Culture of Giving
Patsy Woods Martin was a Girl Scout growing up, and she says the principle that spoke to her then, and still does, is the infamous camping mantra —“you leave your campground better than you found it.”
As Martin prepares to transition out of her role as director of I Live Here, I Give Here, there’s no doubt she’s left Austin better than she found it. By making the act of donating simple and accessible, she and her team at ILH, IGH pulled off Amplify Austin, Austin’s first, and wildly successful, 24-hour online day of giving this March and motivated Austinites to collectively donate almost $2.8 million to local nonprofits. The Austin American-Statesman called the event “a moment that future historians should note writing about the development of modern Austin.”
“We were just all very convinced it would work and we believed in the work we were doing,” Martin told CultureMap almost four months after Amplify. “We just provided a platform and a call to action that the people in this community could hear and react to and get excited about.”
When Martin moved to Austin in 1977, the landscape was different than what we know now. Austin was a college town known for live music, football and being the center of Texas government. Just over 320,000 people lived here and the city wasn’t home to nearly as many nonprofit organizations as it is now. Today, more than 800 nonprofit organizations call Austin home and the city’s business landscape has grown and is attracting a younger, high-energy, entrepreneurial middle-class population with a love for the community. What the city was missing in the mid-2000s, however, was a propensity for philanthropy.
“We’re so proud of Austin, all of us, and wouldn’t it be lovely to be proud of our philanthropy.”
At the time, Martin was working at United Way of Austin when she began to notice a gap in Austin’s charitable giving to local nonprofits. In fact, in 2007, the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Austin 48th of the nation’s 50 largest cities for philanthropy. Martin wanted to change that.
“People care deeply about this community, people highly value charitable giving, but the disconnect is that people don't understand that there are problems in this community,” she said about research she and other community partners conducted back in 2005. “They don't know who is working to solve those problems, or, more importantly, how they can connect and be part of the solution.”
In the fall of 2006, Martin left her post at UWA, and in 2007 she founded I Live Here, I Give Here, a nonprofit that focuses on educating Austin about the needs of our community, from homelessness and poverty to the arts, education and healthcare. It creates giving campaigns and connects Austinites who want to contribute to the organizations that need them.
Since then, I Live Here, I Give Here has implemented several programs and campaigns to amp up the giving and bring public awareness to Austin’s needs. Weekly community spotlights highlight a different organization, while See Jane Give is a mentoring program for young women. (You can see all of ILH, IGH’s programs on the organization's website).
Since ILH, IGH started, Austin’s ranking in the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s top 50 cities for charitable giving went from 48th in 2007 to a current ranking of No. 32.
“Obviously we’d love to move to No. 1 on that list through more people giving at a meaningful level,” Martin said. “We’re so proud of Austin, all of us, and wouldn’t it be lovely to be proud of our philanthropy.”
As she transitions out of a full-time director role at I Live Here, I Give Here, Martin plans to remain on the board of directors at the organization and on the board of the Long Center for Performing Arts. She and her family have ranch land in North Texas, so she plans on spending time there, helping raise cattle and growing sustainable vegetables.
“I’m a firm believer in you close one door and a window opens and the next right thing will come along,” she said.