Tech­nol­ogy can en­able all of us to be ev­ery­day phi­lan­thropists


There is a phil­an­thropic gene in Amer­i­cans. We tend to give, al­most in­stinc­tively, of our time, money, ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence. And not just to peo­ple we know.

His­tor­i­cally, when there is a catas­tro­phe or tragedy any­where else in the world, the U.S. is usu­ally the first to re­spond with aid. There are also count­less foun­da­tions, char­i­ties, trusts, re­li­gious mis­sions, and non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions that ex­ist in our coun­try sim­ply to as­sist the less for­tu­nate.

The giv­ing ini­tia­tive in the busi­ness world has be­come widely known as cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity, and the no­tion is that brands will do well if they also do good.

In our city, busi­nesses are deeply en­gaged in giv­ing back to the com­mu­nity. A re­cent re­port by phil­an­thropic ad­vis­ers Rod­man and As­so­ci­ates of Austin in­di­cated that 95 per­cent of all com­pa­nies here are in­volved in char­i­ta­ble giv­ing and that 87 per­cent made an an­nual mon­e­tary do­na­tion. Rod­man sur­veyed 106 busi­nesses and dis­cov­ered that in 2014 they also do­nated 21,251 40-hour work­weeks of vol­un­teer time, which to­tals 408 years of free pub­lic ser­vice.

I be­lieve we all have an im­pulse to give and help. My fam­ily lived in a mo­bile home not far from the Rio Grande. When I was born in 1975, the Rio Grande Val­ley was re­ferred to by na­tional news pub­li­ca­tions as the “Third World of Amer­ica.” There was great poverty, but our fam­ily had the ba­sics, though not abun­dance; Dad was a math teacher and Mother stayed home to raise her three chil­dren.

One of our tra­di­tions for giv­ing came at the end of ev­ery year. All the clothes we had out­grown, the shoes we had worn down, or the in­ex­pen­sive toys that no longer held our fas­ci­na­tion were put into boxes and bags, and we drove to the ferry across the Rio Grande at the lit­tle town of Los Ebanos. Just south of the ferry land­ing was my mother’s home­town of Gus­tavo Diaz Or­daz, which is where we de­liv­ered our do­na­tions to her child­hood church, Igle­sia Me­todista El Buen Pas­tor.

I learned dur­ing those vis­its that our lower-mid­dle-class lives just north of the bor­der were con­sid­ered al­most ex­trav­a­gant to peo­ple not that many miles away on the other side.

My con­vic­tion as an en­tre­pre­neur has been that we need an im­proved in­fra­struc­ture for in­di­vid­u­als to ex­er­cise their char­i­ta­ble in­cli­na­tions, which will have a pro­found im­pact on phi­lan­thropy. The idea that giv­ing is a byprod­uct of great fi­nan­cial wealth is out­dated; tech­nol­ogy can en­able all of us to be ev­ery­day phi­lan­thropists.

I founded my com­pany En­cast to em­power char­i­ta­ble giv­ing by in­di­vid­u­als through their ev­ery­day lives. Com­pa­nies like YourCause, Benevity and Cause­cast also share our be­lief that more char­i­ta­ble causes should par­take of Amer­i­can gen­eros­ity. In fact, less than 10 per­cent of non­prof­its that file tax re­turns re­ceive more than 90 per­cent of an­nual to­tal char­i­ta­ble con­tri­bu­tions, which to­taled more than $433 bil­lion in 2015, ac­cord­ing to IRS data. The Giv­ing USA Foun­da­tion had a lower-but-still-siz­able fig­ure for char­i­ta­ble giv­ing that year: $373 bil­lion.

And al­tru­ism is not the only rea­son for a busi­ness to give back.

A May re­port by Gallup in­di­cated mil­len­nial work­ers are not stay­ing on their jobs and that turnover costs the econ­omy $30 bil­lion an­nu­ally. The study con­cludes that mil­len­ni­als “just want a job that feels worth­while and they will keep look­ing un­til they find it.”

