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What’s the best future you can imagine for Austin and Central Texas? Forty years ago, a small group of community members—a retired city worker, an attorney, a trust officer and a donor—must have asked that very question.

It was 1977. Willie Nelson played “redneck rock” at Austin’s famous Armadillo World Headquarters, you could buy a home for $16,500, and the Statesman’s Capital 10K made its big debut with 3,400 runners.

That year Austin Community Foundation was established to meet community needs by creating a permanent endowment fund to generate earnings and distribute grants. During its first three years, the  Foundation made $12,000 in grants to preserve the Wild Basin wilderness area, help women recovering from domestic violence, produce plays at Zachary Scott Theatre and help students from low-income neighborhoods read.

That initial gift of $30,000, made in 1975 by Fannie Gray Leo through her will, has multiplied to $180 million  in assets, 60% of which are endowed. We now hold 1,000 funds large and small—all reflecting the interests and values of our community of givers.

Encouraging donors to give to local needs is still at the core of why we exist.  Yet as our region has dramatically grown and changed, the Foundation has also evolved.

Like our founders, we believe everyone deserves opportunity. Now as our region balances on an inflection point of growth and change, we are focusing our work and leadership on closing the opportunity gap through research, data-driven grantmaking, and co-investing with fundholders.