I’m a fourth-generation Austinite. In a city that’s rapidly growing and changing, this is a source of pride for me.
Everyone who lives here has their own unique Austin story, comprised of the reasons why they came, and the reasons why they’ve stayed (Maybe they attended a festival or The University of Texas and never wanted to leave, maybe a job brought them here, etc.). And all of these stories and people make Austin the incredible place that it is. For me, this is where I was born, nurtured, and given opportunity to thrive. This is where my family has lived and worked, cared for the land, built homes, and fought for the things they believe in — for generations. This city is my inspiration.
The Austin community has raised me and given me so much, and so I feel compelled to give back. This is a feeling that comes from deep within, and it’s difficult to pin down. It actually can’t be pinned down, but rather is something that emanates, touching nearly every aspect of my life. I know in my heart that it’s important to me to have a hand in helping my community and a voice in shaping its future.
My core driver may be this sense of responsibility to my hometown, to the people and places I love so much, and to securing a bright future for this community. It may be my relentless optimism. What I’ve found, however, is that giving back is a true privilege and a gift that continues to give back to me. It’s all one big circle and endless loop of generosity! And, I don’t know about you, but I think a generous life is a pretty darn good one.
Here are a few reasons why I give back locally:
So that my daughter can have the same great experiences and opportunities — or even better ones—than I did: There’s nothing that beats seeing your child happy. There’s also nothing that quite compares to the sense of pride and joy I feel when I see my daughter playing at Zilker Park, where I played when I was her age, or swimming at Pace Bend Park on Lake Travis, like I did with my parents, or eating at the Salt Lick, where I had family and school events, parading through the Trail of Lights, dancing at outdoor concerts all summer long, discovering new and fascinating things at our local museums on Austin Museum Day, and the list goes on and on. There’s a special connection I have with my daughter when I’m able to share my favorite childhood experiences with her. And I want to protect those experiences and build them up so that she, and her generation, can enjoy them freely.
To protect our city’s authentic identity: What would we be without the people and places that make Austin Austin? What if no one who grew up here could afford to live within the city limits if they made the choice to work as teachers, nonprofit professionals, artists, musicians, and in other vital but low-paying professions? What if we neglect and tear down our historic sites as we build new high-rise condos and office buildings? What if we lose our creative community and music and performing arts venues? What if our festival organizers go bankrupt? What if our small, one-of-a-kind businesses are bought out by national chains? What if traffic gets so bad and streets get so crowded and we are all in such a rush that we forget to pull over and offer a hand to a stalled neighbor? What would be keeping Austin weird? We have to stand up for and support our shared history, our small venues, organizations, and businesses, our creative community, our teachers, our entrepreneurs, our festivals, and our CULTURE OF KINDNESS to sustain all of those crucial elements that made Austin the place we fell in love with in the first place.
Otherwise, our claims will have no basis. Our city would be soul-less. Our identity would be false advertising. For instance, how can we be the “Live Music Capital of the World,” without supporting our music venues and local artists? There, that’s my rant. Now back to relentless optimism.
To be part of my larger community: When I give back, I become part of something bigger than myself. I become an active participant in my community and take collective action with fellow Austinites toward a common goal. I would argue, in fact, that giving and participating creates our sense of community. It’s when we show up and support each other. Giving is how we say, “I’m here for you, neighbor. I’ve got your back.”
Because our local nonprofits are the vital forces behind everything we love: Who cares for our green spaces? Who provides us with music, art, and educational experiences that energize us and open our eyes to new ways of thinking? Who cares for our lonely and injured animals? Who provides us with food and health care when we are most vulnerable? Our nonprofit organizations, that’s who. Think about all of the things you love about our city — Barton Springs, ZACH Theatre, the Blanton Museum, our hiking and biking trails, free concerts, our pets—and there are nonprofits working diligently behind-the-scenes sustaining those things we love.
Giving is a vote for the causes I believe are important: In a lot of ways, giving is like voting. It’s an act of faith, placing your confidence in something that you feel is important and will make change. Making a donation is a vote for what I want to see more of in our community. It’s me placing my trust in an organization that is equipped with experts and resources to make real change and progress to advance a cause I believe in.
Giving back has opened doors and windows into a deeper understanding of my city: Every time I give, I learn and grow. Interacting with different nonprofit organizations gets me out of my small circle of what I know and helps me learn about different community needs, types of work that contribute to our collective welfare, and expands my view of our city and its people. When I volunteer, I often meet people I would have otherwise never met and surround myself with new and more diverse perspectives. I’m also able to more profoundly understand the need we face and to see the direct impact giving makes through the recipients of my gifts. And, I can’t tell you how many times connections made through volunteering and board service have come back around to help me, whether that be introducing me to a new career opportunity, a new mentor, or a new passion.
Volunteering has introduced me to some of my closest friends and favorite experiences: I love the people I volunteer with. When I lend time to a cause I’m passionate about, I meet other people who share my passion. And, what can I say? We have fun working together! In some cases, the groups I volunteer with or sit on a committee with have been more consistent in my life than many other relationships. Giving back is a great way to make meaningful and lasting connections with your neighbors.
Because I want native Austinites to be represented: It’s surprising to me, but I don’t often come across other native Austinites through my work in the local nonprofit sector or when I’m out advocating for historic preservation and museums. Why aren’t we participating? While I very much appreciate all of my fellow Austinites (no matter when you moved here), I feel that our city benefits from a mix of perspectives, including the perspective of those who were born and raised here, have many lived experiences, and know our history. I want more native Austinites to get involved, so I try to create more access, awareness, and to bring them along with me! Our families have deep roots here. We helped create the culture of kindness and creativity, small-town-in-a-big-city vibe, and opportunities that brought many others here, and, while we are laid back and open to new ideas, we do know what we’re talking about, we have value, and we have a much-needed perspective that can inform public policy, decision-making, and can keep Austin weird and authentic!
I want to leave this place better than I found it, plain and simple.
How I give back has changed over the course of my life, and it has shaped my career. I didn’t see or have expectations for where any of my volunteer experiences would take me, but, looking back now, they have been integral to shaping my path. But that’s another story deserving of its own post (check back soon!). My parents plugged me into volunteering when I was very young, and it all grew from there to organizing charitable events, working in the nonprofit sector, joining boards and advisory councils, and more. There are so many ways to give back beyond just giving money (although unrestricted funds are desperately needed to support nonprofit work).
I truly believe that everyone has something valuable to contribute to our community — whether that is volunteer time, donating your expertise, raising your voice for the causes you care about, and/or making sustaining gifts to the nonprofits that make our city the vibrant place it is.
I encourage you to find your “why,” and get involved. Thank you.