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Together While We’re Apart: Harriet Sedgwick, TGRC Assistant Director of Programs

image of Harriet Sedgwick

image of Harriet Sedgwick
For many years, grant-seekers have been coming to the Texas Grants Resource Center (formerly the Regional Foundation Library) to get all the tools they need to launch nonprofits, secure seed money for new ventures and build upon existing programming.  We caught up with Assistant Director of Programs Harriet Sedgwick to learn more about how she is working from afar to connect community members and students with the TGRC’s wealth of resources that are free and accessible to the public.

First and foremost, how are you doing? How have you been navigating this challenging time away from the office?  

It’s been a bizarre time, both for me and for the TGRC. Our main service is to provide access to grant-seeking resources for the nonprofit and wider Austin community, and usually providing those resources includes in-person interactions, either answering questions from visitors or leading training meetings for TGRC users. We pivoted quickly to online services, with an emphasis on clear and frequent communication with our users so they knew where they could go to look for funding and support, and have gotten strong positive responses from our nonprofit representatives about the speed and clarity with which we were able to transition support services online. It was a question of setting up my home office and making sure my dog stayed off camera during Zoom trainings, and we were ready to go!

What has been your biggest learning experience thus far while working remotely?

My biggest learning experience thus far has been seeing the resiliency and flexibility of the nonprofit sector and funders in Austin. Within a week of South by Southwest being cancelled, the Austin Community Foundation had already set up relief funds for community members losing revenue, and as the shutdown orders continued and the depth of the economic impact began to come into focus, other anchor institutions like the United Way for Greater Austin, St. David’s Foundation, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and the Central Texas Food Bank established funds, re-worked grant application requirements and eased access to resources so that our vibrant nonprofit community and community at large could stay afloat while staying at home.

I am also grateful for the flexibility of TGRC users, pivoting with me to online programming, adapting to video calls and webinars, and remaining patient while I worked with our partners at Candid to provide free online access to our funding database search services. Also, I appreciate the feedback from undergraduate and graduate students seeking academic funding for the fall semester about what their needs are and how the TGRC can best support their academic plans. We are here to help grant-seekers of all types, not just nonprofit representatives, so I’m always happy to receive inquiries from students. The overall resiliency of our community impresses me every day.

How have you been serving grant-seekers from afar, and what’s the best way for them to get in touch with you?

We have been serving grant-seekers from afar two main ways: by providing free remote access to the Foundation Directory Online (FDO) Essentials, and by fulfilling grant search requests via the Grant Search Concierge service. If you’re not seeing the results you need in FDO  Essentials, or if you’re seeking funding for a project outside the nonprofit space or for academic support, you can request a grant search and someone from our team will send your results within a week. We are also running grant-seeking orientation sessions every other week via Zoom.

Do you have any words of encouragement or advice to share with us?
This too shall pass, y’all. Remember to step away from the computer and take a (appropriately socially-distanced) walk outside or lap around your living space when you can, and allow yourself the space for self-care when you need it. We’ll see you all on the other side.

Interested in learning more about the TGRC’s offerings? Go to this website to sign up for the newsletter:  www.texasgrc.org. For more information, contact: tgrc@austin.utexas.edu.