July 28, 2017 - Member Spotlight

Member Spotlight on Judi McCarthy

I came to Impact Austin in a roundabout way.  It’s a byzantine path; bear with me. A kindly acquaintance from my former community of Bakersfield, California – but who’d moved to Overland Park, Kansas - connected me with her San Antonio friend, who invited me for lunch in Blanco to encourage me in my move to Austin.  That generous lady shared how Impact San Antonio had become the source for new friends and satisfying work in her new community.  I was new to Austin, lonely and anxious to be of service, and ripe for advice. The next day, I found www.impactaustin.org and the group’s Facebook page. I joined within a month.

Women’s collective giving was not a new concept for me.  I’d led the effort to create a women’s fund in Bakersfield in 2005. That Women’s and Girls’ Fund is a bit different from Impact Austin.  For one thing, it’s part of a community foundation, so some of the group’s operations are supported by the foundation. Another difference is that all gifts there are endowed.  This means that the fund (over $1.2 million and growing) exists forever and grows according to market conditions, but only 5% of the endowment is granted each year.  The Women’s and Girls’ Fund is more specifically focused, also.  All grants support programs for women or girls, and the members use regional research to select a five-year focus area for all grants. Education is the current focus, with emphasis on attainment, literacy, and STEM skills.  The Women’s and Girls’ Fund shares many good practices with Impact Austin: a rigorous grantmaking program; involving members in grant decisions; teaching girls about philanthropy.  Most important, both groups espouse the value of collective giving. In the words of Helen Keller, “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.”

Since 2005, I’ve researched the challenges facing women’s collective giving groups like ours.  Some of these challenges will sound familiar: smooth leadership transitions, retaining passionate volunteers alongside new talent, engaging members from the 30-45 year old demographic, maintaining membership numbers in general, convincing nonprofits that challenging grant processes are worth the work, meeting operating costs.  Talk to any Impact group or other women’s fund; you’ll find that we share many common concerns.

Like many of you, I’ve become passionate about women’s philanthropy.  There is so much going on globally with charitable giving by women! Here at Impact Austin, we have much to celebrate in our first 15 years, and it’s not just our $6 million+ in grantmaking.  Let this new-ish member point out:

  • Impact Austin volunteers are amazingly dedicated and hard-working.  I was astounded to learn everything done within the organization by volunteers.  Cheers to you!
  • Your marketing efforts blew me away when I joined, and Impact EDU excited me so much that I “wrote home” to the Women’s and Girls’ Fund about the concept.
  • Discovery Day is nothing short of brilliant.
  • Your grants process is professional, polished, and turnkey.  Impact Austin might have a reputation for tough grants.  Good!  Such robust support should be hard won.
  • Girls Giving Grants would be enough to call Impact Austin a success.  Any time we can divert a girls’ attention to service beyond self, we’ve accomplished something good. But g3 teaches a life of philanthropy, something even better. 

I’m excited to be working with you as Impact Austin celebrates its 15th anniversary.  Even more, I’m excited to contemplate what we can do together in the next 15 years. 


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