With a new year well underway and spring—hopefully soon—around the corner, I’m looking forward to emerging out of what some would consider a dark, cold time. For readers in Texas who endured the winter storms, I hope you know that I was thinking of each and every one of you and truly hope you are doing okay, not just physically but mentally, too. For those not in Texas, what you saw circulating around the news and social media was very real - it was a horrific, blisteringly cold week for so many people and the sheer amount of tragedy that could have been avoided is unbelievable.
Although we have far to go in terms of broken systems and much-needed solutions - locally and globally - I do feel a glimmer of hope for what the rest of this year will bring and that act of ‘being a light’ during dark times is nothing short of inspiring and incredible. With each passing day, philanthropy continues to become more agile and flexible to meet new challenges posed by the pandemic, and despite the hard times, people continue to support the neighbors, communities, and causes they care about. (If you are curious to learn more about current trends in philanthropy, click to read these top resources.) Additionally, I’ve added links from esteemed colleagues who share ways philanthropy can respond to pressing challenges currently happening in the Lone Star State:
In this issue, I would like to introduce you to the CivicAIM consultant team that elevates and illuminates the stories of philanthropy—giving you a behind-the-scenes view into the points of leverage, expertise, and networks at play. Elaine Gast Fawcett of PhilanthroComm co-authors our newsletter, highlights best practices from the field, and creates case studies and client stories, and Marta Vizcarro of Pint Sized Studio designs our website, newsletter, and provides branding and counsel for all of CivicAIM’s strategy tools.
As a team, we build the capacity for CivicAIM to strengthen YOU, our partners in grantmaking, governance, and impact.
The reason I founded CivicAIM was to nurture the sharing, learning, and networking of the art and practice of philanthropy. While there is no “one” model, there are ways we can continually learn from each other and build something better than we could on our own. I appreciate the synergy the CivicAIM consultant team along with our clients and partners bring to collaborate, innovate, create, and care for the work we build with among one another and the larger community.
CivicAIM is a partner and collaborator for you and your work as well. What do you wish to shine the light on in 2021? What’s your philanthropic AIM? Let’s connect and create a strategy that evolves your passion into action.
Speaking of passion, the CivicAIM team appreciates a good beat—and we’ve put together a terrific collaborative playlist on Spotify to share with you. We hope it brings light and inspiration to your days. If you like it, feel free to share it with others. Oh, and don’t forget to add your favorite tunes, too!
In the words of Amanda Gorman, may we all continue to be brave enough to see and be the light.
Erica founded CivicAIM in to help people uncover their passion and their power to lead and transform our world to a better, thriving, sustainable community. She was born and lives in Austin, and in her formative years, grew up in rural west Texas, Fort Stockton. During college, she took advantage of a study abroad program and lived and studied widely: in Guanajuato, Mexico; The Hague, Netherlands, and Madrid, Spain.
“I admire and try to surround myself among people who are impassioned about making this world a better place and aren't afraid to be bold, creative and experiment to learn and succeed. That type of energy is contagious!” she says.
Like so many, her family is doing their part to stay safe and keep others safe by staying at or close to home. They keep experiences fresh and new by trying new recipes for home cooked meals and exploring Central Texas parks and area hike and bike trails. “Before the pandemic, our family calendar was packed with activities, flights, and plans -- all good, but just plain packed! During the pandemic, we took inventory of what mattered to us, individually & as a family, and realized we didn't need to be scheduled months in advance. A couple of my cherished moments are our dinner conversations (especially listening to the perspectives of my 11- and 13-year-old kids) and spending time caring for my vegetable garden.”
What does Erica most hope for in 2021? “My immediate hope is for health and access to the vaccination for our local and global communities. Looking forward, my hope is that 2020 serves as a catalyst for change where, as citizens of the world, we listen with humility and act with intention, individually and collectively, to support the disruption of systemic injustices. Everyone has a role and responsibility toward this ‘new dawn.’”
