Woman in Innovation: Lesley Harris
"Don’t stop pursuing your passion, keep chipping away at whatever it is"

Each Wednesday we interview women in our community about innovation and what drives them to make a difference in their industries everyday!

What are you working on?
I’m the Founder of Capital Giving and I’m on a mission to grow a spirit of generosity and community connection in the ACT Region. Capital Giving provides a platform for individual donors to pool their donations with others, which amplifies the impact of single donations due to the multiplier effect of their donation being pooled together with others, for example, I might donate $250 that contributes towards a grant that we make for $15K – $30K. This is called ‘collective giving’ and anyone can join us!

Our key focus is to fund local initiatives that advance opportunities for women and girls.

The collective giving model provides a range of other benefits to include providing the opportunity for donors to connect with like-minded people, donors vote on what is funded annually, meet and hear from the grant recipients and receive updates on the progression of projects we fund. There’s also an educative aspect, where donors have the opportunity to learn about local community initiatives, and community champions leading them through our newsletters and events.

Why is innovation important to you?
Innovation is important because it’s exciting, and it’s often driven by passion – we need to keep moving, adapting and improving! Innovation in fundraising is important as donors are becoming increasingly motivated to see the results of their donation – so transparency is key. Donor engagement and satisfaction is also tremendously important. What better way is there to deliver these important aspects than to give our donors the opportunities to vote on what projects we fund, meet and connect with our grant recipients and learn about the progress of projects to keep updated on how their investment is making a difference. It creates a buzz and a sense of pride – I’ve seen it, and experienced this myself.

What drives you to make a difference?
I’m a fairly ordinary person, and have a have a great sense of gratitude for that; being ordinary.
I believe the majority of people have some capacity (time, money or skills) to contribute towards making a difference in our community – I developed a passion for philanthropy (giving) after undertaking a role with a major philanthropic foundation in Melbourne – I witnessed the impact of grants provided to community organisations. Although on a much smaller scale; Capital Giving creates grants from the donations made by a group of people, so it’s very grass roots.
Our grants fund local projects that aim to advance opportunities for women because still, in the 21st century the consequences of the unequal treatment of women are reflected across a number of domains – I believe women in our community require more support to strengthen their overall position in society and to achieve their full potential. When we support women we actually support our whole community.

Do you have any advice for getting more women into the innovation ecosystem?
Heaps! Never underestimate the importance of small steps! Many women in particular are juggling family responsibilities, full or part time work, which doesn’t leave much time for creative thought or following up on ideas. It can take years, however my advice is – if it’s important to you – don’t stop pursuing your passion – keep chipping away at whatever it is – find people with similar interests and passion. Millennials have got the right idea – many are ‘going for it’ – have confidence in yourself!

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