- Impact Austin
The Causes That Connect Us
Written by Jamie Brian for Impact Austin
Friendships can enrichen our lives, challenge us, and encourage us to become the best version of ourselves. Sometimes, they can even lead us to discovering
causes we care about deeply.
When Lucy Melcher Coady moved two years ago from Washington, D.C. to Austin, she knew very few people in the area. A friend gave her contact information for Impact Austin member Katie Dochen, and the two met at a local restaurant for a blind date. That encounter would change both of their lives.
“We were talking at dinner, and I was asking about things that would be interesting for me to get involved in. Katie mentioned Impact Austin,” Melcher Coady says. “I was familiar with the model of it because my mother is a member of a women’s giving circle in Chicago. I was super excited to become a member.”
Dochen, an Austin native who moved back to the area three years ago after living in New York City, knows how challenging it can be to find a sense of community in a new town. She took Melcher Coady under her wing and showed her around the local area. Within months of moving to Austin, Melcher Coady was already becoming a leader within the community.
“We had that crazy winter storm here, and though Lucy has lived here only a tiny fraction of the time I have, she was telling me about volunteer opportunities - to just get in the car and go to parts of town where people were lined up on the block with food insecurity,” Dochen says. “Lucy was just leading the charge. It was super inspiring to see this new person in town just jump right in and get involved.”
When Melcher Coady began looking for a home within the Austin area, she and Dochen took their friendship to the next level: Dochen became her realtor.
“I always tell my friends if we start talking about work stuff, ‘I would love to be your friend and your realtor, but I would rather just be your friend.’ I know it can be tricky to do business with a friend,” Dochen says.
Dochen’s family has been selling homes in Austin for years at Dochen Realtors.
“I had the best referral because all of my friends in Austin said Katie or Katie’s mom was their realtor,” Melcher Coady says. “I went into it knowing that I love and respect Katie as a friend, but I also knew that we were going into business with someone who was incredibly professional. I also just really valued that Katie isn’t afraid to tell it like it is.”
Their joint business endeavor paid off. Four weeks ago, Melcher Coady and her husband moved into their new home, and her friendship with Dochen is as strong as ever. They enjoy taking their dogs to off-leash parks, going for long walks, and dining out together.
But what really connects Dochen and Melcher Coady is their mutual passion for philanthropy.
In her prior work experience, Dochen has seen philanthropy in action from being a fundraiser, a donor, and a volunteer. She used to fundraise for nonprofits before accepting a job at a large consulting firm and working in corporate philanthropy. Dochen has also seen funding at work on the ground as an Americorps volunteer. Now, she is involved in the community as a volunteer and a philanthropist. She mentors high school students in her spare time and incorporates philanthropy into her real estate business. With every house closing, she donates money to her client’s nonprofit of choice.
“To me, philanthropy is individuals who care and find a way to give back,” Dochen says. “We can majorly amplify each other by joining forces and pooling our money and resources to make a big impact.”
Melcher Coady’s desire to give back has led her to a career in the nonprofit sector. She uses her background in public policy to design social impact campaigns that improve the lives of people in need. She worked in politics and government relations before becoming the director of No Kid Hungry Campaigns at Share Our Strength, an organization working to end childhood hunger and poverty. She also served on the Grant Review Committee for Impact Austin.
“It really helped me to understand the nonprofit community in Austin and get a better lay of the land for what different issues the community was trying to tackle,” Melcher Coady says. “I wanted to make sure that if I was going to move to a new community, I was going to give back to the community I live in.”
Both women have found meaningful ways to incorporate philanthropy into their lives, but they emphasize that making a big impact starts with small decisions.
“Think about the causes you care about and start looking for organizations that are doing the work on the ground,” Melcher Coady says.
You never know what can happen when you take the leap into philanthropy. You can make a positive impact on the world and maybe even meet a lifelong friend along the way.