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Giving Until It Feels Good

In many ways, Anita and Scot Salmon are the quintessential hi-tech couple—both work at National Instruments, he as principal software architect and she as a hardware-engineer-turned-manager. The parents of two active elementary school-age boys, the 30-something couple enjoys Austin’s laid-back outdoor lifestyle as well as the thriving foodie culture. After meeting at Rice University, they moved to Austin in the late 1990s when the Silicon Hills beckoned. They enjoy driving their Tesla.

However, that is where their similarity to many high-tech couples ends. Inspired by the classic book Your Money or Your Life, Scot and Anita are committed philanthropists who have chosen to “live well for less.”  They have a dedication to improving economic and environmental sustainability that borders on a second career.

“We got to a point with our income where we thought, we have enough,” Scot explains. “We decided let’s just put any raise we get into our philanthropy. That was years ago—we’ve gotten a lot of raises since then.”

Their commitment to giving began with a little healthy competition.

 Scot grew up in an intellectual family that believed in helping others. Anita was raised in a church-going family. She also had a life-altering experience during college when she and a friend traveled for a month in India.

“I remember in Delhi we crossed a bridge over a river with very little water in it,” Anita recalls. “The riverbed was covered with shanties. Clothes were laid out to dry in the dirt and a child was tending an open fire.”

Being exposed to dire poverty while knowing there were abundant resources and problem-solving capabilities in other parts of the world deepened her commitment to giving. When the couple began discussing marriage and Scot learned how ardently Anita budgeted her giving, he was humbled.

“I thought I was pretty generous back then,” Scot laughs, “but she really inspired me. Now we sort of view it as a competition. We spur each other on.”

The couple decided to open a Donor Advised Fund at Austin Community Foundation when they wanted to donate stock to several charities and wished to streamline the process. They enjoy making a single stock transfer to the Foundation and then using the online Donor Central giving portal to make grants from their fund any time, day or night. When it’s time to gather paperwork for taxes, all their charitable giving information is in one place since they do most of their giving through their fund.

The couple has a long association with United Way for Greater Austin as members of both the Tocqueville Society (now Century Investors) and Young Leaders Society. They adopted a slogan they learned from another United Way donor, “Don’t give until it hurts—give until it feels good.”