Grace McLean has dedicated her career to working within not-for-profit organisations, and what started as a regular coffee catch-up for six NFP business friends has now turned into an allegiance between over 200 people and 90 charity organisations through an entity called NFP Connect.
After seeing the impact that NFP Connect was creating, Grace is now on a mission to grow the group, to help provide much needed support to regional organisations who don’t have access to tailored training and education, and to fill a market gap through social entrepreneurship.
- What path led to your current role?
When I was 19 I became a Christian and at 23 I got this opportunity to go to Hollywood and that was going to be my life mission.
My first day of work was September 11 and it was a really intense year for me. So I came home and got a job with KPMG, because I was really burnt out. So I ended up doing something that I really didn’t have to think about
I had my year off then got a job in administration for CanTeen and that started my fundraising experience ‚Äì 70 per cent administration, 30 per cent fundraising and I seemed to be really good at the fundraising part.
- Are there any difficulties inherent in the not-for-profit sector?
The hard part of working in a not-for-profit is that there is not a lot of support or training. The attitude is that you can’t justify spending the money on training.
There’s a lot of burnt-out, there’s a lot of people doing multiple roles, when I was in fundraising I was doing five different roles, when in Sydney there were five people doing the same thing as me.
Unless you can push yourself through that and separate a part of yourself in the work and your personal life, a lot of the times when you’re working in not-for-profit it’s all heart and soul so it really becomes difficult, so a lot of turnover, a lot of burnout. Therefore there are a lot of struggles in the leadership side of things as well.
- Did you always know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?
I always knew I wanted to help a lot of charities. I worked for three different national charities and there are only so many times you can say ‘this is the best charity’ as a fundraiser. So I knew when I finished in my last role I wanted to help lots of charities.
I was brought up around entrepreneurs, my Mum’s an entrepreneur, she was the breadwinner in the family, which has always been an example to me. I guess my roles have always been establishing and building. You get driven to your cause or your purpose. Up until a year ago I didn’t know how this organisation was even going to exist, let alone that I would be leading it.
- What do you believe has shaped your entrepreneurial style?
Growing up my Father used to say to me ‘finish what you started’ and ‘take responsibility ‚Äì even if it’s not something your responsible for’. So pick up a piece paper if you see it or finish the job, so for me that was instrumental in shaping me.
My first boss, Clayton Barr, he used to tell me to dream beyond what has been given to me. So if I had been given a target I should then think about what target I wanted to meet instead.
My last CEO use to say ‘Everyone comes to me with problems, but what’s the solution’. So I would have to find the solution.
- What local businessperson do you find inspiring?
I am really lucky to have so many businesspeople in my life. I often pinch myself that the people I hang out with are playing on a global scale. We don’t take enough time to look at those people and I am just lucky that they’re in my circle.
My biggest advice about finding inspiration is you are the people you hang out with. So find inspirational people that will inspire the things that you do have and that you don’t have.