San Antonio is blessed with many nonprofits which leverage an individual’s philanthropic efforts by supporting the needs of our community in ways we could never do as individuals.
I have shifted my thinking in recent years from looking at my giving as charity vs. philanthropy. While both are important and claim a share of my “wallet,” these are really two different things. Charity is a response to an acute need where you give, but you don’t necessarily know the impact of your giving. Philanthropy is a financial investment where you are making a long-term commitment to seeking a solution to a chronic problem in our society. While you may not see the results for some time, the intent is to have an impact on the problem.
A positive challenge we are often faced with is how can I be an effective philanthropist? This question leads to others. Where should I donate? Will it make a difference? How much of my donation will actually go to the cause I wish to support?
I’m pleased to say that in the past four years, I have become a smarter, more effective philanthropist. I discovered a powerful way of giving to my community through a women’s collective giving organization called Impact San Antonio. This nonprofit has been around since 2004 and is modeled after 30 other “Impact” organizations throughout the country and Australia which have granted in excess of $29 million to well-deserving nonprofits. Impact San Antonio alone has contributed more than $1.7 million — yes, nearly $2 million — since its inception more than 10 years ago.
The concept is simple but powerful. To be a member of Impact San Antonio, each woman donates $1,000. For every 100 members, we give a project grant for $100,000 to a San Antonio area nonprofit in one of five focus areas – arts and culture; education; environment; family; and health and wellness. Over the past three years, with an average of 310 members, Impact SA has awarded three $100,000 grants each year to the nonprofits our members choose, to make a true impact in our community.
Part of being an effective philanthropist is being knowledgeable of how much of my contributions will go to the people helped by the causes I support, and what portion of my donation will go to administrative expenses. This is easy to research with programs like Charity Navigator. With Impact San Antonio, 100 percent of my $1,000 donation goes to an actual project for nonprofits selected each year through a competitive grant review process. Each year, I get to vote for the organizations that will receive the high-impact grants through a democratic process. One woman, one vote. That’s true power in giving. Each year, when we award the grants, I feel as if I’ve written my own check for $100,000.
The vision of Impact San Antonio is to have enough members to award a $100,000 high impact grant to an agency in each of the five focus areas to make a substantial impact on our community in all areas of need. This “drive for five” in 2016 has already begun in earnest and will continue until our membership deadline of May 31.
We all know that a stone thrown into a pond will create a seemingly infinite amount of ripples. Although the visible ripples eventually subside, every inch of the pond has been touched and affected by that one stone. It is my hope that all of us will be motivated to become effective philanthropists to make our community the best it can be.
Women interested in learning about Impact San Antonio are invited to attend its April 7 Spring Fling from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at The Playhouse, 800 W. Ashby Place. Email email@example.com if you would like to receive an invitation or visit our website to read about the impact we have had.
Top image: Luminaria volunteer Alyssa Danna walks with a lit globe asking for donations for the arts festival. Photo by Scott Ball.