In celebration of our 20th anniversary year, Impact Austin is sharing a variety of stories from and about our members. Each story is unique to the voice we profile, but each also speaks to an aspect of our extraordinary collective.
Simone Talma Flowers came to Impact Austin as a 2017 Community Partner, the Executive Director of Interfaith Action of Central Texas (iACT). She then became a member, joined a Grant Review Committee, facilitated a panel for 2019 Town Hall, and is now on the Board of Directors. Why did Simone choose to join Impact Austin after her Community Partner experience? And why does she say “yes,” again and again, to volunteer and leadership roles within our group?
Simone’s Impact Austin story began a decade before iACT won our 2017 Education Grant. For ten consecutive years, they’d applied for Impact Austin funding. They’d gotten to the semi-finalist stage once, but they’d not received a grant until 2017. But the application process was itself beneficial to iACT. Board, staff, and volunteers came together to collate data and information. They planned and answered questions. The team’s investment of time and energy strengthened their organization in a way they hadn’t previously been. “We felt like winners already,” recalled Simone. “It was a powerful experience.”
In 2017, Impact Austin had not yet launched a Community Partner member option. Since that time, we’ve formalized a membership category that includes one representative within the grantee organization to serve as an Impact Austin member with all rights and benefits. But Simone joined Impact Austin herself! “I’d always admired Impact Austin and the power of women in philanthropy,” she stated. “It made me feel good that my little piece [membership fee] can make a difference. I have a vote like everyone else, I can play a part, and I want to support others, too.”
Simone quickly joined a Grant Review Committee. Having been on the applicant side of the process, she wanted the Impact Austin GRC experience as well. She still compliments the thoroughness and thought that go into the review process. GRC service “made me respect it [Impact Austin grantmaking] even more.” She concedes that the GRC experience was hard work. Impact Austin’s review process involved more steps and meetings at that time, but Simone insists even now, “I really respected the process.”
Simone also noted the personal and social benefits of GRC service, or any hands-on volunteer work. “You form a different connection working alongside someone on a project,” Simone said. She further commented that volunteering introduced her to people she might not have otherwise known.
Simone's volunteer service continued. She facilitated the panel discussion of “The Changing Face of Philanthropy” at our 2019 Town Hall. And then she joined Impact Austin’s Board of Directors, where she is now Governance Chair. Simone enjoys the shared vision of the Board and then working together to make the vision happen. She observed that “Impact Austin includes very different women, and because you can work with each other in respectful ways, [the experience] leads us on the right path.”
But, as a very busy person who leads another nonprofit, why does she continue to say “yes” to Impact Austin? What does she personally gain from the experience? Simone easily called out several ways that Impact Austin volunteering has benefited her.
On the narrow topic of grant review, Simone noted that GRC experience has made her a better applicant. She advised other grant writers, “Be clear and succinct. Just answer the questions.”
“I like to be involved, to participate with groups that align with my values and how I want to live in this world. Philanthropy is very important to me, and Impact Austin is one way I can give back.”
Participation “makes me a better leader, a better person. It sharpens me.”
Simone concluded with this powerful observation: “Impact Austin includes so many amazing women, all with different personalities and skill sets. We learn from each other. I love how we lift each other up.”