Meet Our Team: Alex Vincent

Name: Alex Vincent
Role: Events Manager
Location: Wigan, UK

After joining Random Acts in 2018 as a regional representative for the Northern UK, Alex Vincent became our Events Manager in mid-2019. Alex oversees the planning and execution of every Random Acts event, which can be defined as anytime we go and have a presence in the real world where the aim is to engage with somebody about the organization and what it is that we do.

“Events work both alone and as part of a wider team. When we supported the Seattle Marathon, it’s not just Events, it’s events and Outreach. When we do conventions that can be just Events. We also do community events, but we also work with Projects to deliver a very big event or a presence at a concert, like the one last year in New York. It varies the kind of things that sit within events and although we may not be managing all of it, if we need a presence there, if somebody is going to be standing at a table talking to people about what Random Acts does in any way, events will support it.”

Random Acts did 31 official events in 2019, the largest being DragonCon in Atlanta, and the smallest being a community festival. Between Alex, events coordinator Kristen Kress, and the nominated “event lead” – whichever Random Acts staff member is most appropriate to be the on-the-ground point person on the actual day – the team prepares for the event in advance, finding the staff to support it, handling the practicalities like schedules and inventory, and Alex remains on call remotely 24 hours a day during the actual event taking place.

But logistics aside, one of the most interesting and important things that Alex deals with as Events Manager is the concept of adapting the Random Acts “elevator pitch” for different environments, as we actively seek out new and different audiences.

“It’s really nice when you start to see it impacting on people who would not otherwise have had any kind of contact with Random Acts or a trigger for them to go out and do something really nice – I am sure they would do if the opportunity arose, you know, we all do – but give somebody a kindness bingo card and they become kindness mad. Find the right thing in the right place and people embrace the message of Random Acts.”

When it comes to the angle, or “pitch,” when we are stepping into an event at a brand new place that has no idea who we are, there are two main things that Alex wants to focus on.

“The first one is to just get our message across. One of the things that I am picking up this year is different fliers for different types of events. What we had is great [for certain events] but it is no good if you have 20 seconds to talk to somebody and get them engaged. Then it’s ‘This is who we are, this is what we do, this is what we would like you to do, and this is how we can help you’. That’s when people start thinking ‘Actually I can do this, I can do some of this, I can be involved.’ We are keen to get people looking at how they can spread kindness, so in a brand new environment getting people to think about small acts of kindness is key.”

“If you can create a relationship then it’s great, we can show people where to apply for funding to complete kindness acts for others and where to donate among others, but the first thing is getting people aware of us and getting people to understand what it is that we do and what it is they can do.”

The second part, Alex says, is about getting people to talk about kindness without fear of bad faith attitudes because this – as Director of Operations Jennifer Willis-Rivera outlined in our December profile – is something we struggle with massively.

“We need to get to the point of where people understand the nuance between kindness conversation being crass and self promoting and understanding the benefits in spreading kindness. Saying ‘It didn’t take a lot for me; I enjoyed doing this; if anybody else could do it, that would be lovely.’ [At events] we try to focus on small non-monetary things that are easy to do – how would you be bragging if you say thank you to a volunteer? Generally it’s focusing on those small things to introduce kindness as a concept that it’s okay to be kind, to acknowledge you have actively been kind, to actively and proactively be kind, that it’s okay to have that thinking. Kindness bingo cards may seem simple, but they have quite a lot of thought and research behind them.”

In terms of furthering that idea of little day-to-day non-monetary acts of kindness in order to promote the fact that Random Acts is, in fact, a monetary non-profit organization and that they can donate or apply for grants and to get funding for a kindness act, Alex has found it to be a natural progression for those people who are receptive to the general “acts of kindness” concept.

“You often find that once people will start to talk to you about kindness, then you can extend the conversation – particularly if somebody comes back and they have done a kindness bingo or they have done some kind of kindness challenge – that’s when we can extend a conversation and say ‘You know, we do not just fund things from inside Random Acts, we can also fund people who would like to do things for others as well’ and have that conversation, have a look at the website, this is the website address where you would apply, so we are back to kind of giving them the right information, easier information to follow. It means that very short period of time you have with them again is a really valued engagement.”

Looking forward to 2020, Alex has a few particular goals for the various areas that her role as Events Manager incorporates. This includes doubling the number of people participating in our year round Kindness Heroes challenge – including all regional reps – and reworking the messaging involved in that program, increasing participation in AMOK by 25%, with an aim for the length to be around a week to ten days, rather than a weekend or a month, and increasing the conversation around kindness acts that those two programs can foster.

In terms of on-the-ground events, Alex is looking at how we deliver an event rather than the number of events, although she says that we are looking to have a presence at a couple of more business expos which are really good for developing relationships and partnerships. For the more traditional events in our calendar, we are trying to use our time with supporters more effectively at those events too.

“We would like to get more people signed up to the newsletter so that we can spread awareness of what we are doing on a regular basis. This year we are going to be talking a lot more about what we do, what we have done in that area where the event is, and more recent acts, and we are also always looking for volunteers for lots of different roles within Random Acts so if somebody’s interested in volunteering, we can take your name and we have somebody within our HR department reach out to you.”

Another one of Alex’s responsibilities is managing the team of Random Acts regional reps – about thirty in total, as volunteers come and go depending on time and lifestyle commitments. At the moment, Random Acts has about 16 or 17 regional reps covering different parts of North America, and around 12 or 13 spread out across the rest of the world, and this is a team Alex is always keen to increase.

