Name: Kristin Lindsay
Role: Outreach Manager
Location: Vancouver Island, Canada
Outreach is one of the newer departments here at Random Acts, and Kristin’s job as Outreach Manager involves making sure anyone who wants to know anything about Random Acts – whether it’s a potential partnership, a supporter’s fundraising idea, an event in a specific region or an internal staff procedure – is able to find the answer clearly and easily. She’s like our very own Good Place Janet in how she facilitates conversation and information.
“The outreach department is tasked with essentially making connections. We’re there for supporters to ask us about how things work. If people have questions and they’re not sure directly who to go to, we can help funnel them in the right direction, and we’re also here to talk to other organizations, whether it’s other non-profits or fan organizations or conventions or anything like that. Basically any organization that wants to know a bit more about Random Acts can start with us, and we’re also here as a support within Random Acts as well. We’re basically there to provide help and assistance to both volunteers within RA and members of the public.”
Kristin’s position is well-suited, because she knows the needs of those who might reach out from external organizations better than most. Before joining Random Acts, Kristin worked for one of our partner organizations PAX and their Child’s Play Charity for over 14 years, and that is how she crossed paths with us.
Child’s Play was able to provide Random Acts with several grants for the Free High School in Nicaragua, including fitting out the computer lab, and Kristin joined Random Acts in Nicaragua as a representative of Child’s Play on our 2018 volunteer visit for the opening ceremony of our second campus building.
This trip was a true gamechanger for Kristin, and when she decided to move on from her role with PAX but wanted to continue doing some volunteer charity work, her experiences in Nicaragua brought her straight to Random Acts, and we are lucky to have her.
Joining Random Acts in Nicaragua was, for Kristin, a powerful awakening about not only the importance of the work Random Acts is capable of doing, but also the true level of disparity when it comes to resources and communities around the world, and she shared some thoughts about what it means to be in need in different environments.
“Child’s Play’s mandate is – they’re a charity that reps the video game industry, developers and gamers. We’ve done some really excellent work in providing video game equipment and technological assistance to children’s hospitals and other children’s welfare facilities, mostly within the USA. We were certainly meeting a need that is there, and I’m really proud of the work that Child’s Play does.”
“That said, getting on a plane and flying to Nicaragua and actually helping pump out contaminated wells – definitely, for me personally, I think my priorities changed a little in how I wanted to give back. Again, I am really proud of Child’s Play’s work, and with my own children I’ve seen the positive effect that video games can have on hospitalized kids, but for me, when I decided I wanted to continue volunteering for a non-profit somewhere it was definitely going to be Random Acts.”
It was incredibly impactful for Kristin to meet the families that were served by The Free High School of San Juan del Sur, and to make such a difference in the actual quality of life in the rural communities, where Random Acts volunteers were helping to dig new low impact environmentally friendly latrines and pump out waste from contaminated wells.
“The trip was life changing, really, and I just decided I wanted to put my time and my effort into that cause. And honestly – everyone who was on that trip, from the people with Random Acts to the supporters who had had gone with them, there was a whole bunch of volunteers who had done fundraising with them, who were all so passionate about the work, to the cast members who went, who literally picked up shovels and picks and dug latrines as well, everyone was just so amazing and so passionate that it was very difficult to walk away from that and not be changed.”
It is important to remember that people usually only can relate to the scope of their own experience – that every single person’s greatest need truly is their greatest need no matter what their environment, and that those needs are all valid and crucial for those individuals. But for Kristin’s personal kindness journey, coming face to face with this particular community and their needs was a huge turning point.
“All of a sudden my whole perspective changed. I just realized that I live in such a privileged country and I have so much privilege myself, and to go and just have my eyes opened was really powerful for me. Basically I was emailing the Random Acts people as soon as we landed, asking ‘How can I continue to help you with this mission, because it’s the most important thing that I’ve ever done.'”
One of Kristin’s most valuable areas of expertise that she brings to Random Acts is in accessibility. As staff manager at PAX, which puts on huge conventions, she had to become extremely familiar with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and the responsibility of an organization to members of the public as a host, and to staff as an employer.
