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As Austin Grows, So Do Its Charitable Contributions

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KUT News

The annual Amplify Austin fundraiser kicks off this evening, and, this year, organizers are working to boost philanthropic efforts across Central Texas.

The goal for this year’s Amplify Austin is to reach $9 million in donations over 24 hours. Celeste Flores is executive director of I Live Here, I Give Here, the nonprofit that organizes the annual fundraiser.

“It’s amazing to me what the community has done to come together and just rally in 24 hours. So, I know that we will make that goal, and it’s just again, how much over $9 million will Central Texans donate to their favorite nonprofits?”

Amplify Austin has seen rapid growth over the years. Organizers kicked off the online day of giving in 2013, with a goal of raising $1 million for local nonprofits. Last year, they raised more than $7.7 million. Flores says they’ve added about 100 more nonprofits this year, and they’re working to extend their reach beyond the city limits.

“There are actually nonprofits in the seven-county region that we cover, so we are encouraging Central Texans to get online and give, and give where they live,” she says.

Austin’s philanthropic efforts have historically lagged behind those of other major cities. A 2012 report by the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked Austin 48th out of the 50 largest U.S. cities in terms of its level of giving. That report used data from 2006 tax filings, but the city has since improved its standing. Cody Switzer is assistant managing editor at the Chronicle of Philanthropy. He says Austin is now ranked 36 out of those 50 cities.

“It’s hard to say exactly what’s happening in a community because there’s so many factors that we see that can affect cities, including changes in the local economy, how they recovered from the recession, big fundraising campaigns, and I think that giving days, which are increasingly popular, also can play a role in that,” Switzer says.

Some of that slow growth could stem from the Austin’s rapidly changing population, Switzer says, to which Flores agrees.

“I think it’s just new people coming to town, not that they don’t want to give, they just don’t know where to start,” she says. “So, I think that philanthropy being a part of the fabric of the community is really important.”

Flores says she hopes Amplify Austin will help connect residents with nonprofits they can support year round. The fundraiser runs through Wednesday evening.

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