The seed for Impact Austin was planted on January 21, 2003, when I read an article in PEOPLE Magazine about a group of women in Cincinnati, OH, who pooled their individual $1000 donations and gave $124,000 to a dental clinic for the homeless. That article sparked an idea that developed into a successful movement, called Impact Austin. We count roughly 500 women as members, who have collectively put millions of dollars to work in dozens ofnonprofits in Central Texas via multiple program grants of approximately $100,000 each.
“My biggest dream for Impact Austin is that we are seen as a group of women who are hungry to know about the needs of our community, that we are informed in how we give it back, so we can make the biggest impact possible with our $100,000 grants.” - Rebecca Powers
The founding board, lovingly referred to as the ‘Kitchen Table Six’, had the perfect mix of women with the necessary business acumen to launch a start-up…albeit a non-profit. We exploited our talents, and what we didn’t know, we researched. We asked experts in the community and got really sound advice. We held a profound belief that ‘ordinary women’ can make an ‘extraordinary impact’ by pooling their financial resources. This mantra guided our work as we built out the Impact Austin model, which incorporated the ‘six C’s’ of women’s giving. Create. Change. Connect. Commit. Collaborate. Celebrate. We focused on explosive growth in membership the first five years, coupled with structured grant application and review processes that garnered the respect of funders and non-profits, alike. By encouraging our members to participate on Focus Area Committees to review grant applications, and thereby learn more about needs in the community, we developed a reputation for being an ‘army of informed philanthropists’ who had changed the face of giving in Austin.
In 2008, Impact Austin received the Outstanding Philanthropic Organization award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals. Later that same year, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce honored us with its Community Advocate Award in the Nonprofit Category. In 2013, Impact Austin received the Ethics in Business Award in the Nonprofit Category from RecognizeGood. These honors are an important indication of our contribution to the community, and it is our members who deserve the credit. As a volunteer-powered organization, we rely on their collective talents to carry out our mission.
In 2011, I stepped away from the day-to-day leadership of Impact Austin and passed the torch to our first paid executive director, who is responsible for leading the efforts of the member-volunteers who help to accomplish the organization’s goals. I am convinced that we are paving the way for a remarkable future that is sustainable and innovative.
What’s next for Impact Austin is only limited by the creativity and imagination of our members as we dream about what we can become. In the words of founding board member, Glenda Holmstrom:
Here’s to naïve optimism and always believing we can change the world;
Here’s to a lifetime of friendship forged in the fire of creating things together that really matter;
Here’s to our sisterhood born of hard truths, profound respect, deep affection, and sheer persistence.
This is the hallmark of the Impact Austin experience. If you are already a member, please know how grateful we are for your investment in our success. If this is your first introduction to our movement, thank you for considering membership. We can’t wait to get you involved!