Patsy Martin is the founder and executive director of I Live Here, I Give Here, a local organization that supports the culture of philanthropy by encouraging Austinites to give back, connecting them with a host of nonprofits in Central Texas.
I Live Here, I Give Here is spearheading Amplify Austin, a citywide initiative on March 4 through March 5, which aims to raise $1 million for 330 Austin nonprofits in 24 hours through entirely digital means. CultureMap spoke with Martin about the project's roots, changes in the philanthropy scene and ways new donors can decide on a cause. The following interview has been edited and condensed.
CultureMap: How did Amplify Austin come together?
Patsy Martin: It’s a part of I Live Here, I Give Here, which is a five-year-old movement to elevate the level of personal philanthropy across central Texas. About a year and a half ago, we were looking around the country and seeing these days of digital giving spring up in other cities. We did some research about them and really felt 24 hours of online giving would suit the demographic of [the Austin] community perfectly.
CM: You’ve been working in philanthropy for a long time. What are some of the excuses you’ve heard for not donating?
PM: What’s important for seeking an investment or a donation is that the individual feels a personal connection to the cause and makes a gift, ultimately, thoughtfully. I think the opportunity to do a one-off, one dollar gift where you never really know what happens to that dollar, and you never really know what the outcome of that gift is and how it is being used to change another individual’s life, is just not very meaningful.
As important as the mission and the work the nonprofits in this community do [are], and believe me I think we would be a very different community without the work that we all do, we need to sort of think about how we as nonprofits can meet the needs of those who invest with us. I think that’s a complete paradigm shift for a lot of people in the development community.
CM: When you say "meet the needs" of investors, what do you mean?
PM: Everyone makes a charitable donation ultimately I think for personal reasons. We need to help understand what those personal reasons are for each individual giver and help them achieve their goals with their gift. And we can do that by making sure the donor knows that their gift is appreciated, they are a part of the solution to the problem they’re investing in and letting them know they’re making a difference in changing people’s lives.
CM: So it’s like following the investor, to put it crudely, beyond the “point of sale?”
PM: Exactly. And lot of people talk about it in terms of, rather than contributing being a “transaction,” it being a relationship.
CM: What are some ways you think I Live Here, I Give Here is doing that?
PM: One of the ways we do that is working with the nonprofits that are our partners and talking to them all the time about how to tell their story, how to tell the story of the lives that are changed by the work that they do, and helping them remember to talk to their contributors and investors in those terms.
CM: Have you seen this method of fundraising to be more effective?
CM: For people who may be coming to Amplify Austin cold, and don’t really know where to start, what are some things to look at when choosing a cause or a charity to contribute to?
PM: People who are thinking about making a charitable contribution need to recognize that we can’t change everything in the world and make it better. We need to think about, if we could change just one thing in the world, what would that be? And then make a gift to an organization working in that area. There may be one, there may be two areas, but I say concentrate your giving in areas that are meaningful to you. I think you get more satisfaction.
And if you don’t know what that would be, think about your family members or your colleagues that have been affected either by a personal situation, whether it’s health or education or the environment or the arts.
CM: What kind of causes are you going to be contributing to during Amplify Austin?
PM: I’m on the board of an organization, so I’ll be giving to them that day. I am a mom, and I believe very deeply in the importance of early childhood education. It’s an area that speaks to my head and my heart as far as investing.
CM: So what’s next for I Live Here, I Give Here?
PM: Our board is planning to step back and do some strategic planning in the fall and one of the pieces on the agenda is how to take the work we do beyond Austin.
CM: So to other Texas cities or bigger?
PM: We’re thinking more about communities that are similar to Austin, whether they’re in Texas or not in Texas, it doesn’t really matter.
Amplify Austin starts Monday, March 4 at 7 p.m. and ends Tuesday, March 5 at 7 p.m. Contributions can be made to participating nonprofits directly on the Amplify Austin website.