Two nights ago I joined 500 other women from Impact Austin at the Dell Community Center to listen as 10 local non-profits presented their plans for using the money we were about to donate. The catch? Only 5 of the organizations would “win” a $100,000 donation. The other 5 would go home wiser but empty handed. The winners would be chosen that night, just moments after making their presentations.
Reality TV has nothing on this event.
It’s hard to send 5 worthy causes home without money and the number of teary eyes and tissues in the audience proved it. It also proved that the company with the most focused and compelling pitch wins. This was marketing in real time.
It’s my first year as a member of Impact Austin. There’s probably a group like this where you live. Look for one if you’re not already member. This kind of giving is really fulfilling. The concept is to find 500 women who each donate $1k, thus pooling their money to create $500k. The group then takes applications from non-profits and begins a very thorough vetting process to narrow down the nominees to 10 (2 in each category.) Finally those 10 present live, the members cast ballots, and the votes are counted right then and there. The 5 winners are announced within 30 minutes. The whole process works like a well-oiled machine, albeit one led with real heart by founder Rebecca Powers. The donation size is enough to make a real impact, and each non-profit who “wins” has to report their results. I’ve never felt so good about giving in my life.
I’ve also never felt more certain about the necessity of a really good brand story.
All the members had received a very thorough report about the finalists from the nomination committee, and believe me, every finalist was extremely worthy. Many of the members had already decided who they were going to vote for before siting down to watch the presentations. But guess what? Those votes often changed based on the 5 minute pitch each non-profit made on stage. And the ultimate winners in each category had presentations that had three things in common:
1. A concise and compelling goal
2. A very human story that illustrated how the group had impacted lives
3. A passionate, often charismatic leader making the presentation
Sounds easy, huh? Certainly the stringent vetting process was enough to make every group edit and focus their goal. But telling a compelling story and having a leader who could make the audience FEEL that their donation would go even farther on the wings of their vision and passion, well, that’s another thing entirely.
For those of you lucky enough to live in Austin, the winners will be presented with their checks tomorrow (Friday, June 12th.) Presentations will be made on site rather than at the Capital so that all the volunteers from each organization can be part of the ceremony. Try to make it to at least one. I’ll be at the GENaustin event at the Ann Richards School For Young Women Leaders at 2:15pm. The other event times and locations (and links) are below.
People’s Community Clinic
2909 N. IH 35
Austin, TX 78722
504 Lavaca Street Suite 1008
Austin, TX 78701
Urban Roots farm at Hands of the Earth farm
Austin, TX 78725
Ballet East Dance Company
Eastside Memorial High School
1012 Arthur Stiles
Austin, TX 78721
Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders
2206 Prather Lane
Austin, TX 7870