Spotlight on Lorie Barzano

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas works hard to make successful, long-lasting matches between Bigs and Littles, but a similar mindset extends to the agency’s fundraising and grant application processes as well. This is a key focus for Lorie Barzano, BBBS’ grants manager, who works to find foundations and grant-making organizations that mesh well with BBBS’ culture, philosophy and mission.

“I research foundations to find out about their priorities,” said Lorie. “I’m looking to see if they are a good fit for BBBS. That is an imperative, that they are a good match for us. Looking for funding from organizations that don’t match what we do is counterproductive.”

Part of determining a good fit means spending a lot of time doing research. It is a process that can take hours or days. “I look for foundations that are similar to BBBS in mission, vision, policies and priorities,” said Lorie. “Some of the things I look for are if they are focused on education, serving youth – particularly at-risk youth, and serving minority communities. I also look at whether they have an emphasis on family engagement, on single-parent households, and on advancing the needs of women and single moms.”

Once she determines which foundations to contact, the grant submission process begins, which can involve anywhere from 2 to 5 steps. It is not a matter of simply applying for funding. “Foundations may require a letter of intent, a full proposal, a presentation before the foundation’s representatives, and even a site visit to BBBS before considering our submission,” said Lorie.

Once a grant is secured, Lorie then keeps the foundation informed about BBBS’ activities, such as the number of children served, match activities planned, and how the money provided is being utilized.

It’s a lot of information to handle for a single foundation, let alone the 50-60 that BBBS works with. “I’m generally keeping 2-3 balls in the air at the same time,” Lorie laughs, “because each foundation has its own requirements and deadlines for submissions, and for follow-up reports.”

For Lorie, just like for BBBS’ mentoring services, it all comes down to building a personal connection. “It’s all about developing relationships,” said Lorie. “It’s about that one-to-one connection, and about reaching out to the foundations to keep them informed about, and connected with, what we do.”

That personal, peopled-focused aspect of the job is what has kept Lorie in the non-profit field for most of her career. “I never really looked at other industries because the kind of work I do has always been more important to me than the size of the paycheck or climbing the corporate ladder,” said Lorie. “I need to do something I believe in.”

Lorie has followed that philosophy from her childhood home in Chicago, to working in San Francisco, central New Mexico, and ultimately BBBS in Austin. “I’ve always believed in BBBS’ mission, and in the power of one-to-one mentoring,” she said. “It gives me a lot of satisfaction to raise money for programs for at-risk kids.”

“It also gives me a lot of satisfaction understanding a foundation’s needs and meeting those, while also meeting the needs of kids who need help. I enjoy balancing those things and producing positive outcomes.”

When not working on grant proposals, Lorie enjoys spending time with her partner Moye and her daughter Erin, who attends The University of Texas at Austin. “I also enjoy reading and my favorite author is Virginia Wolfe,” she said. “I like reading the classics and poetry. I also spend time practicing yoga. It helps keep me centered.”

Staying centered is crucial to handling the stressful deadlines Lorie has to deal with, but she quickly adds that no one at BBBS has an easy position. “Everyone has a job description that fills a big need in the organization,” she explained. “And I recognize how important each of our different functions is for this organization to be successful. We are a lean and fine-tuned organization, and we are fortunate to have a very talented team.”

Ice Ball 2018 An Unprecedented Success For Our Kids!

It was the coolest event on one of the hottest nights in Austin as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas’ 14th annual Ice Ball gala exceeded all expectations. A record-breaking $850,000+ was raised – a $200,000 increase over last year – with donations still coming in and final numbers expected to exceed this early total.

A sold-out crowd attended the special event which was held for the first time at the Fairmont Austin hotel on Saturday, August 25. The black-tie affair was an elegant evening focused on raising funds to create more life-changing friendships between at-risk youth and caring adult mentors.

“We were honored to have over 800 generous friends and supporters gather to make a BIG difference for children in this community,” said Brent Fields, BBBS CEO.  “The unprecedented success of the event, with over $850,000 raised, will allow us to provide mentoring services to more than 700 kids who deserve the opportunity to reach their greatest potential.  We’re thrilled at the confidence and trust the community has placed in us to continue providing our transformational services for children and families in Central Texas.”

