Sue Wigston’s entire career has been driven by her passion for people.
For over 25 years with Eagle’s Flight, a full-service learning and development partner based in Guelph, Ont., she collaborated with various organizations to develop strategy and support tactical efforts in creating high-performing, innovative and engaged corporate cultures.
She has since transitioned her talents over to not-for-profit giving platform Givesome as the organization’s CEO. Givesome’s goal is to support and enhance the corporate social purpose of organizations and use their platform and technology to facilitate those conversations.
“If [CEOs] are not prioritizing the corporate social purpose in their organizations, they are missing a huge opportunity to drive employee engagement and customer loyalty because it’s table stakes now,” Sue said on the Leading With Nice Interview Series podcast. “Employees and customers want to not just know what you’re doing. They want to be a part of it and they want to see the good that’s happening.”
Sue would be the first to tell you that she wakes up every day thinking about generosity. She recently stopped by the podcast to chat about how we can all grow in our own generosity journey. Listen below.
[00:00:00.070] – Speaker 1
I love the whole concept of generosity, not just giving. Because generosity is a mindset that if you truly understand everything you have to contribute and are asking, where can I use that to help make someone else’s life better or another organization’s life better? If that’s truly the world we live in, my goodness, it’s phenomenal.
[00:00:30.270] – Speaker 2
Good day and welcome to the Leading with Nice Interview Series podcast. My name is Mathieu Yuill, and, you know, we want to help you inspire others, build loyalty, and get results. So today I’m so happy because you probably have a list of people when they ask who’s four people you’d love to have over for dinner. So today’s guest is actually somebody I met four years ago. And in just a short period of time, this conversation, I was like, I’m going to add that person to my list. Albert Einstein, Jesus, and Sue Wigston would be like the greatest dinner party. I think also because Sue would probably have really good appetizer suggestions.
[00:01:10.780] – Speaker 1
Absolutely. I’ll even bring them.
[00:01:12.720] – Speaker 2
Okay, perfect. So I invited Sue on today because she is part of a really exciting startup, maybe not so much of a startup anymore way of looking at charitable giving and the way your corporation interacts with that. And if you’ve listened to our podcast before or you’ve described to our emails, you may recall about 18 months ago, one of the most responded to videos we made was called Stop the Way Your Company Is Giving to Nonprofits. We really advocated against this whole like get on a bus to everybody. We’re going to go paint a community center or hey, we’re going to go build a house somewhere, which really I felt was more of this. And I don’t think I’m alone in this felt was a PR move more than actually trying to build engagement or actually care about the staff. So sue is here today. We’re going to talk a little bit about what she’s involved with and talk a bit more about the strategy and some of the challenges that are facing the question of how do I do this today? So, sue, thank you very much for joining us.
[00:02:15.850] – Speaker 1
It’s a pleasure to be here.
[00:02:17.460] – Speaker 2
So, Sue, can you just tell us before we get into the specifics, what you were previously doing before Givesome and what you’re doing now at Givesome to give you a context of who you are and the lived experience you have that speaks into what you’re doing today?
[00:02:33.080] – Speaker 1
Sure. So thank you so much for having me on in my prior life, which is still a small part of actually my present life. For 27 years, I worked for an organization called Eagles Flight. And Eagles Flight, at its heart is a behavior change company, focuses anything from awareness all the way up through culture transformation and ultimately releasing human potential. How do we help people be the best versions of themselves through effective leadership, through the soft skills. And I started at Eagle’s Flight in finance, I was an accountant who had a paralyzing fear of public speaking. But it turns out I had an incredible passion for people. And I, by the way, don’t ever use it against me, but I am kind of addicted to the other side of fear when you throw a challenge in front of me. So I fell in love with the principles. I fell in love with the impact the principles were having on people. And I got involved and built a career that I became the chief operating officer for a number of years and led culture transformations throughout organizations, working with their executive teams. And in 2019, my word of the year was impact.
