Foundation Communities has many awesome volunteers, but sometimes a volunteer goes so far above and beyond that they deserve special recognition. One such volunteer is Miguel Stoupignan. Miguel has been with us for eight years helping clients complete their taxes and learn how to manage their household finances better… in English and Spanish! And, his friendly demeanor helps clients feel comfortable from start to finish. That’s why we are so proud that Miguel Stoupignan has won the “Individual Volunteer of the Year” award by the Austin Chamber of Commerce’s Austin Gives Generous Business Awards. This honor “recognizes an outstanding individual who exemplifies how through their example, coaching and willingness to work with others, they are helping forge the next generation of volunteer leaders in our community and beyond.” Miguel will receive the award at the Austin Gives event July 22nd. Here’s what we wrote to the Chamber, when we nominated Miguel for this honor.
What volunteer activities does the nominee participate in on an ongoing basis?
Miguel Stoupignan is motivated by the opportunity to build transformative and positive relationships with others and leads with heart. He began volunteering with Foundation Communities (FC) in 2013 out of a desire to help others achieve their financial, professional, and personal goals, while also further developing his own skillset. He says he’s constantly learning as a volunteer! Given his commitment to relationship building, he gravitated towards two FC volunteer opportunities: volunteering as a Tax Preparer with FC’s free tax preparation program and serving as a Financial Coach for individual community members whose goals may range from setting up a budget to reducing debt to starting a small business for the first time.
As a Tax Preparer, Miguel helps ensure that Austin-area households with low-to-moderate income can access free tax preparation services, avoid costly preparation fees, and maximize their refund. He has prepared more than 550 tax returns during his volunteer tenure, which means he’s saved the community more than $137,000 in tax preparation fees. Beyond the numbers, Miguel ensures each client feels empowered and understands their tax situation. He is especially interested in helping self-employed folks understand tax law nuances related to their unique situation. Additionally, nearly one-third of FC’s tax clients speak Spanish as their primary or preferred language, and Miguel’s ability to provide them with linguistic and culturally responsive service is invaluable.
As a Financial Coach, Miguel provides 1:1 mentorship that meets the needs of individual clients. He is one of our most popular coaches and is especially committed to ensuring Spanish-speaking clients receive quality services. Additionally, when the pandemic necessitated switching from in-person to on-line coaching, Miguel remained committed and adaptable. He even took on extra appointments, as other financial coaches were unable or preferred not to switch to the virtual format. During his financial coaching tenure, he’s also led tax-related workshops for small-business owners and local musicians.
As both a Tax Preparer and Financial Coach, Miguel shines in his ability to create a comfortable and nonjudgmental space for clients to talk about highly sensitive topics. He understands the emotional and psychological ties that accompany financial-related decisions and conversations.
- In what ways has the nominee taken on volunteer leadership roles?
Miguel became a member of our Tax Volunteer Leadership Team in 2018. As a VLT he provides guidance, support, and encouragement to fellow volunteers at our tax-sites (especially less experienced volunteers) and stays up-to-date with the latest tax law and procedures. At our tax sites, he’s happy to jump in wherever the greatest need exists, conducting intake interviews, preparing returns, and/or translating. He’s also served as a Rover during our tax training sessions, assisting fellow volunteers in navigating the tax software and concepts during class.
In addition to Financial Coaching, Foundation Communities invited Miguel to take on a leadership role by leading Money Management classes for clients: an interactive class series that offers an introduction to money management and covers the 101’s of debt, budgeting, and saving.
- How does the nominee engage others in volunteer experiences?
Beyond volunteering, Miguel participates in outreach and fundraising efforts for Foundation Communities. He served as a Table Host for three of FC’s annual Welcome Home Luncheons from 2013-2016. This role involved inviting individuals from his network to fill a table at the event and reach a fundraising goal to contribute to the organization’s mission of ensuring everyone has an affordable and attractive place to call home.
Additionally, he’s hosted an Open House, which is another way for current volunteers or donors to invite their friends, family, and community members to learn more about Foundation Communities’ work and how they can get involved, whether via volunteering, donating, corporate engagement, or word-of-mouth outreach.
His outreach is also personal. His granddaughter will be part of the upcoming 2021 Financial Coaching training group. She shared in her volunteer interview how Miguel has helped educate her about the ins and outs of financial wellness, and she’s motivated to give back in the same way as he does to the community.
- Does the nominee share their story and the story of the organizations they serve?
Miguel was instrumental in introducing Foundation Communities to a contact he had at the Consulate of Mexico in Austin. This connection ultimately led to a partnership between FC and the Consulate in offering and administering the MexAustin scholarship, a yearly $1,000 scholarship awarded directly to more than 60 Latinx high school seniors across Central Texas.
Miguel is highly relational and exceptionally personable. He is a natural personal and professional connector. He organically shares his volunteer story and the work of Foundation Communities throughout his personal and professional interactions. He always mentions how much he loves FC, our work, and his volunteer work, and we’re appreciative of the depth of his dedication and commitment to creating equitable housing access and support services for both residents and community members to thrive.