(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.

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Top 3 mistakes non-video people make when making videos – learn more at VideoCamp Austin!

This Saturday, David Neff is once again bringing one of his signature events – combining video, marketing, good causes and how-to, hands-on information – to the masses.

The event is VideoCamp Austin, and it’s for anyone with a small budget and lots to say and who wants to learn or perfect how they use video to say it.

I asked Dave for some details about VCA (if I should be so bold as to call it that), and got some good stuff….

1. How did VideoCamp come about? What’s the mission?

After I finished up work on Non Profit Bar Camp my good friend Talmadge Boyd approached me about what it would take to do VideoCamp Austin. The rest is history.

Our mission is a simple one. To bring video to the people by holding a day long conference where anyone can come out and learn how to shoot, capture, and edit video as well as make video social.

2. Who’s attending? What can they expect to learn?

Over 250 people from all around Texas. They can expect to learn everything from how to write a grant to get film equipment to how to turn a camera on to how to prepare 3D Video in Final Cut Pro

3. What are the top three mistakes most non-video people make when creating online videos?

They let their Executive Directors talk the whole time, they never show the mission in action, they don’t give a clear action item for the audience.


4. Okay, let’s reverse that: What are the top three mistakes by video-makers when they’re trying to promote their work?

They don’t listen to their audience before they make the film, they don’t respond to their community when it talks back and they don’t repeat the message enough.

5. In the end, what would qualify this event as a success?

If we have over 200 people show up who want to learn and participate!

More about VideoCamp Austin:

The FREE one day ad-hoc gathering of video, public relations, new media, and marketing professionals will offer discussions, demos and interaction from participants, who are the main actors of the event.

When: February 27, 2010 10:00 AM – 4PM
Where: Jesse H. Jones Communication Center – Building B – CMB, 2504 Whitis Avenue, Austin, TX 78705, Studio 4B
Here’s more details and how to sign up: http://www.videocampaustin.com/

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.

Buy a sick-cute pet calendar, support a new nonprofit in Austin

I love discovering new Austin nonprofits, so when Brittani Bash contacted me about AustniPetFinder.org, I had to know more.

Plus… I mean, you gotta love this calendar (see below). Ridiculous and sick-cute at the same time.

1. What service do you offer pet owners in our community?

Austin Pet Finder offers pet owners easy access to online pet information in Central Texas. At AustinPetFinder.org you’ll find a growing resource for Central Texas pet owners, animal shelters, rescue organizations and veterinarians. We have a user friendly database for those wanting to post an ad in our lost and found database. We also provide essential information on pet health, Austin dog parks, pet friendly hotels, eateries and more!

2. What inspired the site? What need is it filling?

Austin Pet Finder was founded by Austin native, Katherine Holtry, in the summer of 2009. Katherine is a wife, mother and has been a radio and television personality for over a decade.

Katherine’s true passion is pets. As a child, she was always bringing home stray animals, and even today her household consists of several stray cats and dogs. APF was initiated on Facebook after Katherine rescued a stray kitten from a South Austin strip mall. Thanks to APF, the stray kitten enjoys a wonderful life with her loving adoptive family. Shortly after that time, APF acquired AustinPetFinder.org.

3. What are some ways we can help it grow?

Two ways:

1. In January 2010, APF’s first annual calendar was designed in hopes of taking its cause to the next level, becoming a non-profit organization. Calendars can be purchased online here.

2. We need volunteers. Our organization could not exist without volunteers.

Fundraising – APF is completely dependent on donations. Assist in all aspects of finding individual and business sponsors; develop and assist with fundraising events.

Marketing/PR/Graphic Design – Help educate the public about APF and our mission. Seek out public speaking opportunities; presentations at local fairs and other events; distribute PR materials at events and local businesses. Create a variety of promotional materials including brochures, ads, posters and flyers.

Volunteer Coordination – Assist in all aspects of recruiting, orienting, determining placement of, and coordinating volunteers for APF.

Write – Contribute a variety of marketing materials.

To help, contact Brittani,  Operations Director at 512 413-1064, or bbash@AustinPetFinder.org

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 www.austinpartners.org/feria-para-aprender to register for as an exhibitor or a volunteer.

For more information, please contact Christin Alvarado at calvarado@austinpartners.org.

Consider the citizen philanthropist

Social media has given voice to the individual philanthropist and there is a great deal of good that can come from opening up the process of philanthropy and helping redefine what it means to champion a cause you personally care about.

– Kari Dunn Saratovsky, Vice President of Social Innovation at the Case Foundation

People find out about GivingCity – nonprofit professionals, PR people, young professionals, everyday folks I can’t categorize – and they ask for help. Either they want us to help publicize something or they want to pick our brains about the nonprofit community.

