On Friday night, I went to the opening night performance of a local non-profit choral group, Conspirare. They are an amazing, world-class group, and they put on a wonderful show that will soon be recorded by PBS. I even recognized in the audience Dr. Anton Armstrong, conductor of the renowned St. Olaf Choir.
Sitting in the audience, watching and listening to Conspirare, I could not help but think that this is an organization worth supporting. How fortunate we are to have them in Austin.
Today marks the beginning of our three-week employee fall giving campaign, of which I am the chair.
A few weeks ago, I received a mysterious meeting invitation in my inbox... "Quick chat with community relations". I had been warned that I was on the list of candidates to chair this year's campaign, so I knew what the meeting was going to be about. This gave me time to think about it.
At first, it was a "why me?" kind of experience. What was I signing up for? It's overwhelming and intimidating—we've got thousands of employees in the US, and I would be the voice of the campaign.
We've got a pretty good track record of employee giving. High standards, yet the economy is tough this year.
Sigh. I'm not sure I'm the guy for the job. It would be so easy to say no; to push this off on someone else.
But I don't. I won't.
I care about the community in which I live. I care about NI, and feel privileged to work here. I care about the arts. I care about education. I care about animals and the environment. I care about social needs, health needs, literacy needs.
With the consummate support of the National Instruments Community Relations team, especially Yvette Ruiz and Amanda Webster, here I am.
We hire a lot of our employees right out of school. This is great; keeps us young. It also means that some of our employees may not yet feel strong connections to their communities. And this is one of my challenges.
I asked for a field trip. I asked our community relations people if we could organize a field trip for our campaign volunteers.
I wanted our volunteers to see a need firsthand. We have dozens of volunteers, without whom we couldn't run this giving campaign. They go to every group meeting and explain the reasons for the campaign, the goals, and the mechanics.
I wanted our volunteers to see where the money goes, and what it buys, and to be able to talk about it to our employees.
We went to SafePlace, which fights domestic violence and sexual abuse.
A few days later, a different group of NI employees went to Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas.
And in the past few weeks, I've been to events for Communities in Schools, and the Austin Lyric Opera.
We've got thousands of non-profits in central Texas, thousands more nationwide, and our employees can choose to whom they donate. I want all of our employees to know that they can make a difference in their communities.
Another theme I want to stress is that any amount helps.
I am truly proud that NI has the largest number of employees who are able to donate $1000 or more to be a part of the United Way Capitol Area Young Leaders Society.
But many of our employees aren't in a position to donate that much. I want them to know that they can still make a difference, even with a small donation.
Among other things going on in my life right now, I'm raising money for cancer research and survivorship through the Lance Armstrong Foundation. I'll be doing the Livestrong Challenge bike ride at the end of October. (Plug: Support my ride here... austin08.livestrong.org/bhpowell.) One of my friends came up to me the other day and handed me a dollar bill in support of my ride. It's all he had to give. He promised another dollar in a week. That meant so much to me, as it also reminded me of a parable that I am sure many of you know.
My challenge to all of you readers, wherever you are, whoever you are, is to go out and make a difference in your community. Find your passion. Give your time. Give your money. Find someone who needs your support, and support them.