As attendees arrived, they were welcomed into a vibrant pre-event gallery where they enjoyed opportunities to take event photos beside the gala’s signature ice sculpture, and visit a pop-up shop filled with items from Kendra Scott’s new fall jewelry line. Guests also participated in a Big Board mini live auction, bid on numerous exclusive silent auction items, and purchased raffle tickets for a chance to win a trip for 4 to New Orleans, Miami, Chicago or Montreal.

A Dixieland band, Memphis Train Revue, led guests into the ballroom for the main portion of the evening where they enjoyed a delicious dinner, an exciting live auction, and a mission-centered ‘Fund A Friendship’ donation drive. Emcee Quita Culpepper, with KVUE-TV, got the program started.

New to Ice Ball 2018 was auctioneer Heath Hale and the Cowboys. This team has raised over $14 million for charities this year.  Using the classic auctioneer patter, Heath and his team motivated the inspired crowd to bid top dollar on many exciting auction packages.

The gala’s 2018 live auction packages included a UT tailgate party for 30 to 40 guests at Sour Duck Market, a King Ranch hunt with Colt McCoy, a wine lover’s trip to the Burgundy wine region of France, a dove hunt in Argentina, a golf trip and 5-night stay at a baronial castle in Scotland, a luxury trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a scenic tour of the Grand Tetons, and a “choose your own adventure” package featuring trips to 20 different world-wide destinations, among others.

A surprise addition to the live auction came courtesy of Austin Police Chief Brian Manley. The Chief offered guests the opportunity to bid on an officer ‘ride-along’ experience to demonstrate the police department’s support for BBBS.

A highlight of the evening was the match story featuring Big Brother Chris and his Little Brother Keontray. Their relationship provided attendees with a powerful example of the life-changing impacts Big Brothers Big Sisters’ services have for children and adults alike.

“The Austin community came out and really supported our kids Saturday night!  It was a packed house!” said Lauren Portley, Vice President of Development for BBBS.  “Our mission takes precedence in planning this annual event, and BBBS’ Executive Board, Ice Ball Host Committee, and staff worked so hard to pull off what turned out to be our best Ice Ball yet!  At the end of the day, it’s all about serving our kids and making life-changing friendships that allow children to achieve their biggest possible futures.”

At the end of the evening, Ashley and Justin Yarborough, this year’s Ice Ball Gala Chairs, and the 2018 Ice Ball Host Committee, were recognized for hosting such an exceptional event. The celebration continued into the early morning hours as everyone enjoyed dancing to the music of Memphis Train Revue, and, as this year’s gala came to a close, guests left knowing that their support for Ice Ball 2018 will make a positive difference for hundreds of children in Central Texas for years to come.

See Ice Ball event photos here

Watch our BBBS Mission video here

See our Match Story video here

See photo booth photos here

Special thanks to our top sponsors:

BB&T, Big Bend Brewing Co., Kendra Scott; Heritage Title Company, RSM, US Micro Products; Sam Bassett, BMC Software Inc., The Christopher & Ross Families, Dr. Achal & Rajal Dhruva, Heather & Dominick Granato, H-E-B Tournament of Champions, Moody Bank, Connie & Bill Nelson, Pape-Dawson Engineers, Parsley Energy, ScaleFactor, Thessaly Startzell & Sam Burd, Candy & Rhett Stone, Strangeworks, Texas Capital Bank, Urbanspace, Wells Fargo, and Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich, & Rosati Foundation.

Spotlight on Astoria Aviles

With our signature Ice Ball Gala just a few months away, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ new Special Events Director, Astoria Aviles, has hit the ground running!

“I am so excited to get out there and get to know volunteers and donors,” she says.  “I’ve had a lot of great support from the Ice Ball Host Committee and BBBS staff.”

As a self-described “people person” who appreciates the importance of building relationships, Astoria has the energy and enthusiasm to keep the momentum going.

“I’m really looking forward to telling BBBS’ story and helping people feel that they can truly be a part of our life-changing mission,” she says.