[00:03:41.990] – Speaker 1
And I spent the year evaluating everything I was doing against the impact that I was having. And although I felt I was having a great impact with the clients that I worked with, I just felt all of a sudden like, I think there’s more. And I kind of combined. I’ve done a personal study on joy in my life. I kind of combined all the things that I’m passionate about and decided to quit my job per se. And again, I’ve kept a small role there, working with a few executive teams. But Join Givesome. And the very simple vision of Givesome at the end of the day is more generous people, that’s it more generous people. And looking at, where do we find most of the people in this world? Well, we find them at work. So how do we take where people are automatically gathered and actually use them in the corporate setting and use opportunities that we see there to ultimately help us achieve our vision of more generous people? So I am the CEO of Givesome and it is still small. We are growing and finishing our first Calce right now to truly launch, but we have been working in the corporate space for the last few years and learning our craft and learning through failure, learning through successes.
[00:04:57.110] – Speaker 2
And we’re excited about what’s next 27 years at Eagles Flight. Your parents are very kind to let you work there. As a preteen, you’re my favorite. As an aside, I can’t imagine there’s many people listening today that see themselves somewhere for 27 years. When I left, this is totally off topic. Of course, as per usual, when I left in ten year old after 15 or 17 years, whatever it was, I remember people telling me they’re like, oh, I thought you were tenured. Like just the idea that you’d be for somewhere for so long. But it’s still a small part of your life.
[00:05:32.640] – Speaker 1
Eagles Flight it is. And I am so thankful for the company. It does phenomenal work. The piece that I really wanted to step away from is when your chief operating officer, you spend a lot of your time more focused on a lot of administrative processes. And my heart is just to be way more connected directly with people. And so I kept that part of my job where I can truly add value and work with executive teams, but got out of the day to day running of the business, which in hindsight was amazing because it allowed so many others opportunities to step up and lead.
[00:06:07.660] – Speaker 2
What’s in a nutshell, when you’re at a cocktail party and they say what Givesome? Tell us what Givesome is yeah.
[00:06:14.580] – Speaker 1
So I would say that we’re a company that tries to support and enhance company’s corporate social purpose, and we use our platform and our technology in order to facilitate those conversations. And ultimately, what we really do with companies is we’re trying to help them either start or lead them on a generosity journey. And generosity. If you think about corporate culture, generosity is not just about helping them create transactions in order to fulfill their corporate giving. When you do put people on a bus and say, this is what we’re doing for a day and you feel like it’s a PR event, those are transactions to facilitate a process where if you think about the mindset of generosity and think about everything that generosity involves, it involves not only giving money, not only giving time, but it’s about your influence, it’s about your expertise. It’s about empathy. In this world where we so badly need to create inclusive cultures, a mindset of generosity is just incredible what it can do for an organization. But so many organizations, they are doing things, but they actually don’t understand what it’s like to be on a generosity journey. So in short, we’re trying to help companies start it or lead them along the process.
[00:07:29.940] – Speaker 2
And this is what I want to talk about. So if you’re one of these three people, open your ears up and really focus. Either if you’re driving, you might want to pull over or you want to bookmark this for later. Because if you are somebody who is responsible for your giving initiatives at work, if you are a nonprofit leader, or if you are somebody at your workplace who is often looked to for the nice ideas, and I use that term broadly. But often in workplaces, we hear about that person who is the one that organizes like corporate team, vulnerable. If you’re that person, you probably have influence over these types of issues. So I really want you to listen in on what this is because it is such a new way of thinking about generosity in the workplace. So talk to us about the Gizm platform and how you’re helping organizations personalize this giving experience.
[00:08:22.350] – Speaker 1
Yeah. So when we created the platform, we started by really understanding why don’t people give? And I certainly grew up in an environment where it was in the Church setting. You learn to tie, then you give and you write the check and you never know what the money actually goes to. And one of the reasons there are a few reasons why people generally don’t give. Individuals don’t give because they don’t feel like they have enough money. One day when I’m established I will give. So one of the things that we did was start with micro donations, two, five or $10 is all you need to actually be part of an impact. And on the other hand, people didn’t necessarily trust that the money was being used in order to fill the purpose that mattered to them. So we eliminated that as well by saying instead of just partnering and supporting with charities, we’re going to work with the charities or nonprofits, and we’re actually going to tell the stories of the specific and tangible projects that they are looking to fulfill. And when we achieve the goal of raising the money for that project, we’re going to come back to every single person, whether you gave $10, $2, and now on the platform, you can give as much as you want, but we’re actually going to share the evidence and the video that communicates this is the impact those dollars actually had.
