Plugging-In to the Nonprofit Community

Moving to a new city is daunting enough when your only connections are a cousin, and a friend from college. Never mind figuring out life in general as a single gal in her late twenties, having followed a circuitous career path, and no idea what the future holds, just the hope that it is going to be wonderful! Do you let yourself change completely (because you can, and only two people would really know!) or do you stay true to who you are and keep on creating the life you’ve been living, just in a new location…after careful consideration, and realizing I really like who I am, I decided to go with option B.

Being of the do-gooder variety I knew there was no way I would not be involved in the Austin community. It was essentially my first act of business upon arrival, along with starting a new job (oh, and finding a place to live!), to find an organization, or several, that I could be lucky enough to be a part of, and start contributing to the Austin community. Having worked for a start-up, a large corporation, and a non-profit, with a grad school stint in between, I have had a balanced work experience, and was looking forwarding to feeling passion again for volunteering. The non-profit experience exposed me to the triumphs and challenges of the non-profit world and so volunteering means so incredibly much to me, and I know how vital it is to a community. I also knew that being new to a city; volunteering and getting involved would be a great way to meet similar minded folks.

I am so very lucky to work for a company that supports, encourages, and seeks out community service opportunities for its employees. While chatting with some coworkers at the Greenlights Board Summit, I found out about the Austin Young Women’s Alliance. Prior to arriving in Austin, I had a strong desire to find an organization like this, so I was excited to find out more information and went to the next monthly meeting. I was in, I was hooked, and I was ready to join forces with the fabulous young women of Austin and help transform this city, and would probably end up transforming myself.

I joined a few committees, and hold a chair position on one of them. At times I feel a little too busy, but when I remind myself of the big picture, I feel so lucky to be able to be a part of the YWA in the capacity that I am. Through the YWA I have been able to volunteer with various projects, and love that there are new opportunities with new organizations. How could I not take advantage? Again…it makes me busier, but hello! The world needs us!

Not only through the YWA am I able to find great volunteer opportunities, but our Giving Program at work, works with great non-profit organizations, which has allowed me to investigate who needs help with what.

I cannot even begin to describe what it feels like to give back. Whether it is my time or money…I am so blessed, and lucky enough to be in a position to make a difference. In the end though, it is the people that I have worked with who have made the difference in my life. Although I suppose that begs the question, is it about them, or is it about me? I volunteer because I feel like I have something to contribute to the world. I don’t do it for any recognition, and I don’t do it for any amount of hours, or something to put on my resume.

I care about people, about causes, and fighting for what is right. I believe in the old adage that we are all in this together. We need to work together. And sometimes we need a little guidance, and a little help to find our passion, and where in the community we can let that passion run free. It’s the best feeling in the world.

Jill Faulkner

Do I need to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit?

An initial question for every startup nonprofit is, what is needed to legally become a nonprofit?  Trying to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit might not be right for every nonprofit, or it might not be right at that particular point in time.  Filing for 501(c)(3) status takes an investment of time, effort and money.  Therefore, a startup nonprofit should consider its activities and strategies before determining whether to merely organize as a state nonprofit corporation or to take the additional step of becoming a 501(c)(3).

A nonprofit corporation is a legal entity organized under and governed by the laws of the state in which it is created.   Creating a nonprofit corporation is typically a simple process that requires a small fee, the appropriate paperwork and an annual filing with your state’s tax office.  The benefits of becoming a nonprofit corporation under the laws of your state are that you create a legal entity that can have its own bank account, own property, and enter into legal agreements.  Moreover, the nonprofit corporation will provide some liability protection to its members.   The ability to perform these administrative tasks simplifies the management of your nonprofit.  The formation of a nonprofit corporation under state law is also a required step before you can file for 501(c)(3) status with the IRS.

Forming a state nonprofit corporation might be adequate for smaller nonprofits that do not plan on significant growth and for who the investment in 501(c)(3) status is not worth the commitment of the nonprofit’s resources.  Creating a nonprofit corporation can be a good initial step for a startup nonprofit as it is attempting to grow before making the investment to become a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  Ultimately, however, 501(c)(3) status is required for nonprofits to grow and confers many benefits such as the tax deductibility of donations and the ability to apply for a wider range of grants.

This information is meant merely to be informative and does not constitute legal advice.  Please consult with your attorney regarding any of the above-discussed issues.

