When You Empower Women

This is already my third post. Definitely not something I thought that I would keep going, but so far it’s been fun.

Speaking of fun, a week ago I had the absolute privilege of serving as Chair of the Austin Community Foundation Women’s Fund, Keyholder 2017  event. Keyholder is TED talk meets celebration of the power of women in Central Texas. MJ Hegar, a decorated war veteran, served as speaker and talked about being a fighter pilot. Can we say, “BAD ASS?!”

I attended the first ever Keyholder in 2016 and left energized. At the time, I was still putting into words my own vision of community service. I wanted to go from looking at everything as an opportunity to serve to having a laser focus on what really mattered to Terri. Keyholder filled my tank- women were celebrated, educated and getting connected to each other. It was an event nicely done.

Stepping UP

So you could imagine my surprise when Jessica Weaver, Chair of the Women’s Fund, asked if I would chair the event. I’m still not sure why she asked, but it was one of the most fun things I’ve participated in during my near-decade in Austin. The more time I spend with the Austin Community Foundation Staff and Jessica, I’m impressed.

I also chaired See Jane Give in June, which is an invitation only program of I Live Here, I Give Here. Many thanks to my philanthropic partner in crime, Hannah Nokes, for serving as my co-chair. Our birthdays are really close together so I consider us Wonder Twins! See Jane Give seeks to inspire under-40 women to become philanthropists by partnering them with those who serve on non-profits’ boards and have a track record of giving. What impresses me the most about See Jane Give is that attendees don’t incur a ticket price. The cost of the fancy meal served at Headliners Club is paid for by sponsors! The night of the event, the women are asked to donate to help fund the event the following year. It’s called the “Pay It Forward Fund.” How cool is that? And the same is done at its brother event, Give Back Jack. I’d attended SJG as a table host, mentor, and now Chair, and the magic that I felt from my very first time attending held true the night I chaired. The women ask really tough questions about serving on boards, why should they give, how should they align their giving. and how much should they give. These are the RIGHT conversations for those who are serious about their commitment to our community. However, I left a little uneasy because there was no easy place to send these emerging philanthropists.

The Visionaries

I took a wild idea to the staff at Austin Community Foundation, saying they should partner with I Live Here, I Give Here. If ACF would create a new giving circle as a tie into Keyholder and the Women’s Fund, they could be among the first to teach these young leaders to consistently give and create a culture of giving for the under-40 crowd. It took a while to figure out, but 4Front was born with Vanessa Fuentes and Lexie Hall serving as its first chairs. This is what excites me and tickles my soul- women empowering women. At just $20 a month, many of Austin’s young professionals will get to attend Keyholder and become members of the Women’s Fund. ACF could have said heck no because the giving circle does leave money on the table for them and gives 4Front members access to things that higher paying members receive. They believe so much in their mission that they made it happen and on a short time line. I Live Here, I Give Here said yes, too. They didn’t consider doing the program themselves and took some of the SJG participants to last week’s event. They were open to partnering with ACF to make it a reality. This is what I love about the Austin Community. When you raise your voice, find a way, and take action to make something happen, the results come. Not to mention, people will raise their hands to help.

Future Planning

I also admire ACF for taking the Women’s Fund to a new level. They have held several human-centered design workshops that they call “Strategy Labs” to look at ways they can be more engrossed in their four areas of impact. It’s not easy work, but they dare to be trailblazers to get it right. The Women’s Fund will then allow non-profits to apply for grants based on the information gathered at Strategy Labs to help address some of Austin’s most complex issues. They are dedicated to reporting back the outcomes to their members and the community, holding themselves accountable. SCORE!

Wondering how Keyholder fits in? Keyholder is the fundraiser that fuels their grants. And of course, it was fabulous. More than 425 women attended, making it a sold out event. MJ Hegar inspired so many I heard several people saying they wanted to be her when they grow up. Our goal for Keyholder was $200,000 and the event raised $250,000 for the Women’s Fund. Kudos to everyone on the host committee, sponsors, and ACF staff that worked tirelessly to make it happen. It was a delight to be along for the ride during this record setting year. To the girls at ACF, you Geaux Girls!  #GetYourShineOn! Thank you for allowing me to chair a night of awesomeness, one I won’t forget.

Were you at Keyholder? How was it, and what feedback do you have for us? Calling all 4Front members, what did you think? Are you ready for the first 4Front event? How would you like ACF to help you #GetYourShineOn? As always, let me know your thoughts at @TerriBWilliams. Want to invest in women and Austin? Visit ACF to learn more.

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