[00:09:35.460] – Speaker 1
So every project you donate to, we make it personal by bringing the story back around those specific funds and showing you where they made a difference in the lives of actual people instead of just it went into a pot that we use to do good because there’s no emotional connection with people there. So on the platform that currently is sort of the cycle that we take individuals through is I get to not only just have my company say, hey, we’re going to donate to this nonprofit or this charity, they’re going to look and say, here are all the different initiatives and projects that charity is doing. And this is the one that really resonates with me. So I want my money to go there. I want my money to go directly to mental health. I want my money to go directly to feeding kids after school. I want my money to go to support animals. People want to have a choice, and they want it to matter to them, not just their organization. So that’s what we try to help companies do. Imagine Canada has said, listen, the social deficit is just growing and increasing.
[00:10:37.670] – Speaker 1
And the way that we need to correct that or the greatest opportunity we see is helping create partnerships between nonprofits and charities and corporate space. Well, corporations are writing checks to charities, and that is really, really good. But they’re missing a huge opportunity because they’re not engaging their customers and they’re not engaging their employees in that journey. So we’re trying to just be that intermediary step to say, listen, why don’t you bring them into the process, allow it to be personal, let them help make the choices where it goes, and then see it through and bring the impact back.
[00:11:13.300] – Speaker 2
It’s so interesting at our team meeting with you, as nice as we were preparing for this interview and talking about? Just that the thing that one of our staff said is every job I’ve had, I could choose with finite detail what benefits I got. Do I spend it on chiropractors? Do I spend it on my teeth cleaning? But something that’s actually important to me personally beyond just like my wellness, my health, what my heart is for. I didn’t have that choice.
[00:11:41.460] – Speaker 1
You didn’t have a choice.
[00:11:42.700] – Speaker 2
In that moment, she was like, why can we funnel money for insurance company to a doctor? But yet I cannot help this happen. So it just makes so much sense. I’m curious what has been and I’m going to use the word leadership challenge. You may not frame it that way. What has been the leadership challenge in getting Brandon and charities to bring clarity to their message as they convey this Gibson platform?
[00:12:08.790] – Speaker 1
Yeah, I think to be honest, the greatest challenge that we face is not clarity in the messaging. It is being under resourced and just not having the bandwidth to actually do it. You wouldn’t believe how many charities are all they’re so excited when we say we’re going to help create strategic partnerships with companies, they love that. And then when we challenge them and say, and we’re going to ask you to tell your stories and tell us exactly where the money is going to go and come back and share that story afterwards, it becomes overwhelming for a number of charities because they’re like, listen, we are stretched so thin. And so to be honest, it’s sometimes easier for us to just accept the check from the company. Thank you, Wells. Just accept the check for the company because we can go and spend it. The benefit. And what we’re learning about the charities and the value to them is that if you get a check from a company, you are getting potentially the people that have pulled over to the side of the road, you’re getting their eyes on your organization. But when we can introduce your organization to so many more individuals than just that one person who is responsible for writing those checks.
[00:13:19.610] – Speaker 1
So I would say on the nonprofit and charity side, that’s the greatest challenge for them to have the bandwidth or even it’s just so overwhelming to think about. And we asked them, we’re like, listen, we don’t want a professional video. We want you to get your cell phone out and we want you to shoot it on. But if that’s not your strength, if that’s not your skill set and you’re a smaller charity organization, that’s a challenge. And from a corporate side, I would say the greatest leadership challenge that we’ve had is it’s something every organization knows they need to do. It’s something every organization wants to do. But when you take a look at where it fits in their priorities against the results that they’re accountable to achieve, it usually falls down to the bottom. So when you said you’re the people that need to pull over and listen. I would actually challenge and say those people absolutely need to pull over and listen. But so does every CEO.
