March 28, 2023

The No Matter What League: Friends-Austin's Foundation for Success

A look back at the origin of the Friends-Austin chapter as we honor our founding funders

In the origin story of Friends of the Children-Austin, it was a pair of friends, Nancy Pollard and Rachel Arnold, whose desire to curb systemic inequalities began the process of opening the Austin chapter of the national nonprofit Friends of the Children in 2017. Pollard and Arnold’s drive to build the organization required much more than ambition, research, and planning, but also the recruitment of many individuals to value the mission and act as a supportive network. Sparked by Pollard and Arnold’s dedication, Friends of the Children-Austin soon became the dream of a cadre of founding donors.

The Very Beginning:
Rachel Arnold, the founding board chair of the Friends-Austin chapter, was working with a software company that serves clients in the nonprofit sector when she met Terri Sorensen, the Chief Executive Officer of Friends of the Children. Working with over 6,000 customers, Arnold was most impressed that Friends of the Children was continually noted as the number one most successful client when it came to quantifying data. “The model was so clear and concise and powerful. The mission moves your heart, and the outcomes capture your mind,” Arnold noted.

Sorensen mentioned that Friends of the Children was interested in expanding its reach and that there was a federal grant opportunity to launch an Austin chapter if $1.7 million could be raised by private philanthropy. Arnold shared this information with Nancy Pollard who was very excited about the idea of bringing this program to Austin. Pollard was working as an attorney and volunteer advocate for CASA of Travis County, who acknowledged that while Austin’s economy was booming, there were far too many children who continued to struggle in the midst of Austin’s growth.

As noted in an early media interview with Tribeza magazine, Pollard said: “I want people to know that despite all the wonderful things we have going on in Austin, there are children being written off starting when they’re just five or six. It starts very early … we can think about all the negatives that will compound over the next 12 years, or we can get these children set on a new path starting at five or six and see the positives compound.”

Pollard knew that in a city of entrepreneurs who value tangible outcomes, Austin was a good match for Friends’ model.

Forming a Network of Founding Funders:
How did Pollard and Arnold raise 1.7 million dollars in the matter of only three months to launch Friends Austin? With fierce tenacity and through help of amazingly generous and caring individuals.

Pollard and Arnold rolled up their sleeves and got busy rallying support to meet the timeline of raising funds for the matching grant. They had conversations with friends, colleagues, and active members of the Austin community to explain the mission and outline the data and outcomes of the Friends of the Children program model. Coffee meetups, lunch dates, small dinner parties – all became occasions for important discussions with key stakeholders to gather a league of supporters and funders.

Ryan Atlas, current Chair of the Friends-Austin Board of Directors, has been integral to the success of the organization since day one. Atlas worked with Arnold and was quick to join her fundraising initiatives. “There was nothing like it in Austin,” Atlas recalled of the Friends-Austin data-driven program model. Atlas was familiar with the rewards of guiding and assisting youth through previous tutoring experience, and after reading Friends of the Children Founder Duncan Campbell’s book, The Art of Being There: Creating Change, One Child at a Time, he was ready to help launch this program in Austin.

The No Matter What League:
Atlas recalls creative fundraisers, such as a black-tie breakfast, to not only solicit finances for the Friends-Austin Launch, but to also grow a passionate and engaged group of founding funders, most of whom are still involved today. The network of original stakeholders brought a wealth of knowledge and talent to the organization. It was comprised of prominent individuals who are leaders in their fields of law, finance, government relations, real estate, hospitality and events, etc.—a balance of individuals who bring varied talents to the team.

What keeps initial supporters such as Atlas so engaged in working with Friends-Austin year over year? For Atlas, he is, “…seeing and feeling the impact. I’m proud of what the Austin chapter is able to do. It’s such a high-performing organization, the fastest growing Friends of the Children chapter.”

Much like the long-term, relationship-based program model of Friends of the Children, the network of Austin supporters has demonstrated a resolute commitment. The “no matter what” concept is integrated throughout all facets of the organization.

With such a strong team of loyal supporters, it’s clear why the future of Friends-Austin is on an exciting growth trajectory. With immense gratitude, the Friends-Austin chapter wishes to honor its No Matter What League, a team that has weathered challenges and remains a steadfast group of philanthropists.

With gratitude, we honor each individual who is part of the Friends-Austin No Matter What League:

Maggie and Anand Anbalagan
Krystle and Christian Alvarado
Lisa Apfelberg
Estelle and Larry Arnold
Rachel and Jeff Arnold
Ali and Ryan Atlas
Nancy and Scott Atlas
Evonne Atlas and Abe Zimmerman
Amy and Josh Baer
Katie and David Bartley
Joelle and David Beisner
Darby and Dan Berra
Susan and Ryan Burdeno
Michelle and Alan Cline
Kathryn Cronk
Jade and Jake DeKinder
Kelly and Phil Dixon
Libby and Lloyd Doggett
Kacy and Trey Dudley
Jenny and Jason Ford
Salah Gamoudi
Bianca Garcia
Shannon and Mac Ghangurde
Andrea and Rogan Giles
Lisa and Dan Graham

Meghan Griffiths and Chris Sullivan
Caroline and Brian Haley
Arron and Chris Hester
Stacy and Joel Hock
Jamie and Brandon Holden
Holtzman Partners
Jennifer Howell
Christine and Jason Jarrett
Charlotte and Ben Johnson
KCL Foundation
Erinn Kelley-Siel
Cynthia and Eric Korman
Jill and J.R. Kraft
Kim and Michael Levell
Maile and Brian Loring
Lowe Foundation
Jessi and Adam Marshall
Judge Aurora Martinez Jones
Carrie Mathews and Jason Shiver
Lauren and Tommy Moorman
Mrs. Morris Atlas
Tory and Milam Newby
Holly and Caleb Noel
Amy and Richard Paddock
Donald Park

Valerie and Chico Parker
Amy and Jon Pattillo
Johanna and George Peyton
Caren and Drew Pinzur
Nancy and Mark Pollard
Laurie Pompa and Tyron Stading
Jie and Mark Ralls
Lori and Jeff Sackett
Brooke and Michael Shannon
Stacy and Nathan Sharp
Adria and Brian Sheth
David Sooch
Laura Stanley
Mary and Frank Stanley
Patricia Tamminga
The Powell Foundation
The Salt Lick
Colleen and Frank Trabold
Beth and Jay Walker
Heather and Philip Wilhelm
Laura Wolf
Catherine and Scott Worley
Amy and Jordan Yeats
Lisa and Stephen Yoch