The Influentials
Carla McDonald

The public relations mastermind with a passion for Austin's philanthropic initiatives

The public relations mastermind with a passion for Austin's philanthropic initiatives

Austin Photo Set: influentials_Carla McDonald_feb 2013
Carla McDonald Photo by Jessica Pages

As the founder and CEO of Austin-based public relations firm Dynabrand, Carla McDonald has developed PR strategies and programs for the likes of British Airways and W Hotels. But McDonald is much more than a PR strategist for big-name brands; she is a philanthropist with a heart for Austin's homegrown initiatives — and she has the skills and desire to move mountains for them.

In the past 10 years, McDonald has helped raise over $15 million for Austin nonprofits that represent the diversity of the local landscape. She has chaired six quintessential fundraisers — including the Texas Film Hall of Fame Awards and Ballet Austin's Fete and Fetish — while also supporting an array of organizations, from KIPP Austin Public Schools to PeopleFund.

Fundraising may be the most concrete measure of McDonald's philanthropic spirit, but her advocacy for nonprofits and the arts extends far beyond the fundraising spectrum. McDonald is also the host of YNN's "Arts Minute,” a weekly television spot that highlights the happenings of Austin’s unique arts scene, and just last month she created the UT Fashion Mentor Program, which pairs UT fashion students with Austin’s most fashionable women.

“I created the Mentor Program earlier this year after learning that the University Fashion Group, a student group that puts on the show each year, lost a major sponsor, putting this year’s show at risk,” McDonald says. “I knew we just could not let that happen!”

In its relatively short life, “the Mentor Program has proved to be a very successful initiative,” she says. On February 28, mentors and students will connect for a day of Project Runway-style feedback, where mentors will review designs created by students for the UT Fashion Show, which, thanks to McDonald’s latest initiative, will continue to be an Austin fashion tradition.

With an energetic, persevering spirit like that, it’s no wonder that Carla McDonald’s motto is “Never, never, never, never give up.”

Your chief characteristic?

Optimism.

Your idea of happiness?

Hearing my children laugh.

Your idea of misery?

Being in the company of negative or mean-spirited people.

What is your favorite pastime?

Playing Words With Friends, Scramble With Friends and Spelltower on my iPad.

Your favorite motto?

Winston Churchill's "Never, never, never, never give up."

Your favorite heroes in real life?

People who risk their lives to protect the lives of others — fire fighters, police officers, emergency workers, members of the military, and, in this age of violence in schools, teachers.