[00:14:12.270] – Speaker 2
[00:14:12.700] – Speaker 1
Because if you are not prioritizing the corporate social purpose in your organization, you are missing a huge opportunity to drive employee engagement and customer loyalty because it’s table stakes. Now, employees and customers want to not just know what you’re doing. They want to be a part of it and they want to see the good that’s happening.
[00:14:32.760] – Speaker 2
Sue, say that again. I want to drive that point home.
[00:14:35.800] – Speaker 1
Ceos need to pay attention because if they don’t understand how important their corporate social purpose is to ultimately driving more revenue, more results than they’re missing a huge opportunity. Because customers and employees, it is table stakes that you are doing good, but you are missing opportunities to multiply the Calce of those opportunities and engage your employees and customers in it. Get their hearts, not just their heads.
[00:15:02.790] – Speaker 2
Yes, leading with nice was born out of research. I personally did that when I was working in magazines and interviewing all these leaders, we would sit around and talk about what made different leaders. We were interviewing great and identified six competencies, gratitude, empathy, trust, honesty, service, and generosity. And the question we had was, are these nice to have? Or do they actually drive revenue? Because if they don’t drive revenue, nobody’s going to care, right? Or they might care, they give it lip service, but they’re not going to do any change. But there’s so much data, scientific and academic base that talks about companies that prioritize their social corporate responsibility see less turnover, which leads to more productivity. They see less sick days. They see more viral earned media from their own employees on platforms like LinkedIn on Instagram. Stuff you can’t buy well, you actually kind of can buy it by paying attention to exactly what you’re talking about.
[00:16:02.480] – Speaker 1
And you know, it’s interesting. I’ve been doing some focus groups recently with employees from really large organizations that are doing a lot. And when I say doing a lot, they’re giving people money and saying, go spend it wherever you want. They’re giving people time and saying, go volunteer you wherever you want. And the miniscule percentage of the money that is actually donated or the time that is actually given is I am blown away by the fact that companies are trying to do things. But why are people not engaging with it? And this is what got us starting to think about this generosity journey is because if you just plunk yourself in the middle of it and create transactions for people to do, you’re truly missing sort of the foundational pieces. So the first question I would ask is, do you truly have a corporate social purpose? And I use the word purpose, not responsibility, because responsibility and I agree with responsibility, but it also carries a connotation of its sort of work. And it can have a burden for people where purposes. It’s driving me. So do you actually have a corporate social purpose and is it clearly defined?
[00:17:11.940] – Speaker 1
And have you identified what the benefits to your organization are and that’s step one? And if you haven’t done that, then anything you do is going to be transactional. So then the next part of the journey is, are your employees and customers actually aware of what that corporate social purpose or responsibility is and what your commitment is and why it benefits the company? And then the next part of the journey is, are they truly engaged and they can’t be engaged until they’re aware and they can’t be aware until you’ve created it. And once you’ve got them engaged, it’s now are you using it as a strategic weapon to actually help grow your business? So that’s the journey we want to take people on and help identify. Let’s just start by helping, you know, where you’re at of the journey. And wherever you’re at, we can start working with you and help you build that journey. But it’s so important for companies not to miss those foundational pieces of why we’re doing this and what’s important and what’s in it for you.
[00:18:07.170] – Speaker 2
So you have the companies, the charities and the users.
[00:18:11.390] – Speaker 1
[00:18:11.990] – Speaker 2
What’s the strategy around bringing clarity to how that ecosystem really operates at its best.