“We’ve had about 12 new recruits this year over the course of the year in places like Lebanon and Pakistan. Our newest recruit is from Central America. We are very much looking at how we can spread outside of the US and one thing I would really like to get across is – if you have an interest in Random Acts, if you would like to work with us, a regional rep’s role can take an hour of your week, that’s all. We would love to have more people both inside and outside of the US as part of the organization.”

The most important thing for the regional reps, regardless of where they are, is that they are able to communicate with people in their region. That can be about language – literally translating to help us share information, or help people in your region apply for an act, though Alex is committed to getting some official translated resources distributed in the future for various regions – or it can simply about recognizing the needs of a certain area, or the way to promote the idea of Random Acts in a certain community or culture, as attitudes and effective approach can differ dramatically even between the UK, and the USA, two seemingly very similar countries, let alone all the other countries where we hope to spread kindness.

It’s all about knowing how our message and resources could fit for your specific community, Alex says, and she encourages any Random Acts supporters to join in and officially become a part of the team.

“There are always Regional Representative vacancies everywhere, so if anybody from anywhere in the world and would like to be a Regional Representative for Random Acts, please apply. If you have a social circle that you would like to do kindness acts with, if you have an interest in a particular issue in your region, if you have anything that means that you would like to get involved more in what’s going on within your own region please apply. Even if you are just interested in understanding a lot more about what’s going on in your part of the world, it’s a really interesting fun place to start.”

“Volunteering for Random Acts can give you lots of skills, do not be afraid if you think you may need help planning something, or creating an effective social media post, we have teams who help you. If you want to get involved, please do. You will not regret it. It’s fab to be a part of something like Random Acts, it’s affirming. I feel really privileged to be able to do this with my spare time.”

Alex’s passion here comes from personal experience. Her introduction to the organization, she says, was “surprising” – and it is, admittedly, quite a lightning in a bottle situation. Around five or six years ago, Alex was going through a really difficult time in her life and was encouraged to look for things that, as she puts it, “made me have a bit of faith in humanity again.”

“Randomly, one day a tweet came onto my timeline and I thought ‘oh, that’s interesting’. It happened to be during what I now know is AMOK so I followed the strange hashtag. I saw a small flood of kind things that were happening and then actually started to follow Random Acts – I did not watch Supernatural, I knew nothing about GISH. I was kind of one of those people who did things quietly, who thought it was really nice, who had been to the website and had a look around and would then go and occasionally buy a drink for somebody behind me in the queue or do other little things.”

“About 6 months later my friend introduced me to Supernatural, and 6 months after that I heard about GISH from Twitter, so I got involved in that too because that really pushed me outside of the shell I had retreated into. I had no clue about the link between the three things until 12 months later and the GISH tea party. So it took me two years to realize there was any kind of link between these things.”

“12 months after that I went off to the one Creation UK event that was in 2018 and there was Random Acts table, staffed by our Destinations Manager Rea Niessen. I only went to talk to her because I had looked at the website and I had been kind of quietly supporting Random Acts for a few years, taking part in AMOK and donating to someone from the UK who was raising funds to go to help build the high school in Nicaragua. ”

At that convention, Random Acts was doing a collection for Read for Good that provides books for kids in hospital, which struck a further chord for Alex, as her son, now 20, had been very ill in hospital as a baby and when she had to stay in hospital with him, that kind of service is one she had noticed and appreciated.

“I thought that’s lovely, so I went to the table and Rea started a conversation with me and she said ‘You should join. You need it. Become a regional rep.’ I wasn’t sure I had time to be a regional rep but Rea reassured me ‘Oh it’ll be an hour a week, join, join, I’m sure they are looking, I know they are looking for regional reps in the UK.’ So I joined.”

(Fast forward to 2020: Alex, as Events Manager, now spends anywhere between 6 and 24 or more hours per week working for Random Acts.)

For Alex, working with Random Acts has actually changed the direction of her own personal philanthropy, due to the research and discoveries some of our funding grants have led her to make.

“Before I joined Random Acts, I had always worked with charities for people with learning disabilities and autism. Both have affected my life greatly, my brother has very severe learning disabilities so that’s what I had always supported. The big thing that I have become aware of since joining Random Acts is homelessness, families at risk and people who are living in very chaotic situations, that don’t have a home, they sleep on people’s floors. I did not know that it existed to the extent it does in my hometown. Manchester (where I work) is, I believe, one of the worst places in the UK for homelessness, but even Wigan! In this town where I may have seen only one or two people, The level of my naivety about my own hometown until I started working with Random Acts is startling. Our refugee population! I didn’t know we had a refugee population until two years ago and Random Acts had funds specifically to benefit refugees. ‘I really thought I’d have to go into Manchester or Liverpool and then online I find a refugee association in Wigan! and we were able to do something with them. So I think probably my biggest passion now is, I would say is that at-risk group, the people on the verge of becoming homeless. They are so completely invisible and yet at any moment they could end up on the streets.”

“One of the wonderful things that we were able to do this holiday season was with some of the childhood hunger funds. We identified families at-risk, so we were able to buy them a frozen turkey crown so they could have dinner. Shops were donating the vegetables, but the meat was a real problem and so we bought 35 turkey crowns for these families, because these aren’t just individuals, these are people with kids who’ve lost their jobs, or had a big change in circumstance – to be able to do something like that and use the holiday funds and some of my staff act funds to be able to buy toys so that the kids could have a gift, make me so grateful to Random Acts for letting me be part of the organization.”

“I’m very, very lucky in that not only I love my paying job, but to have this, a role that feeds my soul and allows me to take part in my passion and hopefully, somewhere along the line, somebody else might see this, or a tweet from something from Random Acts and Random Acts will change their life like it did for mine.”