Eighteen years ago, in the Spring of 2006, Impact Austin gave Emancipet our first grant ever: $108K for clinic equipment to complete the build out of our first-ever brick & mortar clinic in Austin, and to purchase two transport vans to establish MASH-style clinics and provide free transportation to pets in need. This was our first significant grant from an Austin funder, and it was transformative in so many ways. It was a moment of going from grassroots to starting to see a future as a professional veterinary provider. It also legitimized our mission and Emancipet as an organization in the eyes of many in the community, because Impact Austin was so rigorous in their approach to due diligence and grant making. Many of the women who were on the committee for our grant became donors themselves, and volunteers, some even joining the Board and continuing the transformation of Emancipet into the future.

Rebecca Powers founded Impact Austin in 2003 as a women’s collective giving organization, funding Central Texas nonprofits. Her vision was that women would pool individual charitable donations of $1,000 each, and decide collectively how to award larger, more strategic, high-impact grants. In 2004, they gave their first grant to Lifeworks in Austin for just over $100,000. In 2005, they gave two grants of $100,000 each. They were on a roll.

That same year, in 2005, Emancipet had just been given permission by the City of Austin to open a spay/neuter clinic inside a building they were not using. We had only been a mobile spay/neuter program until that point, so the use of a building was an exciting opportunity for us. But we had no funds to pay for the medical equipment we would need, and no fundraising staff. A few volunteers wrote a grant to Impact Austin, telling the story of how this new building would help increase access to spay/neuter for Austin’s low income families, and the impact that would have on the welfare of animals in our community. We were beyond thrilled when we received one of three grants they gave in 2006 – for just over $100,000 to purchase equipment like anesthesia machines, autoclaves, surgical packs, and tables: enough to spay or neuter up to 30 pets each day. It changed our world overnight.

But that grant was just the beginning of how Impact Austin would really change things for Emancipet. One of the best things about the Impact Austin experience as a grantee is the partnership with the members that is formed throughout the due diligence process. A group of about ten remarkable women visited Emancipet’s mobile clinic and the new building many times, helped us think through our financial situation, and encouraged us to dream big about what we could do with a large grant. Some became very invested in our success – bringing friends or family members in for tours and making personal donations of their own. Emancipet’s CEO, Amy Mills, was invited to speak at many of the Impact Austin “coffees” – events where they would tell their story to women who were considering joining IA. This allowed Amy to hone the Emancipet story and get the word out to a large number of community leaders and volunteers who never would have heard of Emancipet otherwise.

Some of the women we met ended up serving on our Board of Directors, providing pro bono services such as HR and legal consulting, and helping to raise the profile and legitimacy of Emancipet in the Austin philanthropic community. You’ll be hearing about a few of those incredible volunteers in the upcoming months of our honoree highlights.

Impact Austin has continued to grow, since they started in 2003 they have awarded over $8.5 million in high impact grants to 96 Austin-area nonprofits. We are so incredibly honored to be one of the 96, and especially moved that we were one of the early grantees. We feel very lucky to have partnered with Impact Austin when we did: their grant, and more importantly their members, changed our world.