Work­place giv­ing can pro­vide that mean­ing for em­ploy­ees — and it can im­prove re­turn on in­vest­ment. Cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­grams have proven to in­crease pro­duc­tiv­ity by 13 per­cent, which is like a com­pany get­ting 6.5 weeks of ad­di­tional work from an em­ployee, with rev­enue grow­ing as much as 20 per­cent. A busi­ness can at­tract and re­tain top tal­ent when it has a so­cially en­gaged work cul­ture in­volved in giv­ing.

None of this even ad­dresses in­creased cus­tomer con­ver­sions and brand loy­alty re­sult­ing from a ro­bust cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity pro­gram. How­ever, our goal at En­cast is to help ev­ery­one live a giv­ing life­style. There is no way to es­ti­mate the sweep­ing pos­i­tive im­pact that will oc­cur when we all dis­cover that giv­ing is easy and af­ford­able, no mat­ter how much we earn.

I know it’s one of the hap­pi­est les­sons I have ever learned.

Re: Feb. 23 com­men­tary, “Set­ting the record straight on value of pal­lia­tive care.”

The com­men­tary dis­cussed how chil­dren with a life-lim­it­ing ill­ness may con­tinue to seek cu­ra­tive treat­ment while re­ceiv­ing hospice care. This pro­vi­sion has saved par­ents the ag­o­niz­ing choice of for­go­ing cu­ra­tive at­tempts in or­der to im­prove their child’s qual­ity of life.

Pe­di­atric hospice care is ex­tremely com­plex and costly to pro­vide. It re­quires spe­cial­ized staff and equip­ment, with fre­quent vis­its by nurses, so­cial work­ers and chap­lains. Thanks in part to gen­er­ous com­mu­nity sup­port, Hospice Austin is the only hospice in our area with a spe­cial­ized pe­di­atric hospice pro­gram.

We are proud of our com­mit­ment to our youngest pa­tients and hon­ored by the com­mu­nity’s com­mit­ment to us. To­gether we are en­sur­ing that ev­ery ter­mi­nally ill child in our com­mu­nity has ac­cess to care that im­proves their phys­i­cal

Re: Feb. 23 let­ter to the ed­i­tor, “Short-term rentals bill bad for neigh­bor­hoods.”

I have a prob­lem with the Texas Leg­is­la­ture over­rid­ing city of Austin or­di­nances. But in the case of short-term rentals, the city over­reached so dras­ti­cally and so un­nec­es­sar­ily that the Leg­is­la­ture should strike down the lo­cal law.

So-called “party houses,” both those that are short­term rentals and those that are long-term rentals or owner-oc­cu­pied dwellings, can be ad­dressed by ex­ist­ing en­force­ment mech­a­nisms. What’s more, be­fore the city im­posed a ban on new short-term rental-2 li­censes, it had al­ready re­stricted short-term rentals to less than 3 per­cent of res­i­dences per cen­sus tract. How does that “de­stroy neigh­bor­hoods”?

Bot­tom line: Austin’s short­term rental or­di­nance is an over­re­ac­tion, maybe even un­con­sti­tu­tional. I be­lieve reg­u­lat­ing short-term rentals is only pru­dent. But fear and hy­per­bole must not over­ride the facts. Fair, rea­son­able short-term rental reg­u­la­tions should be im­posed statewide.

My wife and I had the same doc­tor for close to 25 years. We were al­ways very happy with the pre­ven­tive care and emer­gency care we re­ceived.

Now our doc­tor has joined “Coun­try Club” medicine. Peo­ple must pay an an­nual fee for the priv­i­lege of be­ing in his club. Nor­mal charges for ser­vices still ap­ply. Added to our ex­ist­ing in­surance premium, this would dou­ble our an­nual costs. We can­not af­ford this. My wife is in tears at hav­ing to find a new doc­tor in our mid-70s. I don’t know how many other se­niors have been kicked to the curb like this, but we now have a wake-up call. Plan ahead: This could hap­pen to you.


Bri­ana Ro­driguez com­forts a pa­tient at Hospice Austin’s Christo­pher House last month. Repub­li­cans’ de­sire to re­place Medi­care has some se­niors wor­ried.


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