IMPACT AUSTIN GRANTS – From the Inside!
Connie Lawyer is a Founding Member of Impact Austin and over the years, has worn a variety of hats in service to her favorite nonprofit.
“I have been a member on multiple Focus Area Committees (FACs), Co-chair of an FAC for two years, an FAC Coordinator for three years, and am serving in my second year as Chair of the Grants Committee,” Connie says with her trademark sparkling grin.
We asked, “What attracted you to Impact Austin from the beginning and why did you become so involved?”
“It was the opportunity to give back to the community and through my membership with IA, I was able to learn more about all of the great nonprofits in Austin. I wanted to see where I might want to give time or donations.
I was asked to be a Co-Chair with my dear friend Debbie Dupin, and during our second year in that role, I decided that I was willing to help Impact Austin in any way they needed me— even if it was just ‘stuffing envelopes!’
Rebecca Powers and Betsy Blair subsequently asked me to become the FAC Coordinator and asked Debbie to be the Nonprofit Coordinator; jobs that we did with Betsy for three years. Last year, Betsy asked me to replace her as the Grants Chair.”
What is your favorite part of working with Grants and Focus Area Committees?
“It is hard to narrow it down to one thing. It is working with great women in giving back to our community of course, but if I had to choose only one, it has to be learning about all of the beautiful, meaningful work that all of our nonprofits do, while indirectly helping them to do it.”
What changes have you seen over the years in the Impact Austin Grants Process?
“Although we strongly believe and practice process improvement every year, it is amazing how wonderfully this process continues to work our twelfth year. This continuing success is thanks to the excellent foundational work of Glenda Holmstrom, Melissa Gray, Anna Clepper, Betsy Blair and many more brilliant women who were part of designing the process from the beginning.
One significant change that we laugh about now, is that in the first few years the grants and their attachments were inches upon inches of paper and we had to make copies for all committee members!"
"I do think that our Catalyst Grant, which pilots this year, will teach us many ways to make improvements to all of our grants.”
We asked Connie if anything amusing had happened during her years working with Impact Austin.
“One of my favorite stories is Betsy Blair’s response to a question about the use of props in a finalist’s presentation at the annual meeting. (This is now either legendary or an urban legend; take your pick!)
After much explanation and conversation with the finalist, Betsy finally said, “How many different ways do I need to say that you cannot use props in your presentation? No, you may not bring your HAWK into the Agudas Achim sanctuary!”
What would you say to other Impact Austin members to encourage them to become a part of the Grants Committee?
“Although there are many roles that can use your particular skills to help Impact Austin, I think the first role that you should consider is as a member of a Grants Committee (Focus Area or Catalyst). Through this participation you will meet women with a wide variety of backgrounds, learn a lot about the wonderful work of many nonprofits in our community, and learn about our well-respected process for philanthropic giving.
A side benefit is learning how a committee of 20 - 25 women can use the technique of ‘sticky dot voting’ to come to consensus decisions. Seriously; big business, take note!”