Additional Resources:

FAQs about Nonprofit Corporations from the Texas Secretary of State:

FAQs from the IRS about 501(c)(3) Status:

– by Nick Meyer

Navigating Austin’s Non-profit Scene—A Newbie’s Perspective

I have to be honest—I am not a native Austinite. I am in fact one of the many recent transplants that have helped to keep Austin at the top of the list of America’s fastest growing cities for the past several years. I moved to Austin last year to continue work in the non-profit sector, work that I began in earnest with AmeriCorps NCCC the year before. I had never been to Austin, and yet I moved across the country sight unseen based on impressions gleaned from friends in the area and promising leads in the non-profit section of Craigslist (and I’ll admit that the “Live Music Capital of the World” label had its appeal). So I may have idealized the city a bit before the move—I can tell you that I don’t spend every night catching the latest music sensation at impromptu gigs in the parking lots of Austin’s downtown. But I can also tell you that the non-profit scene did not disappoint, not in the least.

In fact, I can safely say that Austin is the first city where I have actually felt overwhelmed by the incredible number of options available to professionals in the non-profit arena. Organizations such as Greenlights for Nonprofit Success and TANO provide trainings and professional growth opportunities, Citizen Generation, Austin Involved and I Live Here I Give Here encourage involvement of time and money with a selection of local non-profits…There is even a magazine, Giving City, that is entirely devoted to philanthropy and non-profit activity. Not to mention the hundreds of unique non-profit organizations themselves.

I remember when I felt settled in to my new position with the Giving Program at, and I decided it was time to actually get out in the community and volunteer. In an effort to encourage such involvement the company provided tickets to employees interested in attending the Greenlights Board Summit, an event featuring fifty-five local non-profits. I left weighed down with brochures and volunteer information from what felt like the majority of the fifty-five, wishing I had more time to devote to preserving the folklife of Austin (Texas Folklife), or supporting individuals who suffer from mental illness (NAMI), or promoting exercise and nutrition in low-income communities (WeViva—the organization I eventually chose to volunteer with, and as an added bonus learned Zumba).

I also left the Summit with an even greater appreciation of the diversity of organizations available in one city, feeling inspired by the genuine support these organizations receive from the Austin community. People often reference the “small town” feel of Austin, and I think it is this kind of involvement that really drives that sentiment home. Local businesses donate proceeds to LIVESTRONG and play host to HAAM (Health Alliance for Austin Musicians) benefits, UT students walk dogs for Austin Pets Alive! or mentor struggling middle school students, and high-ranking professionals already working fifty hours a week join the board of growing non-profits in need of guidance. In Austin, we make time for the people who need us.

There is a reason Austin plays host to so many festivals, summits, and training events—people participate. Taking my current employer,, as an example: a successful local company provides a Giving Program to help cut costs for non-profits across the country, and has instated employee donation matching programs and paid volunteer hours to encourage community participation. This is the kind of mentality that so much of Austin embraces, and it is something I truly love and value about this city.

Having spent my college years in the rural town of Gambier, Ohio (complete with horse and buggies) you can understand why the Austin non-profit scene may have overwhelmed me at first (and occasionally still does so a year later). In my defense, I have heard even native Austinites complain of the seemingly endless possibilities for community involvement, and of not knowing how to best invest their limited time and energy. Austin is fortunate to be over-flowing with a large population of intelligent, motivated, philanthropic citizens willing to devote time and energy to charitable causes. I have no doubt that Austin Pro Bono will thrive in this city of creative professionals, serving as an invaluable tool to match skill with need and eliminating some of the legwork necessary for finding a good volunteer fit. Personally, I can’t wait to get involved.

– by Brittany Snyder


Welcome to Austin Pro Bono!

Welcome to the blog section of the Austin Pro Bono community! We are beyond excited to be launching our new web platform for connecting nonprofits with skills-based volunteers in the Austin community. This new phase is a year and half in the making and we can’t wait to assist you all in bettering our community.

The Austin Pro Bono team is passionate about giving back to our communities.  We believe that anyone can make an impact and that it is our responsibility to make our world a better place. We hope to become another resource for you to expand your giving and to help you discover ways to give back you never thought possible.

To our nonprofit partners, we want to assist you in accomplishing your goals in new and innovative ways. Engagement with skilled volunteers will result in immediate cost savings as well as the creation of meaningful and lasting relationships with community members who are passionate about your cause and the work that you do.

Austin Pro Bono strives to partner with innovative and forward thinking businesses looking to find a way to give back on a corporate level.  Corporate giving not only builds strong and loyal employee teams, but giving strategies are often becoming deciding factors for potential hires in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

This space will be a place for APB supporters to share their experiences and expertise. We hope that it will become a resource for your organization and will fuel your giving spirit. We are excited to offer our support and to get started on our new phase of improving the Austin community!