Here’s a great story to warm your cockles at this time of year. While many of us have the yearning to make a difference, few of us manage to take time out of our busy lives to do so. Read on to find out just what can be achieved when you put your heart and mind into it.
In 2015, Emma Hogan had the opportunity to head to beautiful Necker Island with Business Chicks and Virgin Unite for a leadership gathering and a learning experience.
On the 3rd day, the vision to create a small foundation that would not only give back to the community, but inspire others to do the same was forming. That morning, reflecting on what this could become, there was a stunning rainbow over the sky at Necker which planted the seed for a name … Rainbows feel colourful, optimistic, bright, and inclusive of ‘many colours’.
Later that morning, the magnificent Jane Wurwand, CEO and Founder of Dermalogica was speaking. Jane told an inspiring story of how to think like a business person whilst improving the community at the same time … she had such a positive impact that the name Rainbow Jane was born.
Rainbow Jane is a not for profit initiative which aims to serve the community in three ways: Storytelling, raising funds and donating grants.
The first project Rainbow Jane has undertaken has been to create the book 'Inspired Kindness', full of stories from incredible people who have made a difference.
For every book sold, $50 will go towards the creation of a not-for-profit grant. The goal was to sell 1,000 books and create 5 x $10k grants that will be distributed (through an application process) to the next generation of people aiming to change our world.
We're delighted to say this first goal has just been achieved, with subsequent grants setting up 5 new social philanthropy initiatives.
We can't wait to see how this foundation grows, so we spoke to Emma to find out more.
Emma, congratulations on producing such an amazing book. Please tell us the premise behind Rainbow Jane & how the ‘Inspired Kindness’ project came to fruition.
I’ve been giving to charity for many years and decided that I wanted to set up my own foundation (Rainbow Jane) so I could be a bit more innovative with how my money was spent and where it would go. I really wanted to be able to generate much needed funds for charity, but I wanted to be able to share people’s stories and inspire others to give back at the same time.
The concept for the book came to me when I was on a leadership program on Necker Island a few years ago. I decided to invest the money I would usually spend donating into creating a beautiful coffee table book that told 30 stories of inspiring people doing something extraordinary to change our world. I would then sell it for $50 per copy, and aim to sell 1000 copies. That money ($50k) would then be split into 5 x $10k grants that we could give back to the next generation of philanthropists trying to get their idea off the ground.
People reading the book get inspired, but are also giving back at the same time simply by buying it.
Did your HR background help you setting up your own initiative?
My HR background helped me understand the kind of questions I wanted to ask the leaders profiled in my book. My career overall has taught me how to be resourceful, and ask for help, and manage multiple stakeholders and I definitely needed all those skills when doing this project. I had ZERO idea what I was doing when I started, no idea how to publish, design a book, interview people, edit stories – I definitely bit off more than I could chew.
How did you select the initiatives that you wanted to support in the book?
I was initially worried I wouldn’t get to 30, but in the end it was hard to keep it to 30. I asked the people I knew who they admired and it just snowballed from there. I really wanted a variety of founders, age groups and causes and I wanted to speak to people who were at different stages of their story – from start-up to fully established so that helped me narrow down the field to the final 30.
Was there an initiative that particularly inspired you?
They all inspired me in some way. The social enterprises such as Thankyou, STREAT and The Bread and Butter Project really inspired me, as I think that is the future model of solving community challenges. Then there were people like Megan Donnell who runs the Sanfilippo Foundation (which is a rare disease found in children). Megan’s two children have the disease and will likely not live beyond their teens – for her to know that and still get out of bed every day to try and find a cure for the next generation of children just blew me away from a humanity perspective. I was also pregnant when I was interviewing her, and felt like I was looking true courage straight in the face! But in truth, they are all amazing because they are all working hard to solve a social issue and if we all did just a little something, the world would be such a better place.
What would you say to anyone who wants to get involved with social philanthropy but is unsure where to start?
Ask yourself honestly what you are passionate about and then find a cause that aligns. Also think about what you can really commit? Time? Money? Skills? Not for profits require pro-bono skills to help them move forward as much as they need $$$. I would advise not over-committing as there is nothing worse than agreeing to do something and not being able to follow through with it when it’s for a good cause.
Are there any major lessons you have learned through this process or things that you would do differently if you were to do it all again?
People have asked me if I’ll do another version of the book and I’m really clear that I won’t!! I loved this exercise and am really proud of how it’s turned out and the difference it will make, but it was a full-time project for 6 months and I doubt I’d be able to create the same space again.
I’ve got so many ideas on how to make a difference, so envisage I will move on to a new project next year once the grants from the book have been issued.
In terms of what I would do differently, I spent a bit of money doing videos to showcase some of the stories from the book. It was expensive and I wasn’t as happy as I wanted to be with how they turned out, and with hindsight I’m and not sure how many sales they really drove, so I probably wouldn’t do that again.
What is next for Rainbow Jane?
In the first quarter of next year we will issue the 5 x $10k grants as a result of selling 1000 copies of the book which is exciting. After that, I’m not sure. I have a 4 month old baby so I might take a break for a few months from extra-curricular activity and then go from there. I had planned to take a group to Kokoda this year to raise much needed funds for Soldier On, but not sure my daughter is ready for that kind of trekking, so that one will be delayed for a few years! I’ll have to think of something more creative in the meantime …
We would like to extend our sincere thanks to Emma for taking the time to chat with us and for creating such an absolutely wonderful book! The Peoplecorp team have thoroughly enjoyed reading these incredible uplifting stories. They’re not only fascinating, but remind us all of the difference that can be made when we set our minds to it! If you’d like to borrow our office copy simply email Jess@peoplecorp.com.au