Lisa and Dan Graham are the rare breed of people who are dreamers and doers.
The thirty-something couple recently consolidated their charitable giving at the Foundation in order to accomplish more of the social impact work they love to do.
Dan Graham, CEO of BuildASign, is perhaps the better-known partner in this duo, having been recognized as Austin Business Journal’s CEO of the Year and Austinite of the Year by “Austin Under 40.” Lisa’s resume is also impressive. A graduate of UT’s LBJ School of Public Affairs, she founded a group that matched pro bono services with nonprofits and worked in political communications and public education advocacy. South Austin natives, the couple has seen all the changes that some long-time Austinites complain about, but they can’t imagine a better city to call home. They cite UT’s Dell Medical School, which is dedicated to rethinking medical education and care, and Mayor’s Adler’s leadership as just two examples of the great things happening in Austin.
From the start, the couple has shared a commitment to volunteerism and philanthropy. “Even before we got married we talked about giving back.” Later, they set up their own private family foundation and opened a charitable fund with an investment company. “We didn’t really know what we were doing,” Lisa recalls, “but we wanted to get started.” It took a lot of paperwork and expense to do their charitable giving through their private foundation. Once they became busy parents of three young daughters, they realized there must be an easier way to foster the nonprofit missions and social enterprises they care about. They call their fund the Notley Fund, after the abbey near Oxford, England, where the couple were married. The fund’s mission is to invest in sustainable and scalable solutions that are “changing the rules and changing the world.”
Now that their philanthropy is consolidated at the Foundation, the couple is able to focus on the blend of philanthropy and entrepreneurship they love. Recently, the Notley Fund took over the nonprofit Startup Games which brings together Austin-based tech companies in friendly competition to raise money in support of local charities, with the goal of making an even bigger impact. The founders envision launching Startup Games across the world and pitting the top startup communities against each other to raise $1,000,000 per year for charity. The Notley Fund is also expanding Philanthropitch, a social impact fast-pitch competition that provides non-profits with access to human and financial capital, to other cities with the first already in the works in Atlanta. They also make traditional grants through their fund at the Foundation.
“How cool is it to be in Austin at this time?” the couple finds themselves saying to each other. While Lisa and Dan don’t deny the challenges Austin’s growth has brought with it—they see exciting opportunities. Proven doers—at work, in the community and with their busy family—the couple also dreams big. How does “Austin: Social Innovation Capital of the World” sound?