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Finding new ways to fight slavery

Would you pay to see your boss jump out of a plane? Stephanie Lorenzo AIMe is counting on it. As the founder and chief executive of Project Futures, a not-for-profit organisation devoted to ending slavery and human trafficking in Cambodia and Australia, her high-energy approach to fundraising is paying dividends.

Around the world, an estimated 35.8 million people are living in slavery. That jaw-dropping number includes victims of human trafficking, people in forced labour, forced or servile marriages, and children who have been sold. In Cambodia, an estimated 155,800 people are living as slaves. In Australia, it’s estimated there are 3000.

LAUNCHING PROJECT FUTURES

Lorenzo, who last year was named as one of the AIM 30 Under 30 managers, launched Project Futures after reading the account of a Cambodian woman sold into sex slavery. “I’d given to charities here and there, but it wasn’t on my priority list until I read this book and was just gobsmacked. I started to think about what I could do to help.”

Lorenzo was a 22-year-old working in marketing and communications when she started Project Futures in 2009 as an outlet for young people to give back. It began as a side project, but within a couple of years she began receiving calls from charities in Australia who had seen the impact of her fundraising for Cambodia. “They were asking, ‘Do you know that slavery is something that actually happens in Australia as well?’,” she says. “I didn’t know.”

Today, Lorenzo works with two other full-time staff at Project Futures, increasing awareness of slavery and raising funds for two charities in Cambodia and two in Australia. Last financial year, they raised over $1 million.

A NEW APPROACH TO FUNDRAISING

Lorenzo believes that success comes down to the group’s unconventional fundraising methods and clearly defined target market. “When we started, our target was definitely Gen Y. I think that’s how we got ourselves in the media. We’re Gen Y, but we’re not lazy and we’re not disloyal. We knew how to pitch ourselves.”

Project Futures’ fundraising methods include cycling challenges in Cambodia, hikes in Japan, fashion sales, fitness challenges and, of course, Toss the Boss.

“For a busy CEO to do something quite crazy to showcase their leadership and get their staff involved can build engagement and staff morale,” says Lorenzo.

As of December, 15 senior managers had signed up to jump from a plane for charity, including AIM chief executive David Pich. “We want to get to 30 by April,” adds Lorenzo. “And we need more females!”

“My values changed and I’m glad they did because I’m doing something I absolutely love.”

She describes her own leadership style as ‘unorthodox’. “I’m very open and honest – probably too much. I try not to be an ego boss. I just want to get the job done. Sometimes I think I don’t take the authority side seriously enough.

“I thought my career trajectory was marketing and communications, but my passion took over. My values changed and I’m glad they did because I’m doing something I absolutely love.”

Calling all leaders

AIM is looking for leaders to be ‘tossed’ from a plane to raise money for Project Futures. Email david.pich@aim.com.au.

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