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Unveiling the Highlights: A Recap of Discovery Day 2024

Impact Austin's first Discovery Day was held in 2007 to share grant focus-related issues with our membership. Since 2017, topics have grown beyond grant categories to also include best practices in philanthropy and grantmaking, DEIB and anti-racist practices, funding and nonprofit partnerships, and more. Discovery Day 2024 was a joyful return to in-person learning after three years of virtual philanthropy education events. The event featured 11 powerhouse speakers among three sessions, whose bios were introduced in an earlier blog. Generous Discovery Day sponsors included C2C Media, FVF Law, and Polaris Executive Talent Advisors. Sara Walker Events provided event support. This blog unveils the highlights shared with our Discovery Day audience.

Welcome and Introduction to Impact Austin

Executive Director Demetria George Caston and Board President Deanna DeHaven welcomed the audience and provided background information about Impact Austin. "We know the community is counting on us. The community is counting on you."

Meme Styles and Regan Gruber Moffitt

Keynote Conversation

Meme Styles, MEASURE and

Regan Gruber Moffitt, St. David's Foundation

  • MEASURE and St. David's Foundation came together to explore the health impacts of the criminal justice system. "It only takes one spark to light another's fire."

  • Founded in 1996, St. David's Foundation had asked why health disparities are widening despite a growing community and more robust grantmaking.

  • MEASURE applies its CARE model (Community, Advocacy, Resilience, Evidence) to help create a community mobilization guide and community impact metrics.

  • Regan spoke about Trust-Based Philanthropy and building relationships with grantees. "When we know people, we don't need a 10-page application, or an 8-page report." Meme added that Trust-Based Philanthropy means having a relationship with your community; knowing the names of the people doing the work; moving "outside the numbers"; and recognizing lived experiences as data.

  • As grantmakers, Regan's team at St. David's Foundation is learning to "not be the experts," and to be more open to listening. Who is on the ground doing the work? Build relationships with them.

  • Question: As grantmakers, how can we address entire systems? Regan suggests to start as a group, unite with others having the same conversations, and do the work in solidarity. Include those having the most disparate outcomes in the system. Include a strength-based lens.

  • Question: If trust-based philanthropy is founded on knowing an organization, what about new organizations applying for funding? Regan: There may be organizations deeply rooted in the community that simply aren't seen until we're out of our silo. You have to meet the organizations where they are. Meme added: MEASURE holds Community and Data gatherings monthly at Huston-Tillotson University. These are opportunities to create relationships with organizations doing work in our community. Regan added: Sometimes we need to go beyond the circle we live in.

  • Question: What about funding organizations that use data? The private sector puts money into data/evaluation/technology/AI. The social sector puts money into direct service. Meme cautioned that those communities most affected by the outputs of AI should be able to inform the AI; otherwise harm might be the result. Get in front of the ways that technology can harm communities.

  • Question: What do you think are the top two issues or systems to address in the ATX community? Regan answered: (1) Greater Austin is growing, but the prosperity inequity is apparent across all issue areas. (2) Make sure people's voices are heard; those being pushed out of the communities are people who'd been there a long time. Build voice in our community.

Panel: Navigating the DEI Landscape

Moderator - Dr. Choquette Hamilton, The RISE Center for Liberation in Early Childhood Education

Panelists - Daisy Han, Embracing Equity; Denisha Jenkins, Kardia Advisory; Ricki Wax, Google

On the panel, L to R: Choquette Hamilton, Denisha Jenkins, Daisy Han, and Ricki Wax

  • A new pendulum is swinging with regard to DEI. What's happening on the ground, and how are we navigating it? Example: Senate Bill 17 closes down DEI offices in public higher education. They see "a trickle-down effect."

  • Tracking data - Denisha: Kardia Advisory works with tech companies, social organizations, and corporations on measuring data - what to measure and why. They urge their clients to make a commitment statement, accountability for impact. Use data to inform an organization of what their employees need. Build an organizational culture around that commitment to DEIB.

  • The arc of justice - Daisy: Embracing Equity is committed to ensuring that every person can thrive. They want to help create schools designed for student success, equipping professionals to create a true culture of belonging. Differences are assets! They see a retrenchment, a whiplash. "The arc of justice steps forward and steps back. Don't lose focus."

  • The tech sector - Ricki: When she first joined Google, she wanted to join groups that looked like her, made her feel included, seen, and heard. She's been able to help create systems internally and externally.

  • Allyship - This is one thing that Impact Austin members can offer: allyship. Embrace knowledge. Educate yourself before having a conversation. Lean into communities. Take the time to learn. Ask people about their pronouns. Have curiosity about concepts. Let the community define your relationship with them. Reduce your own complicity in the status quo. An ally can eventually become a co-agitator in partnership with a community to shake up the status quo. If you understand your areas of privilege, you can consider how the privilege shapes your view. Daisy commented, "The way you move in the world, given the identities you hold, shapes your view."

