on Mar 25, 19

How to turn your birthday into a reason to dance (on a fluffy cloud)

Gemma Major says giving instead of getting on her 27th birthday was “like dancing on a fluffy cloud”.

Gemma is the founder of Seed Waikato — a charity that exists to help young people thrive

She set up Seed Waikato in response to the needs she could see among young people in Waikato, and after her own experiences surviving crippling bipolar and drug-induced psychosis.

As a charity partner of The Good Registry, she didn’t have to think twice about pledging her own birthday to support Seed’s mission and mahi — and with more than $1000 raised, she couldn’t be happier

We spoke with Gemma about her story, the Seed Waikato story, and the joy of giving over getting… 

Why did you start Seed and what’s the difference you are looking to make in the world? 

What I heard when I listened. Young people in the Waikato want a place to belong. Have access to inspiring speakers, epic mentors and experiences that develop their potential. To know how to be resilient in the face of adversity. To feel empowered to turn their dreams into reality. To play a role in creating the future they want, making their voice heard. To challenge the status quo. 

I'm definitely the kind of woman that gets caught up in her head with way too many ideas, and the more I listened, the more I let go of what I thought was great, and uplifted others who wanted to create greatness.  In Hamilton City alone, 23% of the population is aged 18-30, and across the Waikato it's 16%. I want every young person to know that they are enough, that they have the power to change stuff, and that together we can change the world. I'm seriously passionate about the potential of the millennial generation to transform the economy, society and our environment. We have significant challenges as a generation, as does any generation, and we have powerful possibilities and opportunities, thanks to generations before us who have carved a path.

On a more personal level, after surviving crippling bipolar and drug-induced psychosis, I realised that so many other young people are facing mental health and addiction challenges, clearly represented in the horrific fact that every 63 hours a young person takes their life here in Aotearoa. During this time, I not only had professional help, but a few people around me that challenged, inspired and encouraged me to develop my potential.  I found some mentors that stretched my thinking, showed me the possibilities of hard work and got me seriously excited about community-led development, the learning process, design-thinking, and social enterprise. If I didn't have that exposure to opportunities and access to incredible leaders, I wouldn't be here today doing what I'm doing. 

Why did you become a charity partner with The Good Registry and what are your hopes from the partnership?

We love the values that The Good Registry stands for. Reducing waste is a no-brainer to many young people (and many older people). We know that young people love collaboration and 'experiences', and the joy of pledging your birthday, or creating a fundraising event for a cause you care about, then rallying your social network together to play a role together is seriously epic. Young people are purpose-driven (and many older people), and having the opportunity to demonstrate your personal values through pledging an event is such a great opportunity. 

We often have young people ask how they can support our mahi, and our partnership creates a vehicle for our community to empower us to empower young people. 

As an organisation, it's really important for sustainability that we create diverse income streams to fund our impact, which is another bonus! 

Our hope for the partnership is to create an epic experience for our community to give back to our movement, reduce waste, and generate donations to help us scale our events and education. We have two INCREDIBLE volunteers who are our Co-Head of Fundraising, Joseph Monise and Laura Fifield, and together they spearhead this space. They want to fundraise $10,000 this year, and have come up with some epic ideas to make this happen, including a birthday pledge for each month of the year! 

So you got the ball rolling by giving your own birthday … what’s that been like?

I have had SO much joy in pledging my birthday. It means so much to me that people believe in me, my vision for Seed Waikato and the difference I'm trying to make. Plus I don't need any more stuff.  

Seed Waikato is in desperate need of funds to drive our events and education pilot forward, so it was a no-brainer to pledge my birthday. It was also so special to see my friends Rach Bauer and Hana Blundell pledge their birthday alongside mine in February and March for Seed Waikato too. And my husband, Jesse Major, walking the length of the North Island in his mission to fundraise for our vision. I've been blown away by what he has done, include a 50km day of walking to bring his total number of donors up to 50. You can check out his fundraiser video here, which has now reached more than 5,000 people. To date, our community has fundraised over $6,000 from 151 donors via five pledged events since November last year. So many warm fuzzies! I'm so excited to see what this year brings.

A few years ago now I pledged by birthday to the Black Dog Institute, Australia's leading mental health researcher, and raised $500. My goal this time was to pass this, and to date, I've raised just over $1,000 from 24 GENEROUS donors. It was so much fun to come up with my social media campaign, and think about how my friends could contribute big or small. That's when I created my tiered donation example! You can check it out here.

How has it felt receiving donations to a cause you’re so passionate about instead of gifts? 

Like dancing on a fluffy cloud. 

Any no-gift remorse?! :)

Absolutely not! It was time to say ka kite to consumerism, and kia ora to doing good.

What’s been the best part about giving instead of getting for your birthday?

Truly understanding the difference this will make to Seed Waikato in our mission. 

What will the money you’ve raised do for Seed and how do you feel about that?

When we experiment and test new ideas or opportunities, we are doing this with very little resource until we can prove it works. That's generally when a funder would like to become involved. The money fundraised from our partnership with The Good Registry goes to investing into those projects or programmes in their infant stage for young people that increase resilience, self-awareness, confidence, purpose and their ability to take action on stuff they care about. We care about developing young people to become great parents, talented employees, impact-driven change-makers, passionate entrepreneurs, purpose-driven students, motivated volunteers, and confident leaders, and having funding to experiment and test means everything to powering our innovative, courageous and bold spirit. 

And a call to action to others …?

I want to share the quote that's up on the wall in our new co-working space. 

"Never doubt that a group of thoughtful people can change the world. It's the only thing that ever has." 

You don't have to work in a charity or social enterprise, or have started a social enterprise or charity, or have significant wealth to give away, to change the world. You can change the world by bringing your people together around a cause you care about with The Good Registry. Choose Good Gift Cards for your clients or friends. Pledge your birthday, wedding, or special holiday. Come up with a fundraiser and invite your friends and Whaanau along for the ride. We can all play a role in creating positive impact in the world. 

If you'd also like to create a registry to support Seed Waikato, or any of our other partner charities, you can do that here

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