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How often do you have an idea or inspiration that lights you up for a moment? How often do you let it go without acting on it? Maybe it seems like too much trouble, or you just think you’re too ‘ordinary’ to actually make a difference.
Rebecca Powers is an example of what can happen when you act on that flash of inspiration. An ‘ordinary’ woman like you or me, she was seized by an idea that she acted on. The result has had an extraordinary impact on hundreds of others as well as a transformative effect on her!
It’s unusual that many of us can point to a single moment in time when our lives completely and profoundly changed course. When one moment, we were deep in our routine, happy or unhappy, and on a steady path that seemed unlikely to change, and the next, found ourselves looking at an irrevocably altered life landscape.
No, not many of us can say we’ve had a moment like that. But 54-year old Rebecca Powers can.
Five years ago, Rebecca was on a plane, at 30,000 feet, returning from what turned out to be her last visit with a brother who was dying from colon cancer. As you might imagine, she was deeply saddened and distressed at the prospect of losing him. In an effort to distract herself, she picked up a People magazine and began reading about a woman in Cincinnati, Wendy Steele, who had started a non-profit organization with an interesting twist.
And that was that. In the few moments it took her to read that article, Rebecca likes to say, her life plan went by the wayside and her destiny took over.
She got home and informed her somewhat dubious husband that she was going to start a non-profit based on what she had read. He can perhaps be forgiven for his skepticism since truthfully, Rebecca hadn’t the first clue where to even begin as she had never started anything before. Well, except for the Bible study group she and a friend organized in 1999 that began with ten members and continues to meet today with its now fifty or sixty members.
Hmmmm. Perhaps that should have been an early indication of things to come.
The result of the defining moment on that plane is an organization Rebecca founded in Austin, Texas called Impact Austin. Its premise is as simple as its impact is remarkable: That a diverse group of ‘ordinary’ women, pooling their individual annual donations of $1000, can make an extraordinary impact by raising enough money to award $100,000 grants to worthy non-profits.
Five years into it, Impact Austin has 510 members. That means five $100,000 awards to deserving non-profits. Anyone familiar with these organizations and their ongoing need for funding knows that is significant. And, it has come this far because one woman had a hole in her heart where a brother had been, got an inspiration and instead of letting it fade away quietly as so often is the case, she let it move her to action.
So, if she had no idea where to start, how did this all come about?
Of course, it began modestly. Rebecca recalls, “When I got off that plane, I just knew what I was going to do. It took over every thought of mine. And, it simply never occurred to me I couldn’t do it. I just thought, what was the worst that could happen?” She knew she was smart and educated, and that she could write a $1000 check. She was certain there had to be plenty of women out there like her. She understood well that the power of the idea was in women pooling their resources.
Now, Rebecca is not someone who had spent years in the Junior League running large fundraising events or sitting on boards or raising money. She didn’t have an extensive ‘power’ network; she knew PTA moms and people in her church. She had had a successful career in sales with IBM years earlier, but as an individual contributor rather than in any leadership or management capacity.
The point is, Rebecca is like many of us out there.