That stands for Community Service, Volunteerism and Philanthropy BTW. Our last meeting was a sparsley attended due to SXSW ramp up but we had a packed agenda. They Mayor’s City of service staff met with 46 Austin-area nonprofits and collected their insights on organizational and community challenges and solutions. Organizations that were invited to participate cut across issue areas and had a substantial budget, operating administration, and well-established community ties. Here were the three themes they heard over and over. Nothing surprising here for me.
1) Number of Nonprofits
Austin’s unusually high number of nonprofits increases competition for the limited amount of available funding and resources. Also, many organizations are duplicating existing services, exacerbating competition and weakening collaboration. The sheer number of organizations is overwhelming for citizens who utilize services and potential volunteers, making it difficult to identify the missions and services offered by each nonprofit.
Many nonprofits feel that the current structure of grant funding is not sustainable and biased to new and small nonprofits. Such bias creates additional struggle for established organizations to maintain services. As previously mentioned, this perpetuates the creation of nonprofits, competition, and inefficiency. Additionally, Austin’s individual and corporate giving falls short of what is expected, and engaging large donors and corporations may fill significant portions of the funding gap.
Austin’s increasing poverty rate and the growing physical gap between rich and poor are crucial problems. The lack of affordable housing in central Austin pushes those living in poverty further into more suburban and rural areas with less access to services. Wealth disparity in the city is vast and a lack of awareness of, even apathy toward, the economic gap is common. These conditions show that systemic inequality and discrimination continue to create barriers to economic mobility and reinforce poverty.
Those should be pretty easy for us to solve, right? More to come as we tackle some of the strategies and tactics below those issues in upcoming meetings.
Wait. You don’t? Well if you are coming to SXSW this year you should come say hello! For the fifth year running The Beacon Lounge will be the place to get your good on at SXSW Interactive with the best and brightest do-gooding Geeks in Austin. The 2013 list of “Changineers” & Beacon Lounge sponsors is chock full of awesome groups doing amazing work at the intersection of technology and social good.
To amplify the in-person conversations that will happen at the Lounge, they are pushing the #sxgood hashtag as the central source for social good tech news coming out of SXSWi. The Beacon Lounge is the obvious home for such a “social good stream” of curated thoughts, tools, tips, and campaigns happening online that can make a difference offline. We hope you’ll participate by using #sxgood on Twitter, but the #sxgood hashtag should also work well to aggregate content on Instagram, Google+, Tumblr and Pinterest.
The City of Austin task force I am part of has begun it’s bi-weekly meetings. I’ll try and update this blog the same week I attend meetings. Our fearless leader, Chief City of Austin Volunteer Officer, Sly Majid did a good job of outlining his vision.
He wants the following for this task force:
• Clean slate for redeveloping Cities of Service Program
• Sector-wide support: Not focusing on specific issues or programs
• Role of leadership: Unified, coordinated effort for all NPO interests
• Ambitious, creative, dynamic, no retreading or reinventing
• What it means to be an Austinite
• Make service a cultural touch point, similar to music and outdoors
Pretty ambitious goals for this group. I’m looking forward to making this vision into a reality.