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Town Hall Meeting Recap: How our Members and the Giving Circle Sector are Igniting Philanthropy

It's no surprise: Town Hall Meeting 2023 was a busy and information-filled event! We heard outcomes, updates, feedback, and reports. The highlight of any signature event will always be our grant awards, and this event was no different in that regard. But interwoven with the "business" of Impact Austin's Town Hall were moments of deep affirmation and inspiration.

Philanthropy's Future is bright: Girls Giving Grants

Girls Giving Grants (g3) co-chair Summer McAfee introduced the audience to the 2023-2024 class of g3 philanthropists. They are 58 members strong, 13 to 18 years old, from 19 schools in 18 different zip codes. The g3 class is a diverse group, with 51% White, 21% Black, 17% Asian, and 11% Hispanic members. Their 2024 award will be $8,500, for which they are currently reviewing 44 applications within their five Application Review Committees (ARCs).

Giving Circles Ignite the Power of Philanthropy: Sara Lomelin, Philanthropy Together

Sara Lomelin inspired Town Hall's theme: Igniting the Power of Philanthropy. Her keynote speech was inspiring and robust. The Founder and CEO of Philanthropy Together, Sara described the scale of the global giving circle movement: 2,500+ circles; 400+ collaborative funds; 150+ women's funds; countless informal groups; hundreds of thousands of dollars; and $2B+ moved annually by collective giving and collaborative giving groups. Impact Austin has been part of this growing movement for 20 years! Sara describes giving circles as a "groundswell shift" within philanthropy.

Sara was quoted as saying, "Giving circles are an exercise in democracy...they are an exercise in civic engagement. They challenge traditional ideas of donor and recipient." After sharing that 45% of GenZ reports not being asked to donate to causes (vs. only 4% of Boomers), and given the assumptions we might make about young people, Sara assured the audience that "young people want to give, to feel useful, and a part of their community, if we will listen..."

Member feedback and inspirations

Impact Austin's member survey will be shared in-depth with members in coming weeks, and responses will help to shape our new strategic plan. Here are a few nuggets of interest.

  • 75% of members first heard about Impact Austin from a friend

  • 72% cited collective giving as the reason for joining; 75% renew for that reason

  • 87% of Impact Austin members consider themselves to be philanthropists, while only 54% considered themselves philanthropists before joining IA

  • Members are willing to consider new ideas around sustainability, grantmaking strategies, and grant focus areas.

  • Members were asked which words describe Impact Austin's ideal future.

Member legacies

The Town Hall Meeting honored two late members whose contributions live on.

Chris Cavner passed away in September. Grants Co-Chair Karen McLinden shared these memories: "Chris was part of a GRC for just about every cycle since she joined Impact Austin 20 years ago. Chris had a remarkable memory for every nonprofit she reviewed and would remind us which one 'made it to site visit three years ago.' Chris was devoted to Impact Austin and to the committee members on her team. She was insightful in her observations of the applications she was reviewing and was quick to volunteer to write the grant review report.

She let us know when improvements were needed to our review processes, and she delivered her opinions with conviction, kindness, and compassion. Rest in peace, Chris Cavner. You will be missed."

Donna Eastman passed away in May. Membership Committee volunteer Beth Thorson shared with the members that Impact Austin received a large donation from Jeff Eastman to honor his wife Donna. "I'm proud to announce the creation of the Donna Eastman Impactship Fund, and to publicly thank Mr. Eastman and his family for this generous gift. Donna first became a member in 2004 as one of 126 women invited to be a part of Impact Austin and remained an active, passionate, and working member throughout that time. Donna gave generously of her time, talent and treasure, as evidenced by her lead gifts to the endowment campaign. I ask that you follow in Donna’s footsteps and consider contributing to this fund, which is restricted for use as a scholarship for women who could not otherwise join. In September 2022, the Board of Directors formalized the process and focused on diversifying membership through Impactships. That process includes a very short standardized application form and a conference call with two other members (shout out to Lisa Glenn and Alice Marsel) and the applicant. We talk through the applicant’s interests, describe the many facets of Impact Austin, confirm her ability to pay the amount she listed on the application (which can be zero), and encourage her to quickly engage in the organization. In 2023, five women have joined Impact Austin with support from these funds."

A thoughtful change to grantmaking

Grants Co-Chairs Karen McLinden and Michelle Rankin announced a return to a single grantmaking cycle as of 2024. "Traditionally, the Impact Austin grants cycle was once a year, in the spring. In Fall 2020 we announced that we would host grant cycles twice a year, starting in Spring 2021. At the same time, we streamlined applications and processes to be less burdensome for local nonprofits. While the applications and process improvements will remain in place, doing two grants cycles a year has proven to be a heavy load for our volunteers and has led to compressed grants cycles. This decision was made based on listening to our grants’ volunteers and to our member survey feedback."

