New Philanthropists make their own way in Austin

New Philanthropists AustinThe diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and ideas blows me away. But what all our New Philanthropists have in common is a commitment to Austin. They tend to work outside the traditional nonprofit structure, creating their own points of engagement or standing out among their peers for their dedication to their cause.

Some of them left lucrative careers for less lucrative pursuits. Some of them saw connection possibilities where others haven’t, and they worked hard to make them. Some of them applied their experience and skills to the more frustrating field of philanthropy because they saw how great the rewards could be.

We found these 25 people thanks to you. You submitted more than 80 nominations, and had we a bigger budget we’d include them all; their amazing stories are enough to fill the next 8 issues of the magazine. It took a solid week of research and head-scratching to whittle it down to these 25 incredible folks. And we can’t wait for you to meet them.

But I won’t tell you who they are now! How would I sell magazines if I spilled the beans?

Please watch for the next issue of GivingCity Austin, available here on April 5. And mark your calendars for Givers Ball III, our quarterly celebration of Austin’s growing philanthropy community, taking place at the Gibson on April 5. See you then!

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.

McCombs MBA students looking to serve on nonprofit boards in Austin

Lauren Blitzer, president of Net Impact McCombs

Austin nonprofits: Consider hosting an MBA Board Fellow this semester.

Lauren Blitzer is president of Net Impact McCombs, a professional club for socially-minded MBA students at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business.  She filled me in on this fantastic idea.

This month, Net Impact McCombs launched a Board Fellows program in which students serve on the board of directors of local nonprofits in a non-voting capacity, attend meetings, serve on committees, and complete a Board-level strategic project.

What MBA students get: MBA students learn about Board governance, the realities of operations of nonprofits, and get to apply their business skills to serve the community.

What the nonprofit gets: The nonprofit benefits from a fresh perspective and gains the business insights of an MBA student.

Here’s a little more information from Blitzer:

“Since the program is new to McCombs, and we want to focus more on the student/organization match than on strict guidelines, we plan to be flexible in our selection and matching process and encourage ALL organizations to apply.  Nonprofits come in all shapes and sizes, and we think this program should reflect that.  Please be assured that a good student match, enthusiasm, and commitment to the program will outweigh these criteria.

  • Nonprofit (501(c)3) status  (STRICTLY REQUIRED)
  • An operating history of at least one year
  • An annual budget of at least $350,000
  • A minimum of 3 full-time staff members
  • Have a board member willing to serve as a mentor (STRICTLY REQUIRED)

As long as you are confident that someone at your organization could be available enough to facilitate a positive student experience (provide mentorship and needed information/data for their project in a timely manner, etc), then we’d love for you to apply. That said, we can’t guarantee you (or any other organization) a Fellow.  We will be working this summer to ensure that the needs of the organizations match with the students’ skills and interests.  If we are unable to match you, please know that it isn’t because of those ‘criteria’; other schools who have done this before have all warned us about the disasters of a bad student/organization match, so we would rather not facilitate a match then force a bad pairing.”

Still interested? Blitzer asks nonprofit to apply by August 15, but if you want a student to start at the beginning of their semester, please apply sooner.

Get more information by sending Blitzer an email or just apply online now.

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!

JUNE 18: Vivir Unidos! …but what is it?

It’s a movement. It’s an opportunity. It’s an event.

It’s a lot of things. So to clarify, I talked to Armando Rayo of Hands On Central Texas (which is part of United Way Capital Area) about Vivir Unidos.

Q. So what is Vivir Unidos? 

Mando: It’s basically a volunteer fair for Hispanics. But it’s also a celebration of our culture and an opportunity for anyone to connect with the Hispanic/Latino culture in Austin.

There’ll be about 30 nonprofits there, reaching out to attendees to talk about volunteer opportunities. We’ll also have several local restaurants serving up food from all kinds of Hispanic cultures. There’ll be music and dance, of course, and Loteria. Plus we’re hear about the city’s Hispanic Quality of Life Initiative and our own report about Hispanic volunteering and community engagement.

Q. Wow, so there’s going to be plenty to do, but who’s it for?

We’re hoping to attract Hispanics and Latinos in Austin who are looking for ways to support their community. But it’s also a great opportunity for local nonprofits to get to know the culture and what drives Hispanics and Latinos to volunteer. Traditionally, I would say that Hispanics/Latinos are not asked to serve. Maybe it’s because so many of the people that are served are Hispanic/Latino, but I also think it’s because nonprofits need to gain a better understanding of the motivations and hurdles Hispanics and Latinos have for volunteering.

It’s absolutely essential to include Hispanics/Latinos in the service to that community. Not only do they understand the culture and language better, but they can be visible role models who demonstrate that Hispanics/Latinos in Ausitn need to be part of the change.

We definitely hope to see the Hispanic community represented, but anyone can attend. Families and children welcome!

Q. So what will attendees get out of it?

Mando: Well, they’ll have fun. It’s at the Mexican American Cultural Center, which is a few blocks south of the Convention Center and just off the west side of I-35.

And, really, the main goal is for people to learn what they can do to make a difference. They’ll come away with a list of resources for becoming more engaged, and they’ll learn a little bit more about the culture.

Q. GivingCity will be there. But now’s a good time to talk about details.

Mando: You’d better be there! Okay, here are the details…

VIVIR UNIDOS!
Thursday, June 18, 2009 
6:00 – 8:30 PM
Mexican American Cultural Center
600 River Street, Austin, Texas 78702

An event hosted by United Way Capital Area and Hands On Central Texas. Come learn about how you can get involved in the community, and enjoy activities for the whole family!
* Vivir Unidos Loteria (which is basically Mexican bingo)
* La Feria de los Voluntaries (the Volunteer Fair part)
* St. Edward’s Ballet Folklorico (dance performance)
* La Esquina de HEB (HEB Corner)
* Comida Latinoamericano (Nom, nom)
* Special presentation of “Making the Connection Volunteer Report” by
Hispanic Community Leaders.

PS: There’s still time to be a sponsor! Sponsorship levels from $200 to $5000. Get creative and email Mando Rayo with your sponsorship inquiries.

Check out how Austinite Linda Medina rolls with community engagement…

How I LIVE UNITED: Linda Medina from elmundodemando on Vimeo.

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.

PLUS
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.

So why would a local restaurant donate to a local nonprofit anyway?

Yesterday, I posted about Rio Grande’s Philanthropy Week, during which they’re donating 10% of bar sales during happy hour to a different nonprofit each day. You can see the details here.

Lots of local businesses contribute a portion of their sales to a local nonprofit from time to time. Why? Is there anything in it for them besides the potential for profit?

The fact is, it takes lots of planning and coordination with a local nonprofit – and probably an accountant – to make the whole thing work. So it can’t all just be about attracting customers. Plus, if you do use it to attract customers, the fact is you’re only going to attract a certain kind of customer – the kind that has a conscience. Most other restaurants don’t care if their customers have consciences or not; they kinda just want your business.

So it is special when a restaurant hosts a “philanthropy week,” like Rio Grande is doing this week. The thing is, restaurant owners are people, too. Duh. When they feel compelled to give back, they usually do so through their business, creating a win-win for the community: You get a nice drink, they get a little money, and a local charity gets a little money. Why not?

Here’s a real live restaurant owner – a person! – talking about why his restaurant, Rio Grande, is giving back.