Amy Allen, Senior Philanthropic Officer, is celebrating 25 years of dedicated service at the Austin Community Foundation. During her tenure at the Foundation (so far), Amy has performed finance, operations, grantmaking, communications, donor relations and catering (!) roles–while also getting married and raising two girls into successful young women. Fundholders and coworkers alike admire Amy’s sunny outlook and her genuine care for others’ needs and well-being. We invited her to share what keeps her excited about her 26th year at the Foundation.
Home and Generosity
I was raised in Austin by amazing parents, Nelda and Tom Francis, and surrounded by family and friends. I grew up in a time where Austin was a small town and everyone knew everyone. It was typical to have friends from all areas of town, of different ethnic backgrounds, with different social status.
Growing up, I was surrounded by models of volunteerism and philanthropy but I didn’t think of it as anything special. My mother spent her free time volunteering, especially with the Junior League of Austin and the Settlement Home. My father was a member of the Young Men’s Business League and volunteered his services to help create the dental clinic at the old Brackenridge Hospital. My father also spent part of his career renovating and preserving historical buildings downtown.
Both my grandmothers were very strong and loving. One grandmother took pride in donating to many charities and every year her extra bedroom would be overflowing with coats to donate to Coats for Kids! My other grandmother was always helping people, whether it was her family, the church or friends, just making life better.
Destiny and Hard Work
I feel like all of my previous and varied job experience led me to the Foundation. For example, when I was 14 I had my own business selling giant handmade decorated chocolate chip cookies. Later, I worked downtown at my father’s business and then was hired as a mail clerk by Clark, Thomas, Winters & Shapiro until the firm split. At Shapiro, Edens & Cook I worked in Accounting until I graduated from Stephen F. Austin High School (as did my parents and now daughters).
I earned my degree in Restaurant and Hotel Management at Texas Tech University and moved to Colorado where I helped open the new Hyatt Regency in Beaver Creek, turning rooms from construction sites into five-star rooms. I also did marketing for the real estate development firms Slifer, Smith & Frampton and East/West Partners, worked for a real estate broker, and had my own business, Vail Concierge Services. From these experiences—and others, like waitressing and being a deckhand on a deep-sea fishing boat–I learned that taking time with people and genuinely caring about their needs is not just the right thing to do—it’s good business.
After three years being away from my family, I moved back to Austin. I bought a Eurail pass with my meager savings and backpacked across Europe with my older brother. When I returned, I worked temp jobs. I was considering a job on a cruise ship out of Puerto Rico or going to Austria to work at an inn when a close family friend, George More, mentioned a job at Austin Community Foundation.
George More was a past president of the Foundation and explained the Foundation was a charitable organization that was a community asset and they needed someone that was personable, could manage business, finances, host social events and had very good organizational skills and paid attention to details. He also mentioned I would probably be there for about 6 months and would have time to read books when it was slow.
I accepted the position of Administrative Assistant to the executive director Richard Slaughter. To this day, I have appreciated the opportunity to help the community and . . . I have never read a book unrelated to work or had a slow day!
Each Fund Is a Story
I was fortunate to know and learn from the Founders and the Founding Board members the original purpose of the Austin Community Foundation: to keep Austin a great place to live and to play a role in helping with community needs. When I began at the Foundation there were fewer than 100 funds totaling less than $6 million in assets—now we have about 1,100 funds that are valued at over $180 million.
I was never planning to dedicate my career to philanthropy. In fact, I questioned it several times throughout the years—especially with two girls in college! What has kept me here is the opportunity to support so many wonderful people that want to make a difference in our community through their philanthropy. It’s the relationships and helping people give back.
For every fund and every donation, there is a person with a story. I am a person of faith and feel that many times I have been in the place intended for me at the right time to help others, and not only that–I receive so much more in return.
Through my work here, I have made lifelong friends that are like family and whose strength and genuine compassion for others inspires and motivates me to continue my work. I have always felt that if everyone does a little something to give back, then together we do a lot to make the world a better place.
What Success Looks Like
- Updating from typewriters to computers.
- Updating from PFS Report software to our current FIMS database.
- Rolling forward into Y2K with no issues!
- Creating systems and processes to administer the growth of funds from 83 to 1,100.
- Helping a family pass along the value of charitable giving.
- Helping a family grieve and find healing through their charitable endeavors.
- Helping a nonprofit build an endowment and find a way to have an income stream and establish sustainability.
- Helping a group of people come together to address an issue they care about.
- Helping a school fund excellence through an endowment.
The Future of the Foundation
The Foundation will be here forever, a gift left by the people who came before us. There will come a time when I no longer work here, but I know that what our donors have built and the work I’ve done is in good hands.
I would like the Foundation to remain nonpartisan and to continue to focus on solving issues in our community. I would like to see our Community Endowment grow to support the Foundation’s work in the community. We must also continue to be a place for all people to give back to their community and a place to convene conversation around community issues. We can also be a bridge for local donors who want to keep Austin vibrant and home to all.
Gratitude and Campfires
I could not have continued my professional career at the Foundation without the support of my husband Trevor. He and my daughters, Langley and Katie, have been right there with me. They have endured countless conversations about philanthropy and “work” and have also patiently waited while I finished up one last call or email. I’m so grateful for our family times in the Hill Country, especially sitting by a campfire.
Mostly, I feel very fortunate to work with staff past and present and all the donors, many of whom have become close friends and have fulfilled my life in ways impossible to express.