Elaine loves researching, learning, and sharing stories that illuminate and inspire humans to reflect, connect deeply with ourselves, each other, and the world around us...in service to the greater good. She was born and raised in Annapolis, Maryland, and has lived in Washington D.C., Maui, and all over the San Francisco Bay Area – currently in Walnut Creek, a town in the East Bay.
Through her philanthropy and communications consulting firm, Elaine has written many tools and resources for grantmakers, including with the National Center of Family Philanthropy, the Council on Foundations, and Exponent Philanthropy. She also serves as a writer and communications strategist for foundations large and small.
“What inspires me is all the super smart and caring people that I get to work with—people who are interested in showing up for others and for the world. I always learn something new, and as of this past year, have become even more grateful to have these connections,” she says.
This past year has given us all a chance to look (and live) inward, recalibrate what matters most to us, and find bright spots of hope and resiliency where we can, says Elaine. It has also shined the light on all the inequities and racism in our society, all the wounding, fear, and pain that is within us and the collective. “I'm looking forward to humanity evolving to exist in a more compassionate, generous, mindful way, where we live and act in balance with the earth and all beings.”
Elaine loves collaborating with the CivicAIM team. “How amazing it is to come together with these kind, bright, talented, soulful women/professionals/hardworking moms, who care about making this world a better place to be,” she says. “We each bring our own gifts and ...”
It’s a model of collaboration and mutual respect that others can learn from. We’re happy to share what we’ve learned.”
Marta grew up in a small fishing town by the Mediterranean, two hours away from Barcelona. She has lived in Barcelona, Spain, Austin, Texas, and now makes her home in Toronto. She runs a small, multidisciplinary, community-based design firm called Pint Sized Studio that has a passion for making an impact on the common good.
“We strive to find a sustainable way of helping social enterprises, small businesses, and non-profit organizations have a positive impact through branding, website design, illustration, and print design,” she says. “Being able to help organizations while I do what I like the most keeps me going. Also, visual design lets you see what you build 'live,' and that's very rewarding.”
“It has also made us aware that family is the most important thing, and that...”
Marta’s wish for 2021? “I hope that humans understand that this pandemic happened because we broke the delicate balance between humans, nature, and the animal world. I hope we are able to repair what's inevitably breaking so that we can all live in a perfectly balanced ecosystem where we all have the same existential weight. Looking at younger generations and how active they are in protecting our legacy, there's still hope.”
If Marta could give foundations and nonprofits a piece of advice, it would be to invest in email marketing using a tool such as Mailchimp, Constant Contact, Active Campaign, or Raiser's Edge. Besides reaching your audience, most tools also provide data about what content is valuable for them, and that helps you know how to better engage your audience—whether they be grantees, other funders, colleagues, supporters, or fans. Also, it helps to follow other organizations that are building the same type of communities you want to be a part of, she says. “Look at what they do in their online communications and learn from them.”
After 2020, are we truly able to predict anything?! Maybe not. Yet, there are a few trends we predict will continue into this new year and beyond. Here are our predictions for 2021:
If you want to know what the researchers say, check out these three reliable resources that report on trends and predictions.
What are your top predictions for 2021? Or better yet, what light will you hold and contribute towards? Drop us a line at Erica@CivicAim.org—we would love to hear your thoughts.
Looking to learn? Here’s a list of 9 of our favorite go-to resources on social impact, philanthropy, nonprofits, and entrepreneurship. We hope you find them as helpful as we do.
What resources or guides have you found most helpful? We’re always looking to add to our list. Drop us a line at Erica@CivicAim.org and let us know.
CivicAIM is a philanthropy consulting firm focused on strengthening grantmaking, governance, and impact. CivicAIM supports mission-driven families, small-staffed foundations, funder collaboratives, and giving circles. Together with you, we develop and execute grant and evaluation strategies that lead you to impact, and we facilitate critical conversations and transitions that strengthen your board’s decision making.