Going. Ahead. With Gage: Interview with Kathy Terry, Founder of inLieu

“I want donating to become proactive instead of reactive, and I want donating to be a part of our lifestyle.” I’m excited to share my next #GAWG interview featuring Kathy Terry, Founder and CEO of inLieu, and Co-Founder of P Terry’s and Taco Ranch! Kathy is making moves when it comes to the donation space and technology, and bringing light to how wasteful gift-giving can really be. I hope you all enjoy the read and download inLieu to help promote giving #goodovergoods 🙂

You are the Founder and CEO of inLieu, a giving good over goods company/mobile app. What inspired you to build and create this company? What continues to inspire you to push giving #goodovergoods?

My inspiration for inLieu came when I realized I had forgotten, yet again, to purchase the obligatory hostess gift before going to a party.  Unfortunately, gift-giving is not my love language so I’ve always struggled finding the right gift. On this specific occasion, I kept thinking there has got to be a better gift, especially knowing most of these gifts were unnecessary, unwanted, or wasteful.  Instead of asking “what does my friend want or need?” I asked “what is my friend passionate about and how can I support her as a sign of my friendship?”  What I wanted to do was send my friend a text message to say “Hey Gretchen, super excited to see you tonight, but in lieu of bringing you a re-gifted bottle of wine, I made a donation to your favorite charity!” This would not only allow me to give something that had the potential to last longer, but it was a better representation of my gratitude. The problem with this solution was that there was no way to do this quickly and easily, and also no way to control the message or the time it was sent.  After more experiences like this one, with no viable solution in sight, I decided to build inLieu!

I’m continually inspired to keep pushing #goodovergoods because I truly believe it is the right thing to do. We, as a society, give when we are asked. When our friends are doing personal fundraisers, when there is a natural disaster, or when we are invited to a specific event. What I want people to realize is that there is a crisis and need every single day.  I want donating to become proactive instead of reactive, and I want donating to be a part of our lifestyle.  If we all participate, even at $5 a gift, we can truly move the needle and make a real difference. Just imagine the change we could ignite if we turned material gifts into social impact. It’s a win, win!!

You recently spoke at Google and discussed how inLieu is disrupting the donating space using technology to create an impact. Can you share 2-3 of your main speaking points?

Once I decided to build inLieu and the more I looked into this solution and researched the gifting market, the more I realized what a huge problem we have created, which is the driving force behind the business.  I’m not sure if people realize how much money we are spending on these obligatory gifts and where they end up. The gifting market is a $3.8 trillion dollar business and many of these gifts end up in the landfill or go unused, re-gifted, or returned.  In fact, 5 billion pounds of gifts end up in the landfill every year and we are sitting on $45 billion of unused gift cards!! And let’s not forget the other huge problem – natural resources are depleting to make these gifts and the carbon footprint created to deliver them. We are destroying our planet and we might be the last generation to save it.  

The solution won’t be asking people to donate more money. In fact, as long as we have been tracking charitable giving as a measure of our GDP, we have never given more than 3% to social impact. My solution is to redirect money that we are already spending on gifts and give it to charities – what easier way to do this than to use technology! We have integrated technology into everything we do. We no longer write checks, rent DVDs, buy CDs, or write letters.  Technology has also allowed us to change our behavior in other ways as well – for example, it is now acceptable to be driven around in strangers’ cars (thanks Uber), we stay in strangers’ homes (thanks AirBNB), and we rent clothes instead of purchasing them (thanks Rent the Runway).  So why not stop buying material gifts and instead donate in honor of our friends? With inLieu, you can donate in honor of a friend in less than 40 seconds! We have to create the change we want to see in the world, and I believe with our technology we are in the position to do just that.

What are 3 of your favorite charities and why?

1. HeartGift – A local organization that identifies kids from around the world who are born with congenital heart defects, and do not have access to the medial facilities to repair their heart and bring them to Austin for life saving surgery.  I served on the board for many years, but being a host family for the organization has been the most rewarding and transformative experience. My family has been a host to 8 kids in the last 6 years and being a part of this journey with these families has been a true gift. I also love that my kids get to be a part of these experiences and create bonds with kids from around the world – they are learning to be compassionate and caring individuals.

