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  • Impact Austin

GROWTH AND CHANGE: The Sisterhood of Collective Giving

In celebration of our 20th year, Impact Austin looks back on challenges and opportunities that helped us to grow and mature as a circle of women philanthropists and collective giving grantmaker in Central Texas.

Just as our founder Rebecca Powers was inspired by the story of another giving circle to bring collective giving to Central Texas, she and other Impact Austin leaders have paid it forward themselves to strengthen the collective giving movement in other communities.

How did mentoring benefit a young Impact Austin?

Rebecca told us: "I initially learned about the collective giving model in a PEOPLE Magazine article. Wendy Steele founded Impact 100 in Cincinnati in 2001, and I couldn't wait to start a collective giving movement like that in Austin. Early on, she gave me some important guidance. I attended their second Annual Meeting to see how the voting process worked as we were just forming our organization. She was very gracious and happy that we wanted to form a collective in Austin. Shortly after that, she moved to Michigan and left the leadership of Impact 100. That's when I found Colleen Willoughby, founder of

the Washington Women's Foundation, and asked her to be my mentor."

Rebecca credits Colleen Willoughby with sharing knowledge but also giving her the courage to shape Impact Austin in its own unique format. "She is fondly known as the grandmother (now 88 years young and still going!) of women's collective giving," Rebecca explained. "I asked her to be my mentor as we were growing Impact Austin, and she obliged. I visited WWF a couple of times to learn from her/them firsthand, and it paid off. Our Discovery Day program came about as a result of one of my visits there. They [WWF] believed that educating their members about current local issues in each of their focus areas was important, and they held a two-day session with speakers from the community. It was widely attended, and the members told me how valuable the information was and how they appreciated WWF giving them some education on pressing issues."

How has Impact Austin helped other giving circles to launch?

For Rebecca Powers, mentoring other giving circles is deeply satisfying. She shared a list of several organizations that she has mentored in turn. She has tried to stay in contact with their founders. In many cases, Rebecca was invited to speak to their giving circles.**

"As I ponder this list, I realize connections and relationships matter. Paying it forward by helping others get started brings me so much joy. What I've learned on this journey is that I don't have to be 'front and center' to make an impact. I can share my knowledge and passion and give others the courage to step out on their own and do it their way."

**Impact Central Illinois Shelley Weaver

  • Note from Rebecca: "Shelley Weaver is one of my besties since 7th grade. She followed Impact Austin's success for many years and co-founded Impact Central Illinois in 2019. I am a member of this collective." Impact Central Illinois was also mentored by Allison Bacon (member of both Impact Austin and Impact Grants Chicago). The Central Illinois founders came to annual meetings for both Impact Austin and Impact Grants Chicago to learn two different ways of voting for Community Partners.

  • Fun fact: They award $100,000 Impact Grants and also $20,000 Inspire Grants

  • Launched in 2019

**Impact Las Vegas Maureen Romito

  • Note from Rebecca: "Maureen's husband was having a business lunch at [Austin restaurant] Siena with my good friend, Don Christian, Concordia University President, when I was also having lunch there. They came over to my table to tell me they had just been discussing the idea of Maureen (who wasn't even there!) starting a collective in Las Vegas. They viewed it not as a coincidence, but as a sign that Maureen didn't have a choice now! I said Maureen was welcome to contact me - never expecting her to do so. I was wrong!"

  • Fun fact: Their About/Our Beginning page names Rebecca Powers and Impact Austin!

  • Launched in 2013, they offer one grant per year. That grant has grown from $13,000 to $83,000

**Ninety-Nine Girlfriends (Portland, OR) Deborah Edward

  • Note from Rebecca: "Deborah was the ED of Greenlights here in Austin for many years. She left that role before they rebranded as Mission Capital. She eventually moved to Portland and co-founded Ninety-Nine Girlfriends."

  • Fun fact: Their How We Started page indirectly refers to Impact Austin.

  • Grants total $2.7 million since 2016

**Impact 100 Richmond Talley Baratka

  • Rebecca's comment: "My best friend from college lives in Richmond and connected me with Talley as she was considering forming a collective."

  • Fun fact: This fund is one of three giving circles within the Community Foundation for a Greater Richmond.

  • Grants total $2.3 million since 2009

Impact Grants Chicago Allison Bacon

  • Rebecca's note: "This is a wild story. [Co-Founder] Allison Bacon is an Impact Austin member. She was in a group climbing Machu Picchu several years ago when she started talking to Victoria Gonin of Boston Womenade. Victoria asked if she knew me, and that's when Allison first heard of Impact Austin. Allison called me when she returned to the states so we could have coffee and she could give me her membership check. We met at Russell's - the unofficial Impact Austin office - and she told me to dispense with the sales pitch, she was already sold. She lived (mostly) in Chicago at the time. When GRC sign-up came around her first year, she was thrilled that all of the meeting dates were published so that she could buy cheap plane tickets on Southwest to come to every GRC meeting. And, she did! She took the model back to her friends in Chicago, and she and a bestie co-founded Impact Grants Chicago. Allison remains a member of both our organizations." Rebecca noted that Allison Bacon also mentored Impact Central Illinois.

  • Fun Facts: They originally formed as a City Chapter within Impact 100 Chicago, which also made grants in NW Illinois, outside of the city. Ultimately, the City Chapter decided to focus their grants on the city of Chicago only, breaking off to become Impact Grants Chicago. They award $100,000 Impact Grants and $20,000 Merit Grants.

  • Grantmaking totals nearly $2.5 million

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