Although Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson were far removed from their pre-teen years when they met in college in 2009, they both carried painful memories of being tormented by fellow female classmates when they were in middle school. They went to different schools and grew up in different states but quickly realized just how universal the girl-against-girl bullying experience is. They also recognized that they, as survivors of bullying, could do something to empower young girls to be kind to one another.
As film and television production majors at Pepperdine University, they decided to create a documentary, Finding Kind, in which they traveled around the country to interview hundreds of girls about their experiences with bullying. They developed an interactive event and started touring across the country to speak to girls. Since 2009, the documentary has been shown at more than four hundred schools nationwide as part of the pair’s Finding Kind assembly series.
We were able to chat with Lauren and Molly, who shared their tips for turning your passion into a successful nonprofit, and what the Kind Campaign means to them today.
What were some initial challenges you had in starting your nonprofit?
When we started, we were so fired up and passionate about what we were doing that things that seem like they would be challenges didn’t even phase us. When we hit a roadblock, we just worked that much harder to clear the way. Of course, securing funding is always a challenge, but we reached out to some people who helped us out tremendously and then held a bunch of small fundraisers to get all the money we needed.
I read that Crown Toyota and Chris Harrison, host of The Bachelor, donated to the campaign during its early stages. What advice do you have for young women who are pitching their ideas to national presences?
We wrote tons of proposals for various car companies and hotel chains to see if anyone would bite and get involved. We spent a ton of time reaching out to hundreds of people. If you work at it and you spread word about your cause enough, you will eventually run into someone who will want to help or who has the right connection to help you.
What were some mistakes you made early on, and what did you learn from them?
We don’t consider any “mistake” we have made a “mistake.” Every choice we have made—even the bad ones—has been a learning experience that has helped us grow as businesswomen and people so that we could make better choices the next time.
Out of all our “mistakes,” there is one that stands out. A couple years ago, someone reached out to us about doing a fundraiser for Kind Campaign. We ended up planning the whole thing through emails and phone calls and never actually sat down and got to know the person we would ultimately be working with on the event. We ran into a lot of issues the day of the event because we didn’t really know who we were working with. It’s always important to really know the person who wants to collaborate with your nonprofit or business before you commit.
What was one of the most rewarding moments from the last tour with Finding Kind?
While speaking in Title One schools in Phoenix, Arizona, earlier this year, we had the pleasure of meeting Rachel Webb. When we walked into Vista Grande High School, we immediately noticed Rachel sitting in the front row by herself in a sea of five hundred freshmen and sophomore girls. As we shared our testimonies, our eyes kept coming back to Rachel. She sat there with so much pain on her face and at times she would stare down at her feet. You could tell that she felt invisible. It was obvious that she has endured a lot in her high school hallways.
After we screened our documentary Finding Kind we came back into the room to start the interactive activities: the Kind Pledge, Kind Apology, and Kind Card. The Kind Pledge gives girls the chance to write down an action step they are going to take related to our discussion. We called on a large group of girls to come to the front of the gym to share their pledges. To our surprise, Rachel was the first girl to walk over to us and was the first one to share. She held the mic and, with a broken voice on the verge of tears, she asked for help. She told the girls she was sorry for whatever it was she had done that had made all of the girls in her school hate her and treat her so horribly. With so much innocent vulnerability, she shared that she gets treated like “trash” and is ignored every day at school. At the end of her moment at the mic, she whispered in tears, “I just want a better life.”
It was hard for us to not break down as we watched this poor girl in such agonizing pain, call out her peers who had treated her so badly. The room was silent and you could feel the guilt her classmates felt. She took her seat as the other girls in line began to share their Kind Pledges. Immediately after Rachel sat down, a girl from the top of the bleachers walked all the way to the front row and sat next to her. It was so amazing to see a student, who was likely not her friend, reach out to her immediately.
Our next activity, the Kind Apology, gives girls the chance to say I’m sorry to another girl. As the girls filled out their apologies, many were passed Rachel’s way. You could see a glimmer of hope on her face as she read the apologies given to her. We finish the assemblies with the Kind Card, which gives the girls the chance to say something kind to another person. After the assembly there was a swarm of around fifty to one hundred girls trying to get to Rachel to give her their kind apologies and kind cards. She walked out of that room with a huge stack of them in her hands and a newfound confidence that was not present two hours before when we started the assembly. On her way back to class, we handed Rachel a necklace that said “strength” on it. It is our hope that she wears that every day and remembers the incredible event that took place on her campus.
Meeting Rachel was such a gift. To see all of those girls collectively decide to be kind to her gave us so much hope and is one of the many reasons we feel inspired to continue speaking in schools day after day.
What advice do you have for women who hope to start their own nonprofits?
If you can, start your nonprofit or company with a friend. A lot of people say to stray away from that model, but we did that and wouldn’t have it any other way. Our friendship is one of the core reasons Kind Campaign is so successful. Two heads are always better than one.
The key with any working relationship is communication. So if you want to start something with another person, you need to make sure everything is out in the open, you talk about things clearly, and don’t let your ego ever get in the way.
Giving back to the world and to people is the most fulfilling job. If you don’t start your own nonprofit, find one you love and see how you can volunteer! It’s good for the soul.