austinites want to help, it’s just hard for us to fit it into our lives. But I think the same city that can support magazines about fashion, foodies and fitness can also support a magazine about philanthropy. Because as Austinites, we truly have a passion for making our city one of the country’s best places to live.

I’m glad Torquil Dewar felt the same way. He’s a sucker for magazines, like I am, but he has the rare ability to turn a bunch of copy and pictures into an “experience.”  Plus, he’s made more digital magazines than just about any designer in the country. And it helps that he apparently doesn’t sleep.

GivingCity had always been a labor of love. I hate that phrase, but there’s no better way to say it. We put our own personal resources into it and have never seen anywhere near a profit, but that’s not what it was about for us. What kept us going was the creative freedom and, more than that, your support. Unfortunately, between the day jobs, the kids, the other freelance work, we had to stop producing the magazine. On our list of priorities — namely our families and our need for steady incomes — GivingCity just didn’t make the cut.

Now after four issues, hundreds of blog and Facebook posts, thousands of Tweets, and lots and lots of caffeine, we’re very proud to say that GivingCity has found a home.

The Austin Community Foundation has decided to support GivingCity Austin as part of its mission to grow a culture of generosity and philanthropy in Central Texas. The good people there have hired us to produce GivingCity Austin just the way we’ve produced it in the past as a service to the community. GivingCity Austin’s mission won’t change much; it will include stories from all over the community, not just ACF; and we’ll continue to distribute it digitally to our audience, ACF’s audience and whomever else wants it, free. Look for the first issue this fall.

In addition to this, on July 1, I’ll become the Austin Community Foundation’s first ever communications director, which I’m over the moon about. The Austin Community Foundation has a truly amazing story to tell. They are one of the pillars of the philanthropic community in Austin, and it will be my mission to tell more Central Texans about the important services and support it provides.

Seth Godin says we should “delight and overwhelm” our true fans, and that’s what we’re going to aim to do. Yes, GivingCity Austin is about bringing new people to the philanthropy community, but when we make it, we think of you — those of you who are already plugged in and looking for more, those of you who have told us this is exactly what you’ve been looking for, and those of you who’ve emailed, called, commented, friended, liked, re-Tweeted, #FFd and all the other means you’ve used to keep us on the right path.

Thank you so much, a thank you especially to ACF. Look for major improvements in the coming year, and, as always, let us know what you think.

Austin young professionals party, with proceeds going toward a house

Austin Habitat Young Professionals HYP party 2009

Last year's Austin HYP party was off-the-charts cool.

“Party for a purpose!”

Let’s face it, the only reason we party is to have fun. But if a byproduct of that is that someone gets a home — and a nonprofit gets to introduce new people to its mission — all the better.

Here’s another fact to face: Gala’s can be expensive, y’all. The last one I attended (though I didn’t pay, ahem) was $500 a couple. And then all +1,000 of us sat outside and had Tex-Mex!

Here’s what I like about the 4th Annual HYP Gala:

1. It’s on a Friday night at Mercury Hall. Not that I’ve ever been there, but this makes the dress code sound more fun than formal.

2. It’s only $85. That’s drinks, dinner, entertainment, mess-around money for you folks who don’t have to get permission from anyone to go out. You’re going to spend that anyway; why not have the money go to help a neighbor in need?

3. All proceeds go toward a house. HYP is the young professionals group for Austin’s Habitat for Humanity, which, as you know, builds people houses. So you buy a ticket, and a deserving family gets a house.

There’s also the food, the company, the venue… yes, most importantly the cause.

See more information here, then buy two tickets – one for you, one for a friend. They can pay you back and thank you later.

PS: This year, Habitat celebrates 25 years in Austin! Congratulations! Now’s a great time to learn more about Habitat and get involved.

A new record for state employees: $2.3 million donated!

We really like follow-up stories like this.

In the last issue of GivingCity Austin (link opens PDF), we ran a story about the Texas State Employees Charitable Campaign and how Central Texans who work for the state donate a phenomenal amount of their paychecks to the local nonprofit community. In 2008, donations from Central Texas state employees were just under $2.2 million.

No one expected the SECC to beat the 2008 number – a record… until 2009. In its most recent campaign, which ended in October, Central Texas state employees committed to almost $2.3 million. Not only that, many more nonprofits are raising their hands to be a part of the campaign.

The SECC organizers – all volunteers and state employees – raised margaritas to themselves last week, congratulating themselves, and all the employees who signed up to donate, for beating the odds in this down economy. Way to go, Tammy, Debbie, Reuben, Gretchen, and the rest of the SECC team!

Central Texas nonprofits interested in being a part of the 2010 campaign should contact Jackie Rogers  (512.225.0378) at United Way Capital Area (which helps administer the campaign) by Friday, April 2, at 5 p.m. There’s an application to complete.