After initially planning for a career in marketing, Astoria unexpectedly discovered a passion for connecting people with causes while interning at a theater after college. Inspired by the generous philanthropists who wanted to give back, her professional focus soon turned toward the non-profit development field.

“I love it,” she says. “I love working with people who want to use their assets to reinvest in the community.”

Coordinating the agency’s two most significant fundraising events, Bowl for Kids and the Ice Ball Gala, gives Astoria the perfect opportunity for connecting with supporters of BBBS. While her job requires substantial logistical and planning skills, Astoria also recognizes that the success of Bowl for Kids and Ice Ball ultimately relies on building strong partnerships.

“I want to help donors feel empowered and excited about the work that BBBS is doing,” she says. “To  bring them along and make them a part of the mission.”

Complementing Astoria’s specific commitment to BBBS’ mission, is a passion for working in the non-profit industry in general. She welcomes the opportunities to learn that are found in non-profit environments where staff members often wear a “variety of hats.”

“I’m someone who is constantly trying to learn, gain new skills, and have new experiences,” she says, “so I think the non-profit industry is definitely the best fit for me.”

As a recent transplant to Austin, her work at BBBS also gives Astoria an opportunity to learn about her new city. She considers herself a bit of a coffee explorer and has made her favorite discovery so far at local roaster, Greater Goods. Bringing together her two passions for non-profits and quality coffee, Greater Goods donates $1 from each bag it sells to local charities, making the coffee taste even better!

Overall, she’s thrilled to be a part of the BBBS team and is looking forward to preparing for the Ice Ball Gala.

“Working in this role is such a great opportunity,” she says enthusiastically. “I get to serve a great organization like BBBS while also representing the agency to the larger community of potential supporters.”

What’s New at Ice Ball 2018?

As temperatures hover around 100 degrees in Austin these days, it’s a perfect time to think about Big Brothers Big Sisters’ frostiest signature event – the upcoming Ice Ball Gala. Complete with an amazing ice sculpture, the Ice Ball is a night of elegance, inspiration and revelry that makes a lifetime of difference for children in our community. It may be in the hottest month of the year, but this year’s event will be the coolest ticket in town offering many new elements and surprises, from a new location to the newly launched fall line of Kendra Scott jewelry.

“The first new element is the Fairmont Austin Hotel – a new location for this year’s gala,” said Lauren Portley, Vice President of Development at BBBS. “The Fairmont is a 37-story, luxury hotel in downtown Austin. We have the entire fifth floor and ballroom for the event.”

The downtown location offers a central gathering spot, as BBBS supporters come from all across the Central Texas area. Plus, the new location offers more room. This is critical as the event grew by 100 participants last year and is on tap to grow even more this year. “The Fairmont is a location that can grow with us. This year the hotel is also offering a limited room deal for participants who want to turn the gala into a ‘staycation’ to enjoy the event, the great hotel, and the downtown area,” Lauren added.

The event also has two new event chairs: Ashley and Justin Yarborough. Justin is the president of Big Bend Brewing Co. and serves as a captain in the United States Marine Corps Reserve. He is also a former Big Brother who truly understands BBBS’ mission.

Prior to joining Big Bend Brewing Co., Justin was a director at Kayne Anderson Capital, a leading manager of investment strategies specializing in oil and gas, real estate, credit, and growth private equity. Ashley is a former Miss Texas winner and a graduate of Texas Christian University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Broadcast Journalism. She has served as an ambassador for the state of Texas and traveled to numerous communities speaking on issues involving culture, politics, and community.

This year’s Ice Ball Host Committee includes a generous mix of new and returning members as well. The larger group is currently working on securing new and exciting silent and live auction items. “We are working to put together special experiences that you can’t just go out and buy,” said Lauren. “Our donors get very excited about the gala. Often it’s because they purchased one of the auction trips the previous year and had such a great time that they can’t wait to see the new items.”

