Interview with Justine Curtis, CEO, Inspired Adventures.
Having built and taught leadership development programs for some of Australia’s leading charities I am an avid supporter of leaders in the fundraising sector. They inspire me with how they direct their mindset and skills to raise much needed funds for the causes they support.
I first heard about Justine Curtis, CEO of Inspired Adventures, through a mutual friend Martin Paul. Justine is from the North of England, like myself, and so when we finally got chance to have a conversation earlier this year, it felt like I was chatting with an old friend. She has some amazing achievements under her belt.
Met with a Tibetan Buddhist monk in India, (tick).
Raised $44 million for charity, (tick).
Received a Telstra Women’s Business Award, (tick).
Justine Curtis may have a lot of ticks to her name, but the founder and CEO of Inspired Adventures also has a sharp focus on what’s really important. Her business, Inspired Adventures, is changing the way people engage with philanthropy and travel. They work with Australian and international charities to create and manage bespoke fundraising events around the world. As the leading fundraising agency of its kind in Australia and New Zealand, their charity challenge events are an exciting way for charity partners to raise significant funds, build community awareness and inspire lifelong advocacy.
Nick: So, how did you discover your purpose ?
Justine: In 2001, I took a year off from work to travel through India. I was travelling north to volunteer with Tibetan refugees and happened to pick up a book called Fire Under the Snow by Palden Gyatso, who was arrested when the Chinese invaded Tibet, imprisoned for 33 years and tortured daily, yet unwavering in his commitment to Buddhism and the Dalai Lama.
One day I was with a local and told him about this book and how it had affected me. The local turned to me and said, ‘I know him ... I’ll take you to him.’ I was beside myself. Palden was a tiny man who radiated the most amazing aura of hope and positivity. I’ve met the Dalai Lama and the feeling of meeting Palden Gyatso was very similar.
After my sabbatical, I was intimidated about returning to the commercial, fast-paced life of Australia. I asked Palden how I could continue to embrace this feeling of purpose in the western world – he said,
‘Do dharma, do good work’.
Nick: I imagine that conversation would have been deeply inspiring. What happened next?
Justine: On his advice, I got a job with a Sydney fundraising agency helping charities with direct marketing campaigns and then came up with the idea to raise $30,000 within three months and climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Within 12 weeks I was standing at the summit of the highest freestanding mountain in the world and knew that I wanted to share this feeling with the world.
After that, I returned to Australia and turned my idea into a business model for Inspired Adventures. That was in 2004, so we've been operating for 18 years now.
Nick: That’s great! And how has knowing your purpose changed your life?
Justine: When I reflect on how my purpose has changed my life, I feel deeply grateful. Knowing my purpose has given me inner strength, and formed the basis of my business philosophy since then - we develop inspiring charity challenge events that draw on my love of travel and philanthropy to support our charity partners in raising significant funds for their cause.
Nick: And how do you use your purpose to make day to day decisions?
Of course, running a business is full of challenges, so there are always times when I look back and think ‘I could have handled that better’, or ‘I should have thought of that sooner’, but I don’t believe in regrets and I understand that everything happens for a reason.
And whenever I hit a speed bump or I need to decide what to do next, I go back to that simple advice ‘Do dharma, do good work’.
If you are in transition with your work, or considering retirement, I can suggest you seek a way to define your purpose as I know it has helped me tremendously. And if climbing a mountain to meet a monk isn’t your thing, then My Game Plan is also a great means to find your purpose.
Nick: So, what’s next for you?
Justine: We have just reached $44 million raised for our charity partners. Having already eclipsed $43 million at the start of this year, we are on track to make 2022 our most successful year ever. We have so many exciting ventures on the horizon. Early last year we launched Impact Expeditions – our inaugural corporate challenge service designed to reinvent corporate social responsibility and get staff teams fundraising for their supported charities.
Nick: That’s amazing work! And if people want to find out more, where can they go?
Justine: Simple really! Go online to our website.