Danielle Higgs is a non-executive director of Minus18, a not-for-profit organisation providing advocacy, wellbeing and support to LGBTQIA+ youth. In her executive career, Higgs spent nearly a decade with the music streaming platform Spotify and worked her way up from sales planner to group sales manager of Australia New Zealand. She left Spotify in 2020 and joined the board of Minus18. She also founded small business sales and marketing consultancy Good Mondays Co. The recipient of an AICD Governance Foundations for Not-for-Profit Directors scholarship in 2021, she reflects on the experience of participating in the AICD NFP course and her experience as a director so far.
1. Tell us about your board and executive roles?
Minus18 Foundation is Australia’s charity for improving the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth. Its core mission is centred around transforming Australia into a safe space for all queer young people through three key core initiatives — life-affirming social inclusion events, education/advocacy work and youth empowerment programs.
I also sit on Minus18’s people and culture subcommittee. Having a well-supported and empowered team is critical in fulfilling its mission. We know that matters of people and culture go to the heart of any organisation's success, so it’s important to have a dedicated space for this within the governance framework. Work in this space includes strategic consultation on projects like the employee value proposition, organisational structure and inclusive leave policies, as well as remuneration frameworks and policies.
Outside of Minus18, I have over a decade of experience in media sales, business strategy/operations and startups. Previously at Spotify, I worked as part of the team that brought the business to the APAC region and served at the company for almost eight years.
2. How did your first board role come about?
Stepping into the role at Minus18 in mid-2020 was my first experience in board directorship. In previous roles throughout my career, I’ve enjoyed engaging with high-level strategy and operational management, but hadn’t considered board directorship until a manager suggested it was something I should explore — a suggestion I’m forever grateful for!
Once I decided to pursue the opportunity, I was focused on finding the right board fit, ensuring it was aligned not only with my professional experience, but also with my personal values. At that point, I found Minus18 and immediately felt a strong connection to their mission. Not long after, they commenced recruitment for an open directorship role and I threw my hat in the ring. The rest, as they say, is history.
3. What do you enjoy most about being a director?
Being able to leverage my skills to contribute to such an important cause is an absolute highlight. Hearing the stories and positive experiences from young people who engage with the foundation is incredibly rewarding. The pandemic caused a lot of turmoil and distress for so many people over the past two years. Knowing that in such challenging times, Minus18 was able to quickly and effectively pivot their strategy to ensure that they could still connect with LGBTQIA+ young people and provide support and engagement was fantastic. Over the course of the pandemic, thousands of LGBTQIA+ young people attended new digital events and programs, more than 95 per cent of those walked away reporting that the event made them feel less isolated, which was a fantastic outcome. Before our Virtual Chill Out event in 2021, 20 per cent of attendees entered the event feeling worried and by the end of the event that number dropped to just three per cent.
4. What have you learned so far?
Our board is comprised of a diverse group of individuals with unique backgrounds, skills and lived experiences. Every month when our board comes together, we see the dynamics of those unique perspectives and how they combine to contribute to the corporate governance of Minus18 overall. I’m a strong believer in the benefits diversity brings to organisations, and being able to witness this first-hand and to actively learn from the experiences of others is incredibly fulfilling.
5. What have you found most challenging?
The most challenging part of the role came in shifting my perspective and mindset towards the NFP space, knowing that all of my prior experience had been in corporate/for-profit roles and organisations. Many corporations are moving towards a triple bottom-line measurement approach — a framework that aims to recognise social, environmental and financial outcomes — or at least adopting a wider consideration of corporate responsibility and sustainability. However, having a constitutional mandate that is so definitively grounded in community impact — as opposed to financial performance — took a little time getting used to.
6. How have you been able to use the insights and experience from the AICD course in your role as director?
The learnings from the AICD course have been incredibly helpful both from a high-level thinking perspective as well as providing a number of practical, easily implemented tactics. The course was very comprehensive, so I don’t doubt others will gain insights and learnings relevant to their individual contexts.
7. Would you recommend applying for the NFP scholarship?
Absolutely! Completing the AICD Governance Foundations for Not-for-Profit Directors course was a fantastic experience. Not only was the content comprehensive, but the delivery was engaging and insightful. Our facilitator (Barry Rafe) was able to bring contemporary cases to provide context while fostering rich discussion and debate from the class. Not only did I leave feeling more confident in my ability to fulfil my duties as a director, I left with a network of wonderful peers in the NFP space.
Applications for the 2023–24 Not-for-Profit Scholarships Program are open from Monday, 20 March until Sunday, 23 April 2023.
Successful applicants will undertake the Governance Foundations for NFP Directors course, which provides a foundational-level understanding of NFP governance, between August 2023 and June 2024. For further information and to apply online, please visit the website of our facilitating partner, the Australian Scholarships Foundation.
Learn more about Minus18’s mission and operations at: minus18.org.au/about
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