[00:18:18.580] – Speaker 1
So it’s about understanding and every organization what is valuable for them. So what do they want their giving experience to be? For some organizations, they’re saying, listen, make it local for us. That’s what’s really important to us. So if we’re a national organization, but we only support large charities that exist in Toronto, you’ve got people sitting in Halifax are saying that means nothing to me. So we can help make it local in their communities. How important is choice for your people and choice? Do they want their own charities or do they want your charities? How do we make it personal that they’re actually having opportunities to give the things that matter to them? How important is it to be tangible to them? How much do you want to see the data, how much of an impact report do you want to receive and what’s going to matter to you? So we’ve got a lot of different levers we can pull depending on what’s important to that organization in the moment. Not every company says it needs to be local, but some do, and that’s the biggest opportunity for them.
[00:19:21.210] – Speaker 2
You have organizations like Patagonia and Tom’s Shoes that just have, like generosity and giving built in. What would you say in Canada, the state of our maturity and language or understanding around this is where are we in grade one? Are we doing a Masters? I don’t know. You describe it the way that you think is best, but where are we?
[00:19:41.580] – Speaker 1
I think we are truly in the compliance zone for most organizations, and the compliance is we need to do something. And therefore, it is a check the box exercise that we do that we can put into our annual report. We did something. We focus a lot on the small to medium sized business. We have worked with some larger organizations, but the small to medium sized businesses are the ones that they don’t have CSR departments. This is not somebody’s job. And the luxury of being in a large Fortune 500 company is you have a phenomenal team who’s waking up and thinking about this every day. The smaller companies want to think about it, but who’s got time to actually take this on as another thing and who has time to make it a priority? And so, yeah, what I truly find when I talk to people is what they’re currently doing is a check the box exercise.
[00:20:34.950] – Speaker 2
[00:20:35.520] – Speaker 1
And it’s not because they don’t care. It’s because they don’t know what to do.
[00:20:40.010] – Speaker 2
Right. One thing I do in my local neighborhood because I live in Toronto Scarborough, and I live in a neighborhood that still is quite walkable. And once a month I go out with a local business owner who I’ve made friends with. And I talk to them for half an hour and I try to give them at least five or six things they can do in a marketing. Comms world and the steps to do it at the end. They’re like often they’ll tell me a story about how they are prepared to pay somebody thousands of dollars a month to send an email marketing newsletter because they didn’t know the software, they didn’t know where to go. They didn’t know. They thought they’d have to do all this graphic design. And I’m like, no, you sign up. Some of these platforms are free for 5000 users. They’re like, I only have 2000 customers. I’m like, great, you’re golden. And it really is just a little bit of knowledge and it escalates their ability to communicate. And so what I’m hearing from you is probably if you’re listening right now, the gap between you doing what sue is talking about and not doing it is probably a conversation where you learn a thing or two.
[00:21:42.060] – Speaker 2
Yeah. That’s a low barrier to entry.
[00:21:44.090] – Speaker 1
Yeah. And it’s just expanding your mindset of what’s possible and what the options are.
[00:21:49.600] – Speaker 2
[00:21:50.160] – Speaker 1
Because it is just a conversation to bring awareness. And I’ll be honest, when I think about the culture transformations that I’ve led throughout the years, the first keys to success is getting the senior leadership engaged and having them visibly lead. But the true most critical success factor is ultimately having the front lines engaged, that they just take it over and run with it. And that’s exactly what we want to see in organizations that as long as generosity or giving is something that the senior leadership is deciding what we’re going to do and pushing it down the organization. That’s why we want to make it personal because it’s not about one person doing a lot of work. It’s just about creating space for people to engage and start leading some of this themselves. And the generosity that I see and the opportunities when we’ve the the good partnership, what’s the benefit for the nonprofit and the charity who are so void of resources so often? Well, think about the true value of strategic partnerships and thinking about them saying, we don’t have money to go hire this expertise. No, but this Corporation that you’ve just partnered with has this expertise in spades.
[00:22:57.120] – Speaker 1
Don’t just ask for their money. How do we truly help you partner, where you can start accessing and leveraging some of their capabilities and their resources to help you grow? There’s really great opportunities. Again, that’s why I love the whole concept of generosity, not just giving, because generosity is a mindset that if you truly understand everything you have to contribute and are asking, where can I use that to help make someone else’s life better or another organization’s life better? If that’s truly the world we live in, my goodness, it’s phenomenal.