2. The SAFE Alliance – A local organization that provides intervention and prevention services to victims of child abuse, domestic violence, and sexual assault.  I serve on their board and have been a direct care volunteer in various capacities over the last 15 years.  In fact, it was the years I volunteered in the preschool, part of their child abuse prevention program, that truly taught me how to be a better parent.  The services they provide to our community are invaluable and I can’t imagine what we would do without them. As our community grows so does the need for their services, which means many people are turned away and put on waiting lists because they don’t have the resources to serve all the people that need their services. It’s a crisis! 

3. Communities in Schools – An organization that goes into schools and builds relationships that empower students to stay in school and succeed in life. They are providing a service that is crucial for these kids to ever have a chance to succeed. My view is that none of us can succeed without access! This could be access to a loving family, wealth, education, a strong community, or even access to a vision of a different world.  Unfortunately, we are not all born with the same love of access. And yes, you have to work hard and have passion, but if no one is going to open the door you are beating on then the rest doesn’t matter.  It’s this access that CIS is providing to these kids that is going to allow them to create their own path to success.

What are some predictions you have for the donation space in the next 3-5 years?

In the next 3-5 years, the donating space is going to change and what it means to donate will change.  Philanthropy will not be a word associated with just the wealthy and successful. We will all identify as philanthropists since, in the end, it’s all about helping improve the lives of others. It will become easier to donate and it will be part of our lifestyle and our identity. Rounding up all of our expenditures to charities will be a given. I believe people will start identifying more openly about what causes they support and why. It will be a part of our every day conversations, our social profiles, and how we show up for each other. It’s already trending — being “sustainable” and “giving back” are buzz words for brands and influencers.  My hope is that when asked what we want or need we will all respond with “just inLieu me instead!”

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

“Be yourself, everyone else is taken” and “Don’t follow your passion, bring it with you.”

How do you encourage creative and innovate thinking?

To be creative and innovative you have to believe!  You have to believe that there is always another solution to a problem and you have to believe that if you can dream it, you can create it!  I always advise people to “not create a service or product that you wouldn’t use or consume yourself.” For my own creative thinking, I usually go for a long run and ideas just start flowing – It’s how I thought of inLieu!

What advice do you have for young individuals wanting to be in leadership roles in the future?

I think great leaders truly lead by example and do what is right even when doing what is right is not the most popular or the most profitable choice.  A leader, leads with compassion and realizes that he/she has way more similarities with their supporters than not.  A leader has to know how to build bridges and bring people together for a common cause or goal. Leaders are the one’s putting other’s needs before their own, celebrating other’s accomplishments, and are the foundation of what they are building. A true leader doesn’t need recognition, a title, or a trophy.

What is one of the most difficult decisions you’ve made in your career and what did you learn from it?

One of the most difficult decision I made in my career was to quit my job and start my own business. I was a paralegal at the time and I had returned from taking a 6 month leave of absence to travel around the world by myself.  I had to relocate to another city to work on a high profile patent infringement litigation and was working 24/7.  It was during this time that I realized I could make more money working for myself on a contract basis, I could pick and choose the cases I wanted to work on, and, most importantly, I could travel between jobs.

 It was scary because I had no idea if it would work, if anyone would actually hire me, and if there would still be a need for my services after returning from a trip. But it was the best decision I ever made, hands down. Since then, I have traveled to over 60 countries, most of them by myself. Traveling defined the person I am today!!

I love book recommendations to help me grown in my career and challenge my thinking – What books would you recommend as a must-read for career growth and/or just for fictional fun?

I just finished Brene Brown’s “Dare to Lead and loved it.  It’s one of those books that you have to read a couple of times to actually put the ideas to use. I’m now on my second read with my highlighter in hand!  

My all time favorite fiction book is What Alice Forgot” by Liane Moriarty. I love it because of the impact it had on my life when I read it. After I read it, I closed the book and told my husband “shit’s about the change.”  I realized, like Alice, I had done what my Dad told me never to do – I had forgotten where I came from and was living my life based on everyone else’s standards and values.  I wasn’t happy because I wasn’t living MY life! I was looking around and trying to live someone else’s life. It goes back to what I tell my girls all the time “comparison is the thief of joy!” 

Stay tuned for the next Going.Ahead.With Gage!

— Gage Grammer

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