Caroline MacGillivray is our Fearless Female Friday feature this week and for good reason. She is the Executive Director and Founder of Beauty Night Society. Beauty Night builds self esteem and changes lives of women and youth living in poverty through 3 streams of programming: wellness, life skills development and makeovers. They operate out of a number of locations with the help of a network of community partners. She has an impressive board of directors that support the organization in delivering innovative and meaningful programming. Caroline was kind enough to take time from her busy schedule to chat about what she’s been doing and how people can get involved.
What do you find most rewarding about what you do?
Getting to collaborate with so many people – the women, the volunteers, that’s the best part – just watching everything come together. It can be really magical.
What do you find most challenging?
Sometimes, even though we’ve been doing it a long time, sometimes people don’t really understand the value of what we do and it can be hard to get support sometimes through funding and even through organizations we work with, sometimes there’s new staff and they don’t understand and it takes them a while. We have to collaborate through their community partners so I would say that’s the biggest piece.
What are your organizational goals moving forward?
I’m smiling because we have our strategic planning on Sunday for the next three years…we’ve been in very hand to mouth mode for a very long time. We’ve been on the same budget ($45000 a year) since 2009 when we were serving 100 people a week and the last couple years we’ve been serving over 300 a week on the same budget. To better meet the growing need, the best thing would be to raise enough money to hire somebody to give me a hand so we would be able to improve our delivery of our programs and be able to take on more community partners and be able to offer more leadership development to the women and our volunteers. There have been a few projects that are dear to my heart that I would love to add under our umbrella. I just want to make sure we do it in a very respectful, kind way so we’re able to scale and replicate across the country.
Does your organization look the way you expected it to?
When I started I thought it was just going to be the one night. By the end of the year we should be at 70,000 makeovers – that’s been really big. We’ve had some ups and downs. We have replicated Beauty Night in different communities – we’ve done Toronto, Prince George and Victoria. At the time I didn’t know very much about process so I’ve had to go back to the drawing board and develop my skill set and surround myself with good people who have those skill sets and since 2012 we’ve been able to do more work in Metro Vancouver because it’s closer to expand more programming in Surrey or New West than it is across the country. For the most part that’s gone pretty well because it’s close enough to fix anything if things go sideways and overall it’s gone quite nicely.
What are some of skills you’ve had to learn in scaling this?
The biggest one is mission based management and the difference between a business model vs a charitable model and now the charitable model has evolved again. My first concept of Beauty Night, which we are not doing fully, was actually a social enterprise, it wasn’t actually the way it is.
What would your advice be to someone who wants to give back to their community like this?
If they are starting their own (venture) I would say: Do it but try to see if someone else is doing something similar. I tried really hard not to make Beauty Night a charity. I really wanted to collaborate and work under someone else’s umbrella and had great talks with some of our community partners about seeing if we could work under their umbrellas instead. Doing the due diligence so instead of replicating resources being able to collaborate and create a stronger product with other people. The second piece, I would say, for people who want to get involved is to find a charity that’s really dear to their heart and see how you want to give back. There’s so many different ways to support – front line is wonderful but it’s not always for everybody and there’s other ways – they may want to have a garage sale and donate to a charity or they may want to put an event on or become a monthly donor. All of it, in terms of building those resources to build self esteem and change lives, we are working always working on, whether it be financial, human capital, all of it is so vital. What it comes down to is what aligns with their values and what are they able to do and be able to keep that healthy, happy balance.
How do you take care of yourself when you are taking care of so many people?
That’s why I teach yoga and Medical Qigong. I meditate daily and I still go up and down sometimes where things get messy. When I do, I basically unplug and try to stay off social media when I need to and just try to focus on me. Sometimes everything’s off and I curl up with a good book – there are weeks when I can read 10-12 books in a week. It helps me close in with myself. I also volunteer with other organizations which is helpful – I also volunteer for Small Animal Rescue and teach bunny yoga and that’s a lot of fun because I get to support something else.
How can people support Beauty Night?
If people want to become monthly donors. We are so grateful for the large donations we’ve received so far but knowing how much is coming in every month makes planning so much easier. Also if people want to volunteer, I would be thrilled.