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How Nonprofits Capitalized on SXSW Crowds to Boost Charitable Efforts

SXSW2016_crowd.jpg
Jorge Sanhueza Lyon/KUT

South By Southwest is known for drawing leaders in film, music, and tech to Austin. The festival may be over, but some are hoping it can leave lasting impression. Some groups are used the festival to promote social causes.

Like a lot venues for SXSW, the line to get into Lustre Pearl on Rainey Street stretched all the way down the block, but, along with their wristbands and badges, many of the visitors also brought some furry friends. And, like many coming to SXSW, Joshua Lee is looking for the same thing all those countless startups and bands look for over the festival: exposure.

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Credit Syeda Hasan/KUT
An Austin Pets Alive volunteer tends to a puppy at the group's puppy party on Saturday March 19, 2016.

  So, Lee's employer, Austin Pets Alive, decided to throw a puppy party last Saturday to capitalize on the crowds, while raising awareness and funds for its animal rescue efforts.

“With the interactive week of SXSW kind of building up, there’s a lot more exposure for nonprofits,” Lee said.

The dog-friendly event also included puppies that could be adopted on the spot. By the end of the afternoon, Lee and other volunteers had found permanent homes for four dogs from the shelter.

“You know, people come to SXSW expecting to spend money,” Lee said. “And when they can give to a charity that they feel close to – and, obviously, you can see here there’s a lot of people with dogs – so it’s been a great event.”

Lee says the influx of people at SXSW also provides a unique opportunity to share ideas about social causes. He says many visitors want to know more about Austin’s policy of not euthanizing pets that enter the animal shelter, the so-called “no-kill” policy.

“It offers us the opportunity to kind of inform other people about Austin and how Austin is a no-kill city, and the unique things that Austin Pets Alive does,” he said.  

And more nonprofits are taking advantage of that audience. Dozens of groups took part in this year’s SX Good, a series of panels and events focused on giving back. Marta Riggins with Pandora took part in a panel on how music can contribute to social good.

“Music is a very powerful tool. It’s a very emotional tool, and it’s very much rooted in activism,” Riggins said. “So, I think that is a powerful connecter for people.”

Immediately after the panel, Riggins gathered up 50 attendees to help put together care packages for a local homeless shelter. She says she wanted to demonstrate just how easy it is to get organized and give back at SXSW.

“It’s a really amazing place to meet people from all over the world that you wouldn’t normally connect with and share ideas and best practices,” she said, adding that she hopes to help make giving back a permanent fixture of SXSW. 

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