Helping to move these auction items along is another newcomer, auctioneer Heath Hale and his cowboys. This group has worked special events across the state including the Andy Roddick Foundation Gala, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, and the annual Mack, Jack and McConaughey fundraiser. “Each auction has its own unique goals, challenges and personality. This wide variety of experiences makes galas and fundraising auctions a specialty and a passion for me,” said Heath, who was born into a family of auctioneers. “Through my experience, I have learned what works… and what doesn’t.”

Hale brings with him some experienced “ringmen.” They’re the cowboy bid spotters, who he says are the best in the business. “They love auctions, always have a great time, and people love to watch them in action,” said Heath.

The cowboys will be rustling up plenty of excitement during the auction, but attendees will also enjoy fun activities before they ever enter the main ballroom, including another new addition to the evening… a Kendra Scott pop-up store. This new feature will offer guests the opportunity to try on and shop for select items from the 2018 fall line of Kendra Scott jewelry. As described in People magazine, Kendra Scott’s jewelry is known for its beautiful gemstones and timeless, affordable, chic styles that individuals and celebrities love.

“Kendra Scott has donated jewelry mystery boxes for the past several Ice Ball events,” said Lauren, “and those sold out within the first 30 minutes. I wanted to expand that experience for this year’s Ice Ball and asked if they would provide the pop-up store. They not only agreed to do that, they are also donating a piece from the Kendra Scott Fine Jewelry Collection for our raffle.”

Kendra Scott’s impact extends beyond Ice Ball, however, as the organization is also planning to sponsor a Sister to Sister event for BBBS matches where Bigs and Littles can create their own jewelry pieces at a Kendra Scott store ‘color bar.’ Afterwards, matches will get to meet some of Kendra Scott’s female executives to hear their stories.

“It’s all about women empowering women. It is important for our kids to see how these successful women have gotten to where they are. So often our kids see people in cool jobs but have no idea what it takes to get there,” said Lauren. “Finding ways to help our Littles understand what it takes to get certain jobs, helping them expand their knowledge and experiences, these are opportunities we look for when collaborating with companies. That’s why Kendra Scott is such an exciting partner. They are not only supporting BBBS in terms of revenue, which is wonderful, but they are also supporting our mission by providing learning experiences for our kids.”

It’s this type of direct impact that is a highlight of BBBS’ Ice Ball and one that shines a light on the best new element of the 2018 gala – the BBBS mission moment, an opportunity for everyone in the room to hear from a Big and a Little about the impact mentoring has had on their lives.

“The mission moment is the most exciting new thing for me,” said Lauren. “I love seeing the new match story we are featuring for the evening. We talk about what we do, but for our guests to be able to meet a match, to hear the Little’s story, and then to see people who are really touched and impacted by our work, is powerful. It really is what the event is all about. This event exists to help us create mentoring relationships that change children’s lives. The gala brings people together who care about making a difference for children in our community. We love being able to share the impact of our work during the evening itself.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters’ 2018 Ice Ball Gala takes place Saturday, August 25th at 6:00 pm at the Fairmont Austin Hotel, 101 Red River St., in downtown Austin. With ice sculptures, live auctions, silent auctions, dinner and dancing, it’s a fun event, with a life-changing purpose. Go to www.AustinIceBall.org for details.

Bowl for Kids 2018: A Win-Win for Everyone!

It was all hands on deck for Big Brothers Big Sisters’ pirate-themed Bowl for Kids celebration at Highland Lanes April 27th and 28th!

There were eye patches and hooks aplenty as the annual event raised over $136,000 to help Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas match more kids with caring adult mentors, changing their lives for the better, forever.

More than 1,000 participants enjoyed the spirited festivities complete with costumes, refreshments, souvenirs and prizes. A generous crew of fundraisers– including businesses, individuals, families, volunteers, staff members, and Bigs and Littles, all joined in for two days of bowling fun.

“Bowl for Kids is a good time that ultimately makes a huge impact for kids and families in our community,” said Brent Fields, CEO of BBBS of Central Texas. “This is one of our signature events that gets children off our waiting list and connected with mentors who can make a positive difference in their lives. With over 400 children waiting to be matched, every contribution matters.”

Pirate flags, parrots, mermaids and other buccaneer décor contributed to the festive mood, while a large-scale pirate ship constructed by Rhonda Karcher-Logan of Pape-Dawson Engineers and her merry crew provided a creative photo backdrop for capturing memorable moments.