[00:23:28.830] – Speaker 2
I could turn this conversation to an eleven part like, course, but I really appreciate the time you’ve been generous enough to give me today. So I just have one more question about this. When I was at Centennial, I remember it was just as I was leaving. I remember the conversation started happening around, like, how do they help students? We were in that cusp in the early 2000 and tens and the cusp of like, okay, we need to stop just training workers and really have a broader sense of what we’re thinking about. And somebody started talking about how something like 20% of Centennial grads became entrepreneurs or some number. I may be wildly inaccurate, but it was a significant enough number that we took notice of it. And what we realized is that in the process of becoming really great educators, we had actually also become really good at training entrepreneurs. And so somebody said we should launch an incubator or a hub. So the same is true for you. You’ll be working with all these nonprofits, companies and individuals and learning so much about behaviors and what we know. How do you see a vision for that using that data, that information download?
[00:24:35.880] – Speaker 2
How is that going to help Canadians and Givesome?
[00:24:39.190] – Speaker 1
Well, ultimately, again, how we hope the data is incredibly important because we need to continue to understand in every current context what motivates, what inspires, what really resonates with people. I have to be completely honest. That vision of more generous people ultimately is what is so incredible for me, because I think it’s exponentially just going to continue to grow when you are the recipient of generosity. Hopefully it inspires you to then go and be generous. I think that there are incredible opportunities. I don’t see this just being a corporate tool. Within the next five years, I see the corporate being a piece of what we do. But I see ultimately this creating communities of engagement, where it is all being led by communities telling their stories, creating the opportunities, sharing those opportunities and sharing the impact. And I will say there are other platforms out there that are raising funds that are doing phenomenal jobs of giving people voices. But when I think about Gen ZS and when I think about Millennials, one of the greatest resources that they have is their voice. And so creating communities of engagement around generosity is really where I see our future going.
[00:25:53.930] – Speaker 1
So that it’s not just, again, something we’re equipping companies to do, but it’s just something that’s becoming part of our culture.
[00:25:59.920] – Speaker 2
Okay. This has been so good. So there are people right now they’re like, hey, Math, you get to the part that we really want to know. How do we find out more? Where do I go? How do you learn about this? How do they get into the pipeline?
[00:26:11.890] – Speaker 1
Yeah. So Givesome.com is more of our marketing platform. And Givesome.org is where you can go and see some of the tangible projects, see some of the companies that are running initiatives with their employees right now. And you can take a look at when you take a look at a company’s page, you can see here’s what they value, here’s what they believe in, here’s what they’re trying to accomplish in their companies. And we’re constantly doing new initiatives with companies all the time. So, yeah, I would love for you to check us out or email me. Sue At Givesome. Ca I’d love to chat with you.
[00:26:44.220] – Speaker 2
Hey, listeners, you do not realize the gold. You just got a direct line to sue. That’s key. It’s G-I-V-E-S-O-M-E. For clarity. Sue, thank you so much. You and I talking today just happened by accident. A lot of people helped me get here to chat with you. And first of all, I want to thank Naomi. She’s our EA project manager at Leading with Nice. She helps prepare the questions, do research, coordinate our time. While I’ve been talking to you, I watch our Slack channel full of activity as people that are doing the work. So Amber has been doing some of that great work. Jamie, if you saw this on social media, Jamie Hunter is our content manager. He puts all the social together. Geoff does all the video. So if you saw this on Stories or somewhere, Austin does all the audio, if you meet me in real life, please don’t be shocked. Austin makes me sound a lot better. Victoria has been doing a great job on our social media, so I have to thank her. And of course, while I’ve been talking, my wife Alison has been keeping everything in the house quiet. So thank you, Allison.
[00:27:44.070] – Speaker 2
Sue, once again, thank you so much. Believe me, somebody’s workplace will be different a year from now. Because they’ve listened to what you had to say today. So. Thank you so much for that amazing.
[00:27:54.310] – Speaker 1
My pleasure. Pleasure.