I Live Here I Give Here Partners with Black-led Nonprofits for Amplify Austin Day
How newfound initiatives are dismantling inequities within the annual Central Texas giving event
By Lainey Gonzales
On March 2–3, I Live Here I Give Here will host its annual city-wide day of giving, Amplify Austin Day. For nine years, Amplify Austin Day has connected 500,000 Austinites to hundreds of local nonprofits, raising over $82 million in donations.
This event has become vital to fundraising in Central Texas, benefitting not only Austin, but six other neighboring counties.
In honor of the 10th anniversary, ILHIGH aims to make this their largest event to date, with a goal of reaching 50,000 donors. To hit this goal, they’ve enlisted the help of many partners, including the likes of H-E-B, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and Dell Technologies.
But, two of their most impactful partnerships are emerging for the first time this year.
Catalyzed by the thousands of protests following the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd and Breyonna Taylor, ILHIGH CEO Courtney Manuel began to look at the many disparities within the philanthropic community, specifically her own.
“After the George Floyd murder, I Live Here I Give Here took a step back to think about how we utilize our platforms to advance equity for people of color,” explains Manuel. “We wanted to think really critically for all of our programs and create more access to our programs.”
Though Amplify Austin Day has helped hundreds of incredible organizations, the vast majority of them are white-led.
This is partially due to the fact that many Black-led nonprofits are not actually considered nonprofits. The legal and financial requirements groups must have in order to be recognized as a 501(c)(3) are barriers to those who do not have the right connections or resources.
This crucial truth was brought to Manuel’s attention through partnering with Meme Styles Consulting and Black Leaders Collective. One of the cornerstones of Meme Styles Consulting is ‘Data for Equity,’ something founder Meme Styles has been practicing since the third grade.
“I led a petition for chocolate milk,” recalls Styles. “Because why should all milk be white? And that was my rationale, I literally said ‘Why? ‘Where’s the brown milk?’” Determined to rectify the situation, Styles began to collect hundreds of signatures from her classmates and teachers.
“I knew that it was data, I had to get numbers in order to push back against the system,” she explains.
Though the systems she pushes back against now are much larger than her elementary school administration, her sentiment remains: data is power. This is why Styles and the founder of Black Leaders Collective, Terry P. Mitchell, created a survey for Black-led nonprofits. By conducting the survey, they were able to assess the challenges and needs of over 35 local organizations.
“From there, we started outlining what we could do to center the Black voices of Black-led nonprofits,” says Mitchell.
One of the initiatives born from the survey results is a match fund specifically for Black-led nonprofits participating in Amplify Austin Day. The fund has already doubled their original goal of $25,000, proving that the collaboration between Black Leaders Collective, ILHIGH and Meme Styles Consulting is creating significant change.
“I really want to dismantle the idea that anything that has to do with Black is going to be less than,” explains Mitchell. “Let’s think big when we think Black.”
Along with the match fund, these new partnerships have connected sponsors to local Black-led organizations in order to get them registered as 501(c)(3)s, removing the obstacles that prevented them from participating in Amplify Austin Days of the past.
“A lot of Black nonprofits and community leaders didn’t even know about Amplify Austin Day and that speaks to the disparity in the system,” explains Mitchell. “I had to explain and express just how inequitable a 501(c)(3) status is.”
There have been many steps taken, but the road to equity in the nonprofit sector is long and winding. This is why all three parties have stressed that this new collaboration is just the beginning.
“It’s been a learning experience for all of us,” says Manuel. “I Live Here I Give Here had to learn how to communicate with these organizations that have historically not felt trust with us.”
Though it took difficult conversations and countless hours of data collection, this year’s Amplify Austin Day will elevate Black community leaders and organizations unlike ever before.
“This is what action looks like,” says Styles. “You have to be willing to disrupt your traditional model. If you’re not disrupting the way you collect data, the way you prioritize equity within your organization, you are perpetuating racism. Period.”
Visit amplifyatx.org for more information about Amplify Austin Day 2022 and how to contribute to local Black-led nonprofits.