Making an Impact – Locally, Not Just in Texas and Beyond

The start of Texas Legislative 83rd Session this week and a new federal administration leaves me thinking about the impact decisions made at these levels will have on local efforts to ensure our communities are offer healthy and safe lives filled with opportunity for our citizens.  How will people at the local level continue to feel empowered to create change in their communities regardless of the results of the legislation determined by these bodies? While some legislation will be moves in the right direction (hopefully) there will also be results that cause frustration.

An interesting moment of reflection came to me when I read Jonathan Tilove’s First Reading in the Austin-American Statesman this morning. It included an attempt to explore the state of the Tea Party post election season. Julie McCarty, president of the NE Tarrant Tea Party, in response stated: “The tea party at a national level is not manageable. … No, I’m not happy about how things have gone nationally. …. But when I keep my focus local, things work. That’s what I would encourage all those who are frustrated with the political scene to do”.

Focus on the impact you can have locally.

While McCarty wasn’t talking about impacting the issues important to us via what non-profit organizations to support, it still applies. I have long been a proponent of Give Where You Live. I believe that when we experience the impact we can have, it fuels us to seek other ways to help better our communities – and to give of ourselves.

The services local non-profit organizations offer directly impact the health of our community. Therefore, it is important for us to contribute by giving locally first. And to trust that our gift is multiplied and has a greater reach than just what we are able to see.

Define “Local” and “Giving” for yourself.

For most the definition of “local” is the direct community we live in and the surrounding region. One definition could be the “Austin – Travis County – Central Texas” area. But for others the definition of “local” is defined within one specific issue or cause. If your core cause is to fight blood cancer, then supporting your local community may be acting as an advocate for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Define “local” for yourself.

In Austin there has been a lot of time and energy spent around the difference between how people give – financial gifts or the gift of volunteering. There has been a question as to whether or not Austin is a “giving city” because it ranked lower in monetary gifts than other cities. And too often I hear the intent to give when a specific income level is acquired. But I believe you should also give time if you have it.

The benefit of giving time and then money to an organization is you have the opportunity to experience some of the work that an organization is doing. You can see what type of impact your gift will make. In the end, if you can’t make a financial gift to every organization you volunteer with, don’t underestimate the gift of your time or expertise.

I ask that we all commit to giving in some way at a local level this year – to impact the community and issues we care about. In the end, what happens at the state and federal level may not be something we always agree on, but we can always have a positive impact on our local communities. How will you do that? Email me or leave a comment if you want a suggestion – I am happy to help. Besides, it feels good to give!


Difficult Decisions: It’s Time to Step Up

Today United Way for Great Austin informed 21 non-profit organizations they were pulling funding, starting July 1, 2012. These funding cuts were a reflection of the reduction of funding to UWATX’s campaigns. You can read more detail here on UWATX’s blog.

These cuts, news of which leaked via one agency taking matters into their own hands this evening, impacts agencies with both small and larger budgets, but one thing is consistent: UWATX is seeing a drop in donations and so are these agencies. So I start with a call to action: Find the organizations that you care about and make a gift. No matter how small your gift has an impact.

I understand that decisions to defund nonprofit partners isn’t an easy one. It is not something anyone or any organization wants to face – much less have to do. There is certain to be some debate about today’s decisions, but the important thing to remember is we are all here to better our community.

The role UWATX plays in the community is an important one: they make giving accessible and support programs that make our community stronger. When facing hard times, hard decisions must be made.

What will be interesting to see is which of these non-profit organizations leverage this high profile opportunity best to capture the public’s eye and their donation dollars to make up some of the shortfall.

AIDS Services of Austin
Austin Groups for the Elderly
Any Baby Can
Bastrop County Food Pantry
BiG Austin
Capital IDEA
Care Communities
Family Eldercare
Foundation Communities
Manos De Cristo
Meals on Wheels and More
People’s Community Clinic
Project Transitions
Salvation Army
Volunteer Healthcare Clinic
Williamson Burnet County Opportunities


How a Generous Donor is a Smart Donor

One of the things on my Yay! List was to be a part of the American Lung Association’s Austin Fight for Air Climb.  This year I am part of Team Stairanoia and on May 19 I will join others in wheezing my way to the top of the Frost Tower here in Austin. The event is a fundraiser; I have already passed the goal I set for myself. But this afternoon I learned about a donation match for today only. And the first thing I thought was: Yay! The second thought was: Damn! That’s a smart donor.

Fight for Air ClimbA generous donor decided to give $300,000 to the Austin Fight for Air Climb. But she (I assume) made it a generous and smart gift. Not only is the donor making the gift, but is using it as motivation to other fundraisers with two simple limitations:

1. Set a donation cap. By matching dollar for dollar up to $300,000, it is “first come, first matched”! Let’s all admit it, team fundraisers are competitions. I will admit that I set my fundraising goal to be “to raise more than” a friend who did the climb last year raised. (Blowing ’em outta the water right now, btw.) So as a fundraiser, I want to watch the donations made in my name to double – so I better get donors in there before anyone else, not when the $300,000 runs out.

2. Make it time bound. I need to get those donations in today because this matching is only available today. How awful would it be to not have people raise $300,000 and the donor not make the gift? For the record, I doubt the donor won’t make the gift. But she is presenting the chance to bring in $600,000 versus “only” $300,000 – so climbers and fundraisers better get moving!

When you have the opportunity to make a larger gift, think about how great it would be to make one that isn’t just generous but also smart. Your resources can motivate and impact the non-profit in ways greater than we can individually. We all know that working together we can have a greater impact – this is just one example!

It’s also a great motivator for people who haven’t yet started fundraising… and I will be honest, I’m a little concerned my goal may have to nudge up if my friend starts rolling in the donations today!