Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Tania Haigh of ‘Kids Too’ Is Helping To Change Our World
An Interview With Candice Georgiadis
Learn how to read people. In the nonprofit sector, most people want to help…but there are some bad apples who come around with agendas and ulterior motives. Learn how to read people, and trust your gut if a person doesn’t feel right or has displayed behaviors that are questionable.
As part of my series about “individuals and organizations making an important social impact,” I had the pleasure of interviewing Tania Haigh.
Tania Haigh is a leader in the nonprofit sector taking on one of the toughest epidemics in the U.S. — child sexual abuse. She co-founded Parents Against Child Sex Abuse (PAXA®) in 2017 and launched the KIDS TOO Movement in 2021. Considering her nonprofit leadership as well as her proven track record in business and entrepreneurship supporting some of the largest global brands, Tania’s work and advocacy initiatives have been featured in a wide range of media outlets.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
My career path has been rooted in business with a focus on marketing for more than 20 years. However, I have always been involved with nonprofit organizations as a hands-on volunteer or committee member, or through my corporate roles executing cause-related marketing plans. When I became an entrepreneur after 15 years in corporate America, I found more freedom to make even larger civic contributions. One big chapter was bringing the TEDx platform to my community in Oak Park, Illinois, as founder of TEDxOakParkWomen. It was through that work that I was launched into fully entering the nonprofit sector to lead Parents Against Child Sex Abuse and the KIDS TOO Movement.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?
As you can imagine, taking on one of the most taboo topics in our culture is not for the faint of heart. But this work is all about having heart and compassion to prioritize the health and wellbeing of children. One of my most interesting experiences was executing a grassroots campaign for the HBO film The Tale in 2019. We hosted film screenings in the Chicagoland area and had the opportunity to do press with the filmmaker, Jennifer Fox. (She is portrayed by actress Laura Dern in the film.) The movie is the story of Fox’s childhood, and we learned about her journey of living through her experiences and her survivor pain, deciding to write about it, and then eventually making it into a film that debuted at Sundance Film Festival.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
While PAXA has been in existence for five years now, the more recent launch of the KIDS TOO Movement has plenty of stories that go with it! Some may think working for a nonprofit organization is slow, but for the cause we’ve taken on, it moves at a very fast pace. KIDS TOO launched in November 2021 in response to the dangers that social media platforms have created for our kids. We decided to pull off a grassroots stunt by going to the Today Show Plaza with our #KIDSTOO signs. And it worked! We got to be on national TV and got our photo with Hoda. My funny mistake: I got no sleep on my short trip to New York City, and I learned that I can’t do that at this stage in my life!
Can you describe how you or your organization is making a significant social impact?
We’ve been told that we won’t ever truly know how many people we’ve reached through our work. What we do know is that parents around the country are in crisis when it comes to protecting their children from predators, and we know that our contributions through PAXA and the KIDS TOO Movement are reaching parents around the country with our message — and they are contacting us for help. Bottom line: For the last five years through these two organizations, we have been empowering parents with tools and resources to protect their children from sexual abuse and other dangers.
Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
We had the opportunity to work alongside a child sexual abuse survivor on a law in Illinois — Faith’s Law — that passed in 2021. That was such a beautiful opportunity to support and empower a young woman whose work aligned with ours as an organization.
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
Yes, it takes all of us as a society to protect our most vulnerable. Our organization wants to empower parents to elevate their voices in child protection. We can do this by:
- #1 Being Aware: More parents and caretakers need to be aware of the problem so they can be on the lookout for predators that surround our children every day.
- #2 Getting Educated: There are scores of nonprofit organizations doing the heavy lifting of working to protect kids every day. We encourage parents to take advantage of the tools and resources that are available so they can be “in the know” about predatory red flags as well as how to keep their kids safe on social media platforms.
- #3 Taking Action: Whether it’s in schools or extracurricular activities, there continue to be gaps in safety for our kids. We want parents to have the courage to speak up and say something when adults put the institutions they represent before the wellbeing of kids. We want parents to write to lawmakers asking for effective laws to protect children.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership can be exemplified in a range of ways depending on the attributes of the person. For me, leadership means setting the vision, knowing how to execute, building teams, and nurturing relationships. It also means that, in being a leader, one is clear that measurement is real — as is taking radical responsibility for outcomes.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I love these questions because I come from a place of always wanting to pay it forward. Here are some of my favorites:
- It’s going to be a marathon, not a race. My husband told me this when we co-founded PAXA in 2017. He was right — and we needed to earn every opportunity to become the credible nonprofit organization that we are today.
- Nonprofits are messy. Having come from a business background and entrepreneurship, I was confident that I could learn quickly how to develop a nonprofit with staying power. Then I learned that every nonprofit organization (whether it’s new or it’s been around a long time) has its own set of challenges. I got this down by listening to Joan Garry’s podcast, Nonprofits Are Messy.
- Clean financials are everything. This one is easy to want to avoid, but getting into the numbers is crucial for the long-term success of an organization. While we have resources that support us in this area, I don’t mind if I have to get into the weeds in QuickBooks.
- Learn how to read people. In the nonprofit sector, most people want to help…but there are some bad apples who come around with agendas and ulterior motives. Learn how to read people, and trust your gut if a person doesn’t feel right or has displayed behaviors that are questionable.
- Get rest. As the daughter of immigrant parents, I have “work hard” in my DNA. I am known for my work ethic. But these days, my motto is “work smarter not harder.” I also suggest that folks in the nonprofit sector learn to have work/life balance to avoid burning out while trying to make an impact in an area they’re passionate about.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
At this very moment I am, indeed, living a movement: the KIDS TOO Movement. Even after launching brands, businesses, and nonprofits, I never really saw myself as a movement leader — but now I do see it all connecting for me and the audience that I’m seeking to reach. For others, I encourage a movement that has more people asking “How can I help?”
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My goodness, I love life lessons quotes! This one is tough to choose, but I will go with the one I have on my personal website. It’s from Michael Jordan: “Some people want it to happen, some wish it would happen, others make it happen.” This quote is very relevant to me because for my entire life, when I’ve set out to do something, I have done it. It’s always taken a lot of work, but I’ve done it!
Is there a person in the world (or in the US) with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Well, I’m going for it…Oprah! She’s done so much to educate her audience about child sexual abuse, especially during The Oprah Winfrey Show years — AND I also choose her because one of my biggest regrets in life is passing up a free ticket to attend her show in my hometown and hers, Chicago, during the last season. For inspiration, I still catch some of the OG show that streams her network, OWN.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
This was very meaningful. Thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!