I’ve always said that if you truly love something, you will do it for free and share it with someone else. Having served as the regional liaison for A Billion + Change, I was able to see firsthand how over 500 companies, including 50 percent of the Fortune 100, were able to pledge more than $2 billion in pro bono support. Throughout last year, companies gathered in cities across the country at pro bono summits to pledge their support, share their learnings and gather best practices. It was no surprise that the largest gathering was in Dallas, and that a diverse group of community leaders, ranging from Mayor Rawlings to Chef Dean Fearing, shared the impact skill-based volunteering has on our city.
There is something in the water here that makes people want to give—not just through service but also monetarily. This past September, the Communities Foundation of North Texas coordinated the fifth annual North Texas Giving Day, which raised $24,500 a minute, totaling $25.2 million of financial support for more than 1,300 local nonprofits. Much like the Pro Bono Summit, Dallas showed up and had the largest giving day in the country. Since 2009, a total of $60 million has been raised in just five Giving Days.
It’s not just that we give big in Dallas; more importantly, it’s that we all find a way to give. In 2005, two Oak Cliff residents, Jason Roberts and Sarah Jane Semrad, wanted to find a way for the creative community to support the children being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. They decided on hosting an art auction and concert, and when Jason asked, “Hey, do you think we could get 20 artists?” and Sarah Jane said, “No, we need 100, man!” —lo, the Art Conspiracy was born. Within three months, a team came together using its own money and resources to recruit volunteers and artists, build a website, handle PR and prepare the Texas Theatre. Mind you, this was pre- Facebook and Twitter, so email and flyers were pretty much all the Art Conspiracy could use to invite people to this new event. To the team’s surprise, over 900 people showed up for the first year, and the event has grown every year since. This past year, attendance topped 2,500 people and the Art Conspiracy was able to raise over $50,000 for local arts education.
While the Art Conspiracy may never raise the $3.5 million the Cattle Baron’s Ball brings in, I think it is important to note that over 150 artists come together the Saturday before the event to work together on their auction pieces. This ‘work day’ is one of the most spiritual events I have been to in Dallas because you see a community coming together, doing what they love, and sharing it for the benefit of others.
Whether you want to create art, serve meals at a shelter, or just write a check, there are a million ways to give back in Dallas. Luckily, there are also a million people willing to do it, which is what makes us one of the most giving cities in the country. Yes, big things happen in Dallas, and that includes helping each other.
Christian Yazdanpanah | MSC Class 2013-2014