We are totally happy to help.

But I don’t know whether it’s because I’m an avid user of social media or because there’s a growing trend toward this, but I would say about 75 percent of the people who reach out to GivingCity are what Mashable calls “citizen philanthropists.”

Like me, these citizen philanthropists reach for the easiest and cheapest tools available for spreading the word about their cause. For us that’s been WordPress.com, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and – in the works – a LinkedIn group. Love love love for the free social media tools that have helped us take GivingCity from a cute idea to a broadcast and publishing channel in its own right.

And like me, they’ve identified a flaw in the system, a need in the community that’s not being served from their perspective. So instead of complaining about it to their friends over tap beer at a sticky happy hour table, they start something. They do something about it.

There is a place for citizen philanthropy, whether old-school nonprofits want to admit it or not. But citizen philanthropists have a responsibility to do their research and look for ways to contribute to existing efforts – stand on the shoulders of existing nonprofits rather than dismiss them as a dysfunctional organization. Consider the possibility that nonprofits may know more than you about how to serve their clients.

Nonprofits have a responsibility, too. Open the door. Find a way to support, empower and engage these citizen philanthropists. Make it a priority. Consider the possibility that a nimble and passionate individual can push the world forward, too.

“Just think — what would the civil rights movement have looked like if it were blogged and tweeted like the Iran revolution of 2009,” asked Hargro. “What if Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s passionate and prescient words were tweeted and retweeted worldwide?”

Still looking for work? How to stand out from the crowd

David Hughen thinks about work differently than most of us do. He’s in HR.

Specifically, he’s a strategic HR consultant and business coach at Austin WorkNet, which means he talks to a lot of people looking for employees and employers. So there’s something to be said for his perspective.

David contributed this to our latest issue of GivingCity Austin, and I thought it was worth excerpting here for those of you who might need a dose of inspiration on your job search. Good luck!

In response to this emerging work dynamic, I’ve rethought how I approach these career discussions. Though I’m happy to have a pay-it-forward discussion with someone about “what’s next,” I need to make it more relevant to our current times. Why go through the motions when the very nature of work is being redefined?

This new approach to work should place an emphasis on how folks who are unemployed, under-employed or  nervously employed can distinguish themselves from the other job seekers and define themselves for the long-term.

We’ve come to know that organizations, whether for-profit or non-profit, are under intense pressure to be effective. Thus, the notion of work is emerging with new definitions.

Noted author Charles Handy has suggested that “working organizations” are not in the position to be an alternative community providing meaning and work for one’s adult life. Instead, Handy’s view is that if we each considered ourselves “self employed” throughout our working life, we would never be unemployed.

So my Starbucks sessions now take a different course. If I can gain the trust of this individual who is anxious, stressed, unsure of the future, and at a low point of confidence, then I press upon them the
following principles:

Become a brand

A deep, honest exploration of your skills, interests and competencies serves as the definition of your “brand.” Turn your brand on by giving it a name (something more creative than “Jan Enterprises,” please!), create a website, a domain name, a logo, business cards, a charter statement.

Think about it. When you’ve met someone at a party and asked “what do you,” the job seeker’s response may be “WelL, I’m looking for a job.” Wouldn’t you be better served by responding to that question with your business card and your brand’s charter?

This takes some exercising of different muscles. But, in time, your brand becomes the essence of who you are.

If you have a traditional job—working for an employer as an employee—then your brand is partially, but not exclusively, defined by that job. You have the luxury of carrying two business cards.

Connect your brand to a nonprofit
Your personal definition gains depth and substance when you share your expertise freely and willingly with organizations
doing good in the community. And when I say “share your expertise” I mean find out how you can help the nonprofit improve its operations by applying your expertise.

This act of giving is a form of personal, mental health. It’s the gift that gives back in a number of ways. Practically speaking, it keeps your chops sharp when you aren’t working a traditional job and gives you access to the nonprofit’s well-connected board of directors. It ties you to people who sacrifice every day to give back to the community for low or no pay. That’s a crucial perspective and a grounding force.

There’s something bigger than you

Having spent 10 years in the world of startup, entrepreneurial companies I’ve come to understand the value of humility. In small, fast-moving organizations, you have the greatest likelihood of fitting in with the team if you carry yourself without a sense of entitlement.

Knowing that there’s something infinitely greater than you in this world provides a different perspective. People are more likely to be associated with you when you present yourself in this manner. It means you’re more willing to flex into new situations. And, when it comes to defining your brand, this sense of humility provides substance that goes beyond definition. It’s who you are no matter how you define your work.