Sarah Woolsey established The Impact Guild five years ago because she saw a need in San Antonio for a network of support for entrepreneurs who want to be a force for community impact. She was exposed to social entrepreneurship in Austin and wanted to bring that to San Antonio.
“I came from an agency background and I wanted to find a way to integrate work, my faith life, and philanthropy to see how these could all work together,” Woolsey said. “I participated in an accelerator program to explore the idea and it became clear that a co-working environment was the best place to start. A membership model gives you access to amenities, workspace, and resources like lunch and learns and workshops to help social entrepreneurs further their business idea and develop a strong network.”
Since launching with that co-working site in Beacon Hill in 2017, The Impact Guild has evolved to become a robust community development incubator focused on leadership development of changemakers and support for organizations that are investing in their neighborhoods through social enterprise projects. In addition to the co-working space, The Impact Guild offers Toolkit, a collection of resources for emerging organizations, a three-month accelerator program, and an initiative known as Good Acres that helps churches activate underutilized real-estate assets to address needs in the community.
“Through Good Acres, we’re helping faith communities develop projects like community parks, daycares, and affordable housing in coordination with the City of San Antonio,” she continued. “We’re helping these groups get a bigger imagination for what they could do and helping them navigate that process.”
The Impact Guild currently has 40 members and after weathering the impact of the Covid pandemic, saw a strong growth year in 2021. Part of that growth is due to support from Social Venture Partners San Antonio which made the online resource Catchafire available at a time when it was badly needed.
“We were a superuser of Catchafire in the beginning and it has been very helpful to us on some key initiatives,” Woolsey said. “We’re going through a bit of a rebrand and will definitely use it again as we’ve identified some other communications needs.”
In addition to Catchafire, The Impact Guild is participating in the 2021-22 SVPSA Fellowship.
“We are five years old and still forming the infrastructure, and SVP has been very helpful in that journey and particularly with capacity building,” Woolsey said. “SVP is a great resource for how to run the logistics of the organization, board management, IT, the real nuts and bolts of an organization.”
If you’re interested in getting involved, Woolsey said The Impact Guild wants to be a long-term hub and resource for faith communities looking to go deeper in the neighborhood. If you’re someone who knows of organizations that are trying to navigate that process, get in touch. And of course, funding and donations are always helpful.
“We are not a direct service provider, but we equip organizations with the tools for social impact,” she concluded. “We are a good match for funders who see the value in investing in that space and can see the ripple effect in neighborhoods around San Antonio.”