Even the youngest of participants took part in the fun, donning tricorn hats and wielding foam sabers as junior pirates-in-training. Everyone came together, including many bowlers who have participated in this event for years, to have fun and help kids.

Essential to the event’s success, Bowl for Kids’ 2018 business sponsors included financial consulting firm RSM US LLP – the event’s Kingpin Sponsor, computer technology company ARM, Wells Fargo bank, and Bridgepoint Consulting, as well as our generous host, Highland Lanes. RSM, ARM, Wells Fargo and Bridgepoint Consulting all fielded bowling teams as well, and were joined by a variety of other teams and sponsors from Central Texas architecture, printing, construction, gaming, healthcare, technology, legal and media companies, among others.

“This is the first time my co-workers and I have participated in Bowl for Kids,” said April Justice of General Motors. Her team, Jolly Roger and the GM Gals, really got into the spirit of things by dressing up in pirate hats and specially decorated bowling shirts.

“Wearing the group costumes helped us become more immersed in the event. We had a great time learning more about Bowl for Kids, interacting with other companies, and learning why they are involved with BBBS,” said April. “It also gave us the opportunity to bond outside of work and to do it all for a great cause. It was really the best of all worlds.”

It was especially exciting to see so many fundraisers earn ‘Very Important Bowler’, or VIB, status by raising $1,250 or more.

“This year we had eighteen fundraising teams earn VIB status, which was really great” said development associate, Sara Grauerholz.

By reaching, or surpassing, this fundraising level, VIBs provide the funds needed to support a mentoring relationship between a Big and Little for an entire year. In recognition of their exceptional fundraising efforts, and the difference their contributions make, VIBs enjoy special perks and prizes.

Although the pirate flags have come down, the swords have been put away, and many of our participants’ ships have set sail for other lands, BBBS’ Bowl for Kids 2018 isn’t quite finished. Team fundraising pages will remain online to accept donations for another week or two, meaning there’s still time to contribute to the important work of helping children achieve success in life.

By any measure, Bowl for Kids is a ‘win-win’ for everyone.

Special thanks to our event sponsors: RSM US LLP, iHeartMedia, KVUE, ARM, Highland Lanes, Wells Fargo, Bridgepoint Consulting, Austin Emergency Center, HDR, IE2 Construction, Moody National Bank, O’Connell Robertson, Pape-Dawson Engineers, The Portley Family, Twisted Pixel Games, The Austin Chronicle, Do512, Los Comales on 7th Street, Mueller Living Magazine, and MyEventIsTheBomb.

To make a donation, go to www.bowlforkidsaustin.org

See our 2018 event photos here

See our 2018 photo booth photos here

BBBS & RSM: A Winning Partnership

Giving back is something accounting firm RSM takes seriously… Taking themselves seriously, is another matter.

“In general, somehow, it’s in the DNA of people who are accountants to be very competitive,” laughs Scott Haigler, Office Managing Partner for RSM US LLP. “So, the best thing we can do is make a competition out of our fundraising events.”

And RSM has some competitions that are real doozies – everything from sumo wrestling in over-stuffed “sumo suits,” to winning the opportunity to put a pie in the boss’ face, to finding out who the champion will be in a 10-key type-off event. “We did the sumo wrestling one year and I was one of the two wrestlers,” said Scott. “But we only did it once. I had this idea I would run across the room and knock the other wrestler down, but I’m a CPA, not an engineer, and it backfired. I bounced and crashed.”

All of this activity is in good fun and for a good cause, creating a win-win for everyone involved. “It’s a slam-dunk to be involved with an organization like Big Brothers Big Sisters,” said Scott. “Our relationship with BBBS has grown over the years and we certainly get more out of it than we give.”

RSM’s involvement with BBBS has grown into a partnership that lasts year-round. RSM is the Kingpin Sponsor for BBBS’ annual Bowl for Kids event, they are involved in BBBS’ Ice Ball gala, the company provides backpacks filled with school supplies for Littles at the beginning of the school year, and they help sponsor BBBS’ annual Holiday Party for Bigs and Littles, among other things.

