Contributed by: Jordan Watts, Development Intern
I had the opportunity to sit down with Ami Kane, Girls Empowerment Network’s Development Director and 2017 nominee for Austin Under 40 Awards in the “Nonprofit Service” category. We discussed the impacts of her work with GEN and other organizations in the Austin area.
The Young Women’s Alliance and Young Men’s Business League joined together in 1998 to annually present The Austin Under 40 Awards. The awards are intended to celebrate and honor some of the most prominent and innovative young professionals in the city.
How does it feel to be honored by Austin’s Under 40 Awards?
It feels honoring and complimentary. I have been aware of the awards as long as I have lived in Austin and I thought it might be cool to apply for it someday. How the process starts out is that at first anyone can nominate anyone, and so someone somewhere submitted my name, and I was like, “oh this might be the year that I should really try for it.” So it feels really exciting. When I talk to people when I’m networking at some of the events they’ve held this year, I realize that some of these people are amazing, a big deal. So it really has been a huge honor.
You’re nominated in the “Nonprofit Service” category. What type of work is recognized in this category? What type of work do you do/did you get nominated for?
The nonprofit service category really can be anybody who’s employed by any nonprofit, and the nonprofit sector is actually giant, if you think about it very broadly. I think that for the awards it’s generally social service agencies that are recognized. So, a couple of examples of people that are nominated with me are the ED of the Austin Young Chamber, one is the ED of a nonprofit that focuses on rehab and addiction and recovery and another is the ED of Emancipet. When I filled out my essays, I not only focused on how I am not only involved in girl services here at GEN as the Development Director, but how I also volunteer for an organization called Girls Giving Grants (G3). So my application was extremely girl focused.
Young Women’s Alliance is the co-host of the awards gala. GEN just become YWA’s first exclusive nonprofit partner. How does it feel to represent both of these organizations?
It has been awesome! About a year ago now I started talking to Lauren Adams, their senior VP, about us being their partner for this year. Every opportunity I’ve had to meet with them or tell them about what we do or just sit down and chat has been amazing. Our missions are so aligned. They really are investing in young women, which they probably consider from the point of graduating college until about the age of 40. Our missions are so aligned. They are doing incredibly similar things we do for girls that are just immediately younger than that. It’s just been a lovely, natural fit.
How do you think you are a role model to other young professionals
I have to first overcome impostor syndrome in some way and agree that I probably am a role model in some way. I think one of the things I’m really proud of is that I really am a person that tries to make a lot of connections. For example, I started a group of young women in fundraising. We meet once a month for breakfast and we just come together and help each other if somebody is working on a tough project or needs some more insight. Even though it’s not necessarily one of my strengths on paper, I try to push myself to connect with other professionals. Also, for me as a fundraiser, just remembering the mission and that girls come first. I’m not removed from the programs in any ways.
How would you say you’re a leader in the Austin community?
A way that I’ve been a leader is through G3. The girls each donate $100 and give a grant of around $6500. When I first started getting involved with G3 in 2010 there were nobody else from the nonprofit world. They were all professors or people with experience in business, so I really added to the organization because I knew how to fill out grant applications and stuff like that. Since then, I’ve been able to get more nonprofit folks involved. So, one way that I really see myself as a leader is by helping girls in 8-12 grade realize how they can give back to the Austin community and become philanthropists.
Why do you think it is important to recognize professionals at a young age?
When I attended the Austin Under 40 breakfast a few weeks ago, the mayor, Steve Adler, spoke about the fact that the people at that breakfast are the future of Austin. They’re the people that will be filling senior leadership boards across the city in the next 10-15 years. When an older generation nurtures a strength in somebody younger, they’re going to become more confident and it creates a cycle where they then invest in the younger generation and so on.
How does it feel to be nominated for an award that has recognized some of the most important Austinites, such as Lance Armstrong and Kendra Scott and other well known names?
Humbling and shocking! I would be one of the first people to tell one of our high school girls that they can do anything and their ideas are valid and they’re important, so it’s important to remember that I deserve to be in this position. I really have done things that I should be proud of.
How do you think being nominated for this award impacts Girls Empowerment Network?
Like with most things I do, I am always trying to get us more visibility. In the seven years I’ve been here, I’ve definitely seen a huge difference in the amount of people that know us, but there’s still a gap in the amount of people that know us. Anything I can do to just get our name out there more and talk about us more is amazing.
Lastly, how are you celebrating if you win your category?
I bought a table at the ceremony for all of my closest friends and I, so I guess just dancing and being fancy. I had to buy a gown for the first time since my wedding, so I’m just going to enjoy the fancy night!
The Austin Under 40 Awards Gala is being held this Saturday at 6PM at the JW Marriott. Tickets are still available if you want to attend. Don’t forget to check them out on Facebook (facebook.com/austinunder40), twitter (@austinunder40), and their website (http://austinunder40.org/).