Purpose At Work: Today, I’m Brave Scales Up Philanthropic Model With Hire of First CEO Lindsay Stein

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When brands, nonprofits and individuals collaborate around shared purpose, amazing things happen. ‘Today, I’m Brave’, a heart-centered, global non-profit, is a powerful catalyst for purposeful partnerships. By leveraging fundraising prowess with multi-media storytelling, the nonprofit builds bridges and scales impact across social issues with sustainable and tangible results.

In 2016, David Angelo, founder of advertising agency David&Goliath, saw the astonishing bravery of 300 children in Sierra Leone who were up against Ebola. Angelo decided to start ‘Today, I’m Brave’ to help those children create opportunities for themselves and spread their story to spark bravery around the globe. It began with an educational curriculum designed around bravery that was implemented in their school and throughout their community. Since inception, the organization has made much needed impact through a series of inspiring initiatives, most notably the 100Roofs project in Puerto Rico, and their recent efforts around the coronavirus.

To catapult the nonprofit further, ‘Today, I’m Brave’ is bringing its first CEO, Lindsay Stein on board. After serving as the editor of Campaign US, Stein will take the position on August 3rd. Her years of experience as a reporter, connector and storyteller make her uniquely positioned to drive partnerships and scale impact. I had the opportunity to speak with Angelo and Stein about ‘Today I’m Brave’s exciting future. Here’s what we discussed:

Simon Mainwaring: Lindsay, what attracted you to ‘Today, I’m Brave’?

Lindsay Stein: I feel like an industry is only as good as its trade publication. That trade publications should elevate it, celebrate it and hold it accountable. That’s what I was trying to do in the past three years at Campaign.

I’ll give you an example. We did a report on the maternity and paternity policies of all the major ad agencies and holding companies. We publicized whether they would report it at all. The next year when we did it again, a lot of big agencies changed their policies because they didn’t want us to report on that again. I’m trying to make changes like that.

I’ve been working with brands and agencies that have a lot of money and power. They can cross borders and make change in ways that even governments can’t. I want to focus on leveraging that power and creativity and bring these sources together for good.

SM: How prepared are brands to embrace the ‘Today, I’m Brave’ philosophy?

LS: It should have been adopted a long time ago but right now it’s a perfect storm. It’s been a rough couple of months in terms of COVID-19. There are long overdue, necessary pushes for change around racial injustice in America. Transparency issues with Facebook and other social media platforms that endanger brand safety. Brands have to answer for all of these issues.

Younger generations are the next big consumers. People are demanding that brands do more with their money than big ads. I love good campaigns, but your work and the money you spend should be focused on more than just trying to sell to consumers. But the authentic action they take to make their lives and communities better.

SM: If you had to point out an area where the advertising industry needs to wake up, what would it be?

LS: Diversity. We need more diversity of thought, socioeconomic situation and backgrounds. Most big companies are majority white and male. We need to empower the younger generations and underprivileged communities.

Marketers, understandably, are focused on making money. They also need to focus on helping people. Verizon set a great example of using their power for good with their response to COVID-19. It doesn’t have to be done in a ‘braggy’ way — more companies just need to use their power and resources for good.

SM: As you step into the CEO role, what’s the first thing you’re going to do?

LS: We’re building the board of directors. That’ll be a guide for us to tap into different corporations and influencers. Individuals who are commitment to bravery and world change in all aspects of their lives. There are also several exciting initiatives in the works that we will share soon.

SM: What’s the next impact initiative for ‘Today, I’m Brave’?

David Angelo: One of the things we’re working on is the Brave Workshop with schools. We introduced the Workshop to Los Angeles High School for the Arts (LACHSA) right before COVID-19. We’re going to continue that as soon as it’s safe to. The Brave Workshop series is focused on helping 9th graders unlock bravery and follow them throughout high school. It’s about developing their own personal manifesto that they can use as a filter for their life and creative focus. Another initiative is centered around supporting and elevating Black-owned businesses and nonprofits. Stay tuned.

SM: Are you doing anything differently because of the coronavirus?

DA: I’ve always believed that great innovation comes from challenge. We’re working on something I can’t give it away but it is a remote digital application that enables people to come together from all parts of the world to be a part of sustainable change.

SM: There’s a lot of organizations talking about purpose. How do you cut through?

LS: I wouldn’t consider it a competition. There’s no shortage of great stories to tell and people love to hear them. We’ve collected thousands of the Brave Stories and showcased a number of them on TodayImBrave.org, highlighting individuals, influencers, brands and organizations.

We’re working to tell real stories that help empower others — both individuals and brands — to find their purpose and lose their fear. I think we’re unique in that we’re nonprofit storytellers with a finger on the pulse of philanthropic marketing and values based on courage.

DA: We want to inspire as many people as we can to unlock their bravery and use that to create even greater change in the world.

Our industry is naturally competitive. It’s innate to be competing for new business, awards, accolades and headlines. We’re not going to focus on that. We’re going to continue challenging the conventions of how we get that messaging out there. It could be a documentary, a festival or a product that we create all designed to create impact that is measurable and sustainable. Lindsay’s going to bring so much more to the table. I love that we’re bringing an outlier inside to help expand.

SM: Where do you see the opportunities for ‘Today I’m Brave’ to make a big difference?

LS: Storytelling is important. I feel the marketing and advertising industry has the potential to do so much good. I couldn’t necessarily have done it at any of my prior places of employment. Now I’m going to make those connections between CMOs, agencies, nonprofits and all the players that I’ve been connected with over these years.

SM: What’s the coalition of partners you’re trying to bring together through ‘Today I’m Brave’?

LS: Marketers. Influencers. Sports stars. Philanthropists. Every sector could be braver. When it comes to empowering youth and the next generation, it could be women in sports, diversity behind the camera and in Hollywood, and much more. It’s getting all of these sectors together because the world overall needs to be braver, and diversity of thought and voice will help make that change.

And if we focus on the creative and marketing industry right now, then we can expand from there once we start seeing some real progress and change.

SM: What’s your vision for what Today, I’m Brave will be in five years?

LS: ‘Today, I’m Brave’ is not just a nonprofit, it’s a frame of mind. Right now, I want to hone in on the U.S. In five years, it would be amazing to have ‘Today, I’m Brave’ centers within other countries. Imagine an outpost in London or Canada or Mexico. I see people empowering that same frame of mind within their own communities all over the world.

SM: What does embracing bravery unlock within an individual?

LS: It comes down to living your truth and being authentic and unapologetic about it. If more people did that and inspired others to do the same, that would make the world a much braver and better place.

DA: All fear is life conditioning. We are all innately brave. It’s just about giving people permission to let go of that fear and go all in with who they really are. And who they really are is brave.

Written by

CEO We First Inc, author NYT's bestseller We First, strategic corporate consultant and trainer, father, Australian, optimist.

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