For RSM, this extensive involvement provides a lot of pluses. “From a business perspective, we’re a service provider,” said Scott, “and part of that service is making Austin a better place to live. We do that through our work with BBBS.”

Another plus for the company is connecting with new job candidates. “The generation coming into the job market now is very interested in public service. It’s a question that is high on the list when we interview potential hires. They want to know what we are doing to give back to the community,” Scott continued. “And BBBS is a respected organization with a proven track record. Our association and involvement make a meaningful difference.”

A third corporate advantage relates to the year-round nature of RSM’s involvement with BBBS. “Partnering year-round allows our employees to be involved in activities that don’t have anything to do with auditing, consulting or tax work, and that’s always a good thing,” said Scott. “The average age of our employees is 26. BBBS’ activities get them energized, and that’s what we want. Doing taxes and audits like we do, especially during the busy season, can take a toll on everyone so we need to do something to recharge our batteries. Working with BBBS gives us ample opportunity to do that”

Scott also sees great value in the team building that occurs among employees who participate in BBBS’ activities and events, especially Bowl for Kids. He likes the camaraderie and socializing the event provides, plus the opportunity to give back that the fundraising offers. “And, everyone loves bowling. It’s all just a lot of fun.”

RSM is the 5th largest accounting firm in the country with over 90 offices around the world, but their Austin employees are giving back locally. At RSM, giving back and working with BBBS is something they are passionate about. It is part of their corporate culture.

“We are able to give even more to BBBS because our corporate foundation matches employee gifts,” said Scott. “This means that employee contributions are doubled and go twice as far.”

He added, “Working with BBBS is invaluable. It’s priceless. I can’t put a price on what the agency does and the incredible impact they have on kids and the community. Investing in BBBS’ work makes the community a better place for everyone. We are proud to be part of that.”

Corporate Matching Gifts: An Easy Way to Double Your Impact

Thinking about supporting the great work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas? Or are you already participating? If so, you may be able to double your impact with one simple step – finding out if the company you work for matches donations to nonprofits. Many do. It’s an easy way to instantly double your contribution.

“It’s a gift that frequently goes unclaimed,” said Lauren Portley, BBBS Vice President of Development. “Often employees don’t realize their company will match their contribution to a nonprofit dollar for dollar. Regardless of whether you are a potential donor or a current donor, check with your Human Resources department and find out your company’s policy. It can make a huge difference to your nonprofit of choice.”

An employee matching gifts program is a win-win for all involved. “As an employee, it makes me feel empowered to be able to leverage my money, to double it,” said Thessaly Startzell, Counsel and Board Liaison of Dell Corporate Legal, Dell Inc., and a member of BBBS’ Foundation Board of Directors.  “Which is great! For me, it’s helping the nonprofit I care most about, which is empowering.”

It’s also a way for employers to demonstrate support for their employees. “If you’re an employer, it’s a great way to build morale,” said Thessaly. “It shows employees that you care about what they care about. Plus, it’s a simple process to put in place.”

This type of program also adds to the local community. “It strengthens the community where your employees live and work,” Thessaly continued, “which, from a Dell perspective is huge, because this (the Round Rock/Austin corridor) is one of the company’s largest communities.”

Contact your Human Resources group to find out how to set up a matching gifts program, and check to see if there are other ways your company can help within the community. An additional way that Dell Inc. contributes is through a Volunteer Reward Card program that makes donations based on employee volunteer hours.

“You simply enter your volunteer hours and if you have at least 10 hours of volunteer work in a quarter, Dell will contribute $150 to the nonprofit of your choice,” said Thessaly. “I can volunteer at 5 different nonprofits, but the money goes to the one nonprofit I select. And it doesn’t have to be the one where I volunteered. If you’re a Dell employee and you’re a Big or someone who’s interested in BBBS – that volunteer service could amount to a $600 donation to BBBS in a given year.”

Whether it’s a matching gifts program or a volunteer matching program, find out how your company supports nonprofits in the community, and see how you can take advantage of these opportunities to increase your impact for the causes you care about.