By: Monique Sandhu
Known as “the media guy,” or “the fundraising guy,” Mitchell Gibbs has been working with non-profits for the past twenty years. He has worked for a variety of organizations, dealing with education and advocacy as well as with underserved populations on health and housing issues. Mitchell has also experienced the non-profit side of things from a board member perspective, having served on some 50 different nonprofit boards.
Mitchell is now Front Steps’ Director of Development and Communications and has been here since October of 2010. He says he’s a journalist by training and the transfer of his writing and media skills have appealed to different non-profits. He really enjoys grant writing and the different duties his job entitles. He has a journalism degree and an English/psychology minor as well as a strategic planning and leadership certificate from Harvard Business School.
“One of the reasons I enjoy non-profits so much is the interaction with the people I’m helping,” Mitchell said. “I enjoy working directly with clients and I told myself if I ever got to the admin side, I would still stay in contact with the clients.” Mitchell lives out his word with daily client interaction at Front Steps.
Mitchell was raised in a small town in West Texas and has also lived in Chicago, Denver and Dallas. He moved to Austin ten years ago. “Where I came from, if there was a family that needed help, the community would come together to help them out financially or materially,” Mitchell said. He says that coming to a bigger town and seeing the contrast of a big city with the same problems is a different playing field. “We are dealing with the social ills of society, with bigger, more complex issues that take more complex solutions” he said.
Taking on such a large task of fighting homelessness in Austin is a difficult but inspirational thing. Mitchell says that he especially enjoys meeting and talking to people who have been working with this population for many years. The faults and foibles that occur haven’t dissuaded anyone from stopping. “Walking through the door is a difficult choice to make. Sometimes things worsen and it’s discouraging but I’ve enjoyed seeing people re-energize and reinvest in the organization and the people each and every day. It is courageous to spend your life and energy here, helping others” Mitchell said.
The most rewarding thing to Mitchell is seeing change happen. “It’s so very dramatic here,” he says. “We see people leave the shelter and go into housing for the first time in many years. Their world completely changes. To know we had a small part in that process makes it so worthwhile.” He says the same is true for the coming-andgoings of clients at the shelter. When seeing people wait in line every night for the chance of getting into the shelter to sleep, and they make it in, it’s rewarding to see. Mitchell says, “They truly make a difference in your heart.”
Something unique about Mitchell is that he owns a 1926 Model T antique car. He has a friend who is in her 70’s, and they had always admired old cars. They would compare notes and dreams of owning an antique car. Just last year, they took the leap and actually bought their own car. Mitchell notes that if anyone knows how to drive one, he could use a few lessons!