“There was a pretty steep learning curve for me personally, to know what our responsibilities were both obviously legally and morally, as this show that wanted to be welcoming to everybody. The motto of PAX is ‘Welcome home,’ and it was really important for us to try and make sure that every voice, every need was met and heard. I’m passionate about it because I’m hoping that in me being passionate about it, eventually some day no one is going to have to be passionate about it because it will just be done and no one will think twice about it.”
Random Acts obviously does very much occupy the physical space when enacting our goal to conquer the world one random act of kindness at a time, but with over 70 staff worldwide, we operate day-to-day as a virtual workplace, and Kristin is conscious of making sure that accessibility translates to a digital space as well.
“It’s everything from the language that we use, where we want to try to make sure that it is respectful to everybody, that were using gender neutral language, that we are using accessibility tools that are built in to social media platforms, like text-to-speech translators and that we are putting closed captioning on videos and things like that – it’s such a broad range of things that we can do as a digital organization to try and make sure that we are being inclusive, and these are things that we can share.”
“A lot of people maybe don’t know that when they post a photo on twitter that they can actually caption it – some of these tools are a little buried and we’re not all familiar with them but it can make a big difference to somebody who has a visual impairment and is using a photo description text-to-speech functionality. It doesn’t take a lot of time to do those sorts of things or just be mindful of them, but they can really make a difference for everybody else.”
“And that’s all part of Outreach. When I talk about wanting to make connections, that’s something that Outreach can remind all of us to do. We want to be able to connect with everybody. We want to be able to connect with maybe someone who is blind and can’t actually read it, but still wants to be familiar with Random Acts and be able to access our content. These are the things to keep thinking about.”
Kristin’s focus for Outreach this year is tool kit generation – tool kits being information packages for both staff and supporters that provide How-To guides about anything that anyone in our community might need. The ones that have already been completed cover a very broad range of topics, from things like “How to create a Friend of Random Acts group” to a gender neutral pronouns toolkit to how to run an effective meeting, and in recognizing the need for a particular toolkit, Outreach will continue to help Random Acts to run smoothly and efficiently and bridge the gap of information in order to get more people involved.
Her bigger picture goal for the organization is to see the global reach of Random Acts become further developed. As a non-US member, Kristin is keen to see our reach stretched across global borders more regularly, both in discovering new opportunities for destination projects like Nicaragua and Haiti, and in the endless opportunities for day-to-day acts of kindness that our staff and supporters are able to perform with our funding. She hopes that Outreach will have the opportunity to assist in making those connections and making our message better understood worldwide.
But one of the biggest personal dreams that Kristin harbors for the organization is to see Random Acts reverberate the kindness found in our Supernatural fandom origins and seek it out in other areas of pop culture, in order to involve Random Acts with other highly engaged fan communities. Coming from gaming culture, Kristin knows first-hand the potential power that every group of passionate fans to change the world when they’re inspired by their pop culture community to apply their fierce dedication to doing good.
“That is something that I’m excited about, knowing that we’re very conscious of a lot of people who aren’t familiar with Random Acts yet because they’re not Supernatural fans, that’s not their fandom, but that we really are speaking the same language and that we have the same passion, that these are people who might potentially love to get involved if they knew more about Random Acts.”
There are so many figureheads and fandoms in all sorts of areas of pop culture who are effectively already having the same effect that Random Acts has in their own communities, so it makes perfect sense that all of these fannish do-gooders should join forces and conquer the world together, one random act of fandom at a time.
“One of the reasons that I think there is a natural intersection between fandom and social good is because of the storytelling aspect. Whether it’s science fiction or whether it’s fantasy, we’re dreaming of a better world. It’s hope. So when you think of it in that context, whether it’s Supernatural and this ultimate battle between good and evil or whether it’s Harry Potter, which tells so many stories that have to do with fighting against the powers of darkness, it all kind of ties into the idea of wanting to make our world a better place.”
“And when we explore those concepts in fiction, a lot of us don’t realize that we can explore those concepts in reality as well by doing social good, by volunteering with nonprofits and try to change the world for the better.”