  • Question: What are some tech companies you trust and how do you determine to trust them? Denisha: They use values-based decisions. Examine who is on their board and how they secure funding. What is their employee experience like? People don't always trust surveys! Kardia Advisory looks for alignment in values.

  • Question: At Google, do you feel a real commitment to DEI in terms of search policies? Ricki - As some companies pulled back from DEI, Google doubled down in the workplace and product. Customers give feedback about images, for example. As AI moves forward, it needs inclusive feedback.

  • How to move from complicity to allyship (a first step) to accomplice (who shows up when there is a risk) to co-conspirator (who goes into the risk proactively):

    • Ricki co-created a microaggressions training. She also recommends the book Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man. If you experience a micro-aggression in the moment, step in!

    • Choquette advised: Where do you have "positional power" and how are you willing to spend it, to say "we're not doing that anymore"?

    • Daisy observed that we've been conditioned to be uncomfortable talking about race. And, rather than put the burden on a community to educate us, shouldn't we create a cohort that includes white people to then educate white children? "We all need to walk the talk and link arms to get to racial justice." White fragility can create so much discomfort that people shut down and don't learn. Get through the discomfort, stay committed, stay engaged, continue conversations toward reconciliation and peace.

  • Choquette gave action steps to the audience:

    • Educate ourselves about issues that matter to us.

    • Spend our privilege and positional power. Are you "in a room" you can bring others into?

    • Don't put the burden to educate on marginalized communities.

    • Lend your voice

Panel: Creating Authentic and Effective Nonprofit Partnerships

Moderator - Ami Kane, Girls Empowerment Network

Panelists - Melinda Gonzales Boe, Central Texas Food Bank, Hermes Camacho, Austin Soundwaves,

Cristina Garza, AVANCE-Austin, Shane Woods, Girlstart

Presenters L to R: Shane Woods, Cristina Garza, Ami Kane, Melinda Gonzales Boe, Hermes Camacho

  • The most successful ingredients of a collaboration: trust with your clients; vulnerability; relationship-building; communication; trust that funding is used as best it was needed. It's about "people's hearts and minds being in the right place at the right time."

    • Hermes gave an example of Austin Soundwaves launching the mariachi program for which it had received funding right before the pandemic. "What collaboration really looks like" made the program ultimately successful.

    • Cristina gave another pandemic-related example, when the Food Bank was inundated with food requests from families, many with transportation issues. CAP Metro drivers helped to deliver food across a wide region: 1,000,000 meals in a year. It became a pilot that other nonprofits could replicate.

    • Melinda shared a cross-sector partnership between the Food Bank and school districts (their food pantries and teachers); government officials; and funding partner HEB. "There are so many pieces of the pie needed to make an effort happen and be sustainable."

    • Extend bridges. "Let's become proximate." Find the time to move beyond your reality.

  • Barriers facing collaborations - lack of resources (time, people, funds); scarcity vs abundance mindsets; competition vs collaboration. Trust and listening are required to believe we're better together and that there is enough to go around. It's a political year; how might that matter? I'm a leader of color/imposter syndrome/am I worthy?

  • How the philanthropic sector can play a stronger role in building collaborations

    • Shane - Make connections/warm introductions as we get to know other organizations. Open your network intentionally and without expectations. Be OK with the outcomes and suggestions.

    • Ami - If you hear of an organization considering a project and you know another organization doing that work really well, share that!

    • Stephanie - For every one collaboration, there are 10 that didn't work out. No pressure! Keep the trust. Embrace failure.

    • Melinda - There are many funding opportunities that nonprofits might not know about. Connect us with other funders. Create an abundance mindset. "We need more ambassadors out there."

    • Communicate stories about nonprofits doing great work.

  • Any suggested changes to grant applications?

    • Trust-based

    • Unrestricted funding

    • Financial reporting is burdensome and is not the best work of the nonprofit partners' time.

    • Ami suggested that Impact Austin consider making a small donation to the third organization that participates in site visits, perhaps a $1,000 honorarium.

  • Final advice for group dynamics and role clarity in order to forge great collaborative groups - communication; relationships; clarity on roles; clarity on funding; MOUs. Understanding that the E.D. may not be the right person for the collaboration; trust that the staff person who is sent is the right person. "Check your egos at the door."

Thanks and Conclusion

Board President Deanna DeHaven thanked our stellar presenters and panelists. Each Discovery Day is a learning extravaganza with so much to absorb.

Impact Austin Board members say goodbye and thank you to Demetria George Caston

On behalf of the Board and membership, Deanna also thanked outgoing Executive Director Demetria George Caston, whose last day with Impact Austin was Discovery Day itself. Impact Austin wishes Demetria the best as she pursues new adventures!

Alyssa Reyna & Demetria Caston

A big thank you was extended to Alyssa Reyna, Impact Austin's Philanthropy Operations Manager, who led so many of Discovery Day's preparations and details while working closely with Demetria and Learning Committee Co-Chair Claudia Barlow.


Check out other Impact Austin events on our webpage. Our next large Signature Event is Annual Meeting on June 10 at the Austin Public Library.


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