We are lucky to live in such a GREAT city, but it will take more than luck to make sure Austin continues to thrive as it continues to grow. The Austin Metro Area is home to over 5500 nonprofit organizations. There are more nonprofits than restaurants and gas stations combined. It’s easy to make a judgment call that we have too many nonprofits, but before you do, take a look at WHAT you can do to help. The Austin MSA is regularly ranked in the top 10 of just about everything, but we don’t rank well in volunteering and charitable contributions, in fact we rank very low and are 41st and 48th respectively. There are huge needs in our community and from my experience volunteering, supporting and being engaged in the nonprofit world, I can say with confidence it’s an integral part of the foundation on which our city builds its greatness and the NPO’s need our support to keep it that way.
Volunteer – Nonprofits always need volunteers. Although Austin ranks in the top 10 in almost everything, we rank 41st of the 51 largest cities for volunteering according to the latest data from Volunteering in America (volunteeringinamerica.gov). Opportunities are available to do just about anything, from helping our youth by volunteering in schools (cisaustin.org) to delivering meals to the homebound and elderly (mealsonwheelsandmore.org) to building a house (austinhabitat.org) to sorting food (austinfoodbank.org). Find something you are passionate about and support it by volunteering. You can even make it a family event.
Run, walk, ride, dance – Get in shape or stay in shape and give back? You sure can. Austin is home to a plethora of 5K’s, 10K, marathons, bike rides and music festivals. Just about any outdoor activity you can think of there is a fundraiser during the year that helps support it. There are even nonprofits like Marathon Kids who help teach children to be fit and understand the importance of nutrition. You can find many of these healthy events for adults and children on the RunTex Calendar.
Support businesses that support the community – Let’s go shopping! You can support the community in various ways. Support “For-Benefit” businesses giving 5-50% of their revenue back to the community at Change My Town and businesses who have pledged to give 1% of their pre-tax earnings at Austin Gives. Buy local and you can have three times the impact than if you purchase from a national chain according to the Austin Independent Business Alliance. Or even better – if you own a business or are a business moving to the Austin area – join one or all of the organizations above. The folks at Change My Town can even help you incorporate giving into your business model, no matter what percentage you’re interested in giving back.
Become Engaged – You can dig even deeper into the issues our growing city is facing by attending many of the Leadership Austin events. Whether you are new to the city or have been living here for years, Leadership Austin’s programs provide valuable insight into what makes our city so great and what we need to do to keep it that way. Want to get even more involved? Becoming a board member for a nonprofit is the best education you can get. Check out the Greenlights Nonprofit Board Summit on June 7th and meet some nonprofits who are actively looking for board members.
Get Educated – Did you know Austin is home to one of the few publications devoted to the nonprofit community? GivingCity Austin – A Guide to Doing Good in Austin, is an amazing magazine that tells it like it is and features leaders in our city doing innovative things and talks about the impact organizations are having. It is available in digital format via the link above or you can always pick up a copy at the Austin Community Foundation.
Raise a glass or have a meal – enjoy wining and dining? You won’t go thirsty or hungry and will do a lot of good. Check out I Live Here, I Give Here to see how you can learn more about giving at See Jane Give or Give Back Jack and check out their calendar for other fundraising events. Or attend a Citizen Generation fun and festive Charity Bash event. .
Change the way you see change – Did you know that a mere quarter (as in 25 cents) can provide one of the following services:
A glass of milk for a homeless person or a child
Two apples for the food bank
Six months of clean water to a person in Africa
Prevent 6 cats or dogs from being homeless when invested in spay/neuter
No kidding, just 25 cents can do any one of those things. So change the way you see change, and even better, donate that change to a worthy cause. You will be amazed at the impact it can have. Your pockets might end up a little lighter, but your heart will feel lighter too.