The timeline will be for these changes as follows:

  • The Spring 2024 grant cycle will offer Community and Education grants as expected.

  • Also in spring, Grants will work with the Strategic Planning Committee and Strategic Advisory Council to solicit input on the community’s greatest needs. This will help us to determine our future focus areas.

  • At June's Annual Meeting, we will announce the details of our grantmaking program going forward. This will include the focus areas chosen for Spring 2025 Grants. We will not have a fall 2024 grants cycle.

Thanks and applause for Grants volunteers - At the bottom of this article, find names of all the women whose time and talents made the Fall awards possible. Thank you!

Impact Austin investment matters

Whether five figures or six, a program grant, capacity building funds, or unrestricted award, Impact Austin's investments in Central Texas nonprofits matter. We heard the outcomes of 2021 and 2022 awards, and you can watch video reports now from Mainspring Schools, Austin Soundwaves, The Dream Come True Foundation, and Yellow Bike Project.

We built up to the big reveal! Members and Community Partners alike learned the results of allocations for Equity and Health & Well-Being Grants. Congratulations to primary grant winners Keep Austin Fed and Friends of the Children - Austin. Their grants will fund the purposes identified in their applications. Latinitas and CASA of Travis County were given unrestricted awards to support their missions, programs, or operations, as they choose. Scroll through the photo array, and find details of all grants at See Our Impact.

Your philanthropy matters - time, treasure, talents, ties, and testimony

Sara Lomelin's keynote about giving circles addressed all the way that their members can engage for deeper impact. The website for Philanthropy Together shares some of those opportunities. Town Hall attendees heard about engagement opportunities within our own giving circle, too.

  • Time - Your assistance is welcome with day-of events and projects; committees; and leadership positions. If you're interested in a GRC, there will be just one opportunity to serve in 2024. Registration opens January 12.

  • Treasure - Consider an unrestricted gift to our Annual Fund, Impact Austin endowment, Impactship Fund, or Girls Giving Grants. Don't forget Giving Tuesday on November 28, which Impact Austin rebrands as Collective Giving Tuesday!

  • Talents - Which committee positions that draw on your unique talents or interests? All would welcome you! "Hot Jobs" especially in need of leadership include Membership, Technology, Events, and Learning.

  • Ties - Introduce a friend or colleague to Impact Austin. Upcoming events include a Membership Info Session on Nov 28; CONNECT with Impact Austin on Nov 30; and a holiday happy hour and shopping event on Dec 7.

  • Testimony - Using your social media platforms, comment/like/share our posts so that a wider audience of women know about Impact Austin. Your testimony can make a difference! Let's grow!


Thank you to our Grants Leadership and GRC Volunteers

Grants Committee

Co-Chairs - Karen McLinden and Michelle Rankin

Nonprofit Coordinators - Fay Evans-Martin and Elaine Jensen

Grant Review Committee (GRC) Coordinators - Anne Helmick-Lyon and Melissa Lorber

Grant Finance Committee Coordinators - Barbara Hambleton, Lauren Lewis, Deana Sanders

Technology Coordinators - Peggy Hofmann, Melissa McDermott, Gail Mitchell

Finalist Coordinators - Carla Denison Bickett and Laure McLaughlin

Community Partner Coordinators - Jennifer Hornish and Randeen Torvik Ragan

Girls Giving Grants Co-Chairs - Karen Davenport and Summer McAfee

Grants Advisor - Marla Whelan

Equity GRC

Co-Chairs Elaine Gloria Hughes and Roberta Rincon; Advisor Elaine Jensen

Fernanda Bressan * Linda Carey * Chris Cavner * Julie Donie * Caitlin Gary

Nina Gonzalez * Nicole Halder * Claire Hebner * Marla Johnson * Robin Krumme

Christiana Levy * Heather Shiels * Tracy Snodgrass * Jerrica Witte

Health & Well-Being GRC

Co-Chairs Catherine Barry and Erin McCord; Advisor Margaret von Flatern

Michelle Ahmad * Claudia Barlow * Natasha Bowen * Susan R. Brown

Brenna Cummings * Teri Evans * Lisa Glenn * JodyAnn McIntosh

Toni McKinley * Krista McNaughton * Wendy Scaperotta * Rachel Schmidt

Mariah Sheikh * Christina Shepherd * Lisa Stewart * Marty Swanger * Susan Tormollen

Thea Ulrich-Lewis * Marcella Viktorin * Jeanne White * Robin Wright

Huge applause to our Grants Committee and all GRC members!

FINAL Town Hall 2023 Program
Download PDF • 1.52MB


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