Leading the next generation of philanthropists and changemakers
24 June 2019 at 8:30 am
Sarah Wade is the CEO of Kids in Philanthropy, an organisation equipping the next generation with the skills to be changemakers, and making philanthropy accessible for all. She’s this week’s Changemaker.
Changing from an engineer to a charity CEO isn’t common. But it makes more sense than you might first think.
Taking an engineering approach to her work in the sector, Wade identified the gaps and the processes organisations needed to follow to become successful.
Her work shaping Kids in Philanthropy has created a dynamic and forward-thinking organisation that is equipping the next generation with the skills to make a difference, and has turned the idea that philanthropy is only for rich people, on its head.
In this week’s Changemaker, Wade gives advice on how to get into the sector, the challenges of running a charity, and why it’s important kids learn about philanthropy.
Was there a specific moment you decided to change careers?
Growing up I had a really strong sense of justice. One thing that has stuck with me since I was in school was a teacher telling me, “If you’re not part of the solution, you are part of the problem”. Having a strong sense of justice was one of the things that influenced me to make a change with what I was doing.
The other thing was watching my children. They had attended a few Kids in Philanthropy (KiP) sessions, and the conversations it sparked made me realise, this really works! Not only could I be a part of the solution, but I could also involve my children in the journey as well.
How have you used your background as an engineer to do your current job?
I definitely approached my work in the sector through an engineering lens. With both Kids in Philanthropy, and with Community Kindergarten, it was about looking at where the gaps were, what needed to be done, and the processes we had to follow to make it work.
What’s so important about encouraging kids into philanthropy and training them up to be the next generation’s changemakers?
Our aim is to empower the future changemakers of Australia. If we can start working with them at a young age we can make the culture of giving normal. If they do it on a daily basis it can become habitual, like we teach them to brush their teeth. Hopefully, they will grow up and they don’t even think about it because it’s so ingrained in who they are. Building empathy also has so many other benefits. If you can create more empathetic children, you can decrease bullying and increase their self-esteem.
What is your aim and what do you want to achieve in your time at Kids in Philanthropy?
I didn’t necessarily grow up in a philanthropic household, but now giving has become part of our lives. At KiP, we believe you do not have to be rich to be a philanthropist. It is not about giving money, but more about the giving of your time, talent and treasure. And in my role, I want to ensure these three things are accessible to all children.
We also work a lot with schools, in the corporate sector and with family foundations. What I would love to do and what my big aim is, is to roll out our programs to all sectors of the community. At the moment we are working with the more privileged end of the sector but I want to be able to reach everybody. To be able to reach everybody, we need to scale. Obviously, we need to have the right structures in place to do this, which includes the right funding strategy. My aim is to make KiP’s organisational structure robust enough to continue to scale and grow.
What advice would you give to someone wanting to jump into a job in the social sector?
I think anybody has the power within themselves to make the change. If you see an issue that makes you think, I don’t think that’s fair, then that’s when you should start. I’m very passionate about what I do, I work with a team of amazing people who are equally passionate about what they do, so it makes it a joy to do what I do every day. So if you’re passionate about something, pursue it.
It’s also a different paced sector to work in, so you need to be patient. It depends on the organisation you’re working in, but we work primarily with volunteers, and managing volunteers compared to managing employees is a very different arrangement. So that’s something to consider as well.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced running an organisation like KiP?
I guess it’s the same as a lot of working parents, getting that balance right and setting up the structure of your day to meet as many of the needs as you can. It’s about changing and modifying your expectations a bit as well. People may come into the not-for-profit sector expecting to change the world instantaneously. That enthusiasm is brilliant – but you may need to modify expectations and celebrate the small wins that you have. Just the smallest act of kindness can change someone’s day.
Like a lot of NFPs, we are working on a shoe-string budget so it’s trying to work out how we scale and manage our resources. It requires a bit of innovation and thinking creatively. We put quite a lot of ideas out there for some of our events and sessions and we are always overwhelmed by the positive response that we get. So obviously the demand is out there, which inspires us to keep on going.
How would you say that the experience of leading an organisation like this has changed your view of the world?
I’ve always believed in the good of people, and now I get to work with that every day. It’s constantly being reinforced. Last year we engaged over 500 children and their families at 11 events. That just goes to show there are people wanting to make a difference. This year it will be scaled up to 20 events and will double the numbers we are working with.
It’s so inspiring to see that we have so many young people wanting to make philanthropy a part of their everyday life. For instance, there was a family that came along to our Hang Out for the Homeless event, and then later, when they saw someone sleeping rough in Melbourne CBD, they knew from attending one of our events that loneliness and isolation is a really big issue. So they smiled and said hello, and then as a family talked about all the things they could do to help all the way back to the car.
That’s what we’re about. If we can start those conversations and start them thinking about it, then that can be pretty powerful, just that one small moment and that one small act of kindness.