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Inspirational Takeaways - 2021 Discovery Days

Discovery Day is a traditional day of learning for Impact Austin. This year, we took our signature event to a whole new level. 2021 Discovery Days delivered 9 sessions over 6 weeks and across three tracks – plus Impact Austin topics! Our virtual format reached a wider audience than ever, delivering hours of philanthropy education free of charge. Sessions were recorded, linked below, and uploaded on our YouTube channel. In this way, we continue to share Impact Austin’s mission, community impact, and commitment to philanthropy education. Win-win-win!

Our 2021 theme was Grow. Engage. Impact. Session topics helped us #grow in our knowledge of community needs and how philanthropy – and perhaps new kinds of philanthropy - can play a role. We were invited to #engage as broadly and deeply as we can – and perhaps in ways we hadn’t anticipated. And we were challenged to consider how to expand our #impact as individuals and as Impact Austin. Here are some of our key observations, takeaways, and inspirations from 2021 Discovery Days.

Impact Austin General Sessions

Impact Austin General Sessions combined inspiring “Impact Austin stories” (many of which include recruitment coffees that served wine!) and how-to pointers for members who want to #engage within our organization and increase their personal #impact. Check recorded sessions to learn about:

  • Welcome & Impact Austin Updates – Member Survey results and visuals - how our organization might #grow. Hear about the proposed extension for Impact Austin’s strategic plan. WATCH NOW

  • Impact Austin 101 – A definition of trust-based philanthropy and how Impact Austin is moving into this space. Learn how can new members #engage and how/why to join a Zone. Explore the website. WATCH NOW

  • Increase Your Impact – Consider how and why members want to join Impact Austin’s Board of Directors, the Advancement team, Grant Review Committees. Collective giving means greater #impact! WATCH NOW

Track: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging (DEIB)

A History of Race, Racism, & Philanthropy in Central Texas WATCH NOW

This session challenged us to #grow as “we are all on a journey to learn.” Check out the video for a wide array of visuals, film, and statistics. The discussions considered interpersonal racism and structural racism; the history of a community’s racism; color-blindness vs. race-visible philanthropy; trust vs deficit perspective; white allyship.

A racial funding gap exists between Black and white-led organizations. Factors that lead to disparities in capital: inequitable access to philanthropic networks; racial bias and microaggressions from funders (were they seen as "risky" investments?); limited cultural competence and awareness when utilizing evaluation strategies. Mainstream approaches may not appreciate projects/knowledge/leadership embedded in Black communities.


The mission of The New Philanthropists is to build a pipeline to leadership for people of color, cultivate diversity, equity and inclusion among mainstream nonprofit boards, and enable nonprofits to be more effective stewards of public trust and produce better outcomes for the people they serve. The Discovery Days conversation included fundamental definitions and considerations of how we can #grow and #engage as individuals, incorporating a DEIB mindset at home, in relationships, in our spheres of influence. That is #impact!

DIVERSITY – the undeniable presence of difference

BELONGING – an experience where your authentic self is welcomed and celebrated so you can thrive

INCLUSION – authentically bringing excluded individuals/groups into processes, activities, and decision/policy making in a way that shares power

EQUITY – an intentional ability to give up privilege and power for a greater good

Track: Discovering Central Texas Issues

Issues Facing Central Texas Women WATCH NOW

The Texas Women’s Foundation considers women’s economic security and leadership through four major issues: EDUCATION (the pathway); CHILD CARE (critical work support); HEALTH INSURANCE (the financial shield); and HOUSING (the anchor). Just a few key takeaways:

  • Although historically facing many obstacles contributing to lower college enrollment and completion, Hispanic women are closing the gap and are now the fastest growing group among women enrolling in and completing TX public college educations.

  • It took the pandemic to bring childcare to the forefront as an issue. 48% of Texans live in a child care desert, including 55% of Hispanic families and 63% of rural families.

  • Texas has at least 9.9 million women without insurance; we are 50th in the U.S. for health coverage!

How can individual women have an #impact? The Texas Women’s Foundation urges us to #engage as policy advocates. Commit to contacting your elected officials at least 3 times a year. Share your opinion on a bill/city law. Or just say thank you. They need to hear from all of us. Phone calls are easy. Email. Social media advocacy.

Building a Resilient Austin WATCH NOW

“COVID has deepened and highlighted inequities.” Some of the issues and inequities in low-income communities include: access to affordable health insurance; disparities in life expectancy by race; mental health crises; domestic violence; language access; environmental justice. Get to know and support existing community networks that already demonstrate resilience and effectiveness.

“The pandemic has taught us that it’s not about self-help anymore. It’s about reaching out to others and helping them. We must proactively serve and love one another.”

Track: Philanthropy Education

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) WATCH NOW

Many corporations have Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) that foster cohesion among employees and provide opportunities and funding for community support. Many are identity-based: Women in Action; Black Google Network; Women@Google. During Covid, ERGs are more important than ever, making connections, providing a safe place for conversations around social justice and racial equity, offering opportunities to help in the community – even virtually. “People are hungry to do something and do good.” Panelists shared some of the favorite issues or organizations supported by their corporations:

  • Sustainability – organized a beach cleanup and information around ocean health

  • Domestic violence and sexual assault – held a self-defense class, accepting donations for the class, which were then donated to SAFE Austin

  • Neighborhood school – assembled packages and gifts for Martin Middle School near their office.

  • Holiday outreach – supporting Waterloo Terrace neighborhood with welcome baskets, videos, letters, holiday outreach

Strengths-based Investments in Low Income Communities WATCH NOW

The strengths-based approach emphasizes people’s self-determination and strengths, viewing populations as resourceful and resilient in the face of adversity. “When our work starts with a strength-based stance, resources – financial, relational, reputational, and other types of capital – become tools to realize our shared goals.” In low-income communities, the social sector has traditionally looked at deficits: behaviors and knowledge that are lacking. “Current systems penalize people, while trust-based approaches incentivize people.” “Give people what they need so they can build their solutions.”

The panelists offered advice to help Impact Austin #grow as a grantmaking organization.

  • “Keep an open mind. Be flexible. Meet and #engage with nonprofits. Keep trying. Your application is key!”

  • Meet potential applicants before they’re even in the application pipeline. “Know what is going on, what communities are doing, what nonprofits are doing. Understand all the strengths. When applications do come in, we’ll have some knowledge about who is doing the work.”

  • “Consider continuing to fund nonprofits doing good work. Consider how Impact Austin’s work is anti-racist. And how it is strengths-based?”

  • Acknowledge the biases within us. “But a strengths-based approach is also trust based and anti-racist at its core.”

More advice to members to #engage as individuals and make an #impact in this space:

  • Volunteer with a program. Make a donation.

  • Consider and understand the organization’s research. Take in the narrative and spread the word.

  • Challenge your own assumptions and everything you’re trying to do to “help.” Acknowledge the work that the community is doing.

  • All the panelists invited Impact Austin members to contact them.

Members and friends, Grow, Engage, and Impact with us! Take the opportunity to watch any sessions that you missed. Share links with those interested in the topics we featured. #JoinImpactAustin You can find out more on our website.


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