Hundred Dollar Kindness Ideas

Posted by Nipun Mehta on Sep 12, 2008
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When we recently received an unexpected donation of $1000, we launched an experiment.  As Mark Jacobs called it, CharityFocus's Little Give.

On HelpOthers.org, we posed a simple question: "If you had an extra $100, how would you use it to bring more kindness in your community?"  Dozens of people wrote in ideas.  And then we asked the Smile Group community to add "smiles" to the ones they liked.  Top of the list was an idea by "MakeSomeoneSmile":

I would put a dollar in 100 envelopes with 2 smile cards and these instructions: May this make you smile. You can keep it or keep the kindness going by adding a dollar and giving it to someone else. Kindness is contagious! I would give them to people anywhere I could anonymously. Those 100 people would smile and some will keep it going!

And so 'MakeSomeoneSmile' started the project with his 4 year old daughter.  People were reluctant at first, they tried another strategy, and then a third one.  And by the end of their final trip, he concluded:  "I had a chance to provide some 'on the job training' for a future HelpOthers member, my daughter Rachel. She wants to do it again and we most certainly will do something. Thanks to all of you for your support and for allowing me to share this with you. Everything matters, no matter how small the act. I was able to witness that firsthand with this project and it has truly changed me!"

Our next winner was this idea in the UK:

I would use it to plan an outing for a group of elderly people, who had no family as such. It could be used to give them a treat of a day out.

In July, this was the top idea:

 

I would buy small journals on the inside cover I will write: This is a journal to record Random Acts Of Kindness. Once you preform an act write it down and pass it on to the next person. Then they will add a kind act and pass it on. Once filled send it back to me so i can see all the kind acts that my one act started. So keep it going and Pay it forward. I will add my Address,e-mail and pocket for smile cards!

And this one:

I would find four terminally ill or very very sick children and buy them a $25 gift card each to Toys R Us and mail the gift cards to them anonamously with a note stating that "someone is thinking of you today - please enjoy and buy something fun!"

The August winner would do this:

My challenge is to give it away....and so it would be the most inspiring walk in my life. I would take my children and walk. I would walk into town and randomly pay  it forward all day. Carrying bags for someone to their car. Give a few dollars to them if they are short on line. Pick up litter on the street and even donate a few dollars in all the cans in the stores.  I would drop my card and little smile faces I found at a garage sale made of foam.

Our most recent September headliner was this idea of 'Giving Opposite a Pan Handler':

I want to take a $100 and using a paper clip, attatch $1 to a smile card with one of my own RAK cards. I want to stand on the street next to the panhandlers, and every person who stops to smile, give or just say hello to us, will get my small Gift. Just because. And hopefully it will inspire them to pay it forward.

Someone wants to start a gratitude program for women prisoners, another person wants to hand out roses at a local brothel, some people want to tag war refugees, some want to make $10 investments in good projects, and the list goes on.  Couple others have decided to do a similar experiment with their own hundred bucks, and one person even sent us more money to keep the experiment going further.

It IS kind of amazing to see how many seeds a mere $100 can plant.  But it's not just the money that makes it work.  It's our history of service (ie. reputation of HelpOthers), coupled with good design, and ultimately -- trust.   Because we give with no strings attached, the skeptics may wonder if these people will actually deliver.  Well, we'll find out.  Of course, we do have a wide range of information like how long they've been a part of Smile Groups, how many stories and comments they've contributed, how many KarmaBucks they've gifted, how many Smile Cards they've used, and so on.  But in the end, it is just plain ol' trust.

As we develop our infrastructure, we hope to select one winner every week for a year.  Let's see where this trust-driven micro philanthropy leads. :)

Posted by Nipun Mehta | Tags: | permalink


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Comments (5)

  • Oak Pride wrote ...

    I didn't have to wait too long. The magic of the gift-economy is bathing our communities. On September 3rd, I refused to accept a 20 dollar bill which was offered to me as a payback for an activist-conference ticket I got for a brother. Luckily, the sister who volunteered to take us to that meeting, 45 minute drive in her car, showed up at the right moment of the conflict** and then the tank of her car was randomly/kindly filled. Later that night, an hour later and out of the blue, a gift-economy rebel gave me one of those $100 bills. How did it happen? I don't know. But I surrendered to what Gandhi called the "Divine Radio". In silence, I tuned into the frequency and I started to think: "how would I use it to bring more kindness in our community, _right now_?" The answer was easy: a [...] See full comment.
    I didn't have to wait too long. The magic of the gift-economy is bathing our communities. On September 3rd, I refused to accept a 20 dollar bill which was offered to me as a payback for an activist-conference ticket I got for a brother. Luckily, the sister who volunteered to take us to that meeting, 45 minute drive in her car, showed up at the right moment of the conflict** and then the tank of her car was randomly/kindly filled.

    Later that night, an hour later and out of the blue, a gift-economy rebel gave me one of those $100 bills. How did it happen? I don't know. But I surrendered to what Gandhi called the "Divine Radio". In silence, I tuned into the frequency and I started to think: "how would I use it to bring more kindness in our community, _right now_?"

    The answer was easy: a meal to nourishing the bodies, minds and souls of our beloved "Be the Change" local satyagrahis.

    The next day, Thursday, the legendary Berkeley Sproul Plaza witnessed another community awareness-act, also known as protest (the FBI and the University of California Police Department raided the Long Haul, an operation center for Food Not Bombs, Cycles of Change, East Bay Prison Support, Slingshot Newspaper, and the "authorities" stole at least 12 of the computers that are helping to planetize our movement). After exercising some Free Speech, the timing was perfect to feed the bodies of some rebel souls. We had a very nutritious meal at a vegetarian, organic and (more importantly) _local_ place a few blocks from the defense of the urban forest, actually, a block from People's Park. All paid by some random/unknown revolutionary.

    Wherever you are, _you_ generous heart, please receive a profound thank you. Your kindness in giving is creating intense love.

    Our recharged bodies and stubborn souls were ready for the last 5 days of the 21 month protest. On Friday, the trees started to fall and the echo was heard across the globe. Later that weekend, our fearless rebels, both at the top of the trees and at the ground level, responded with more Ahimsa to the threats of the police of the University of California: "Negotiation Not Confrontation (NNC)" "We are not about dead-lines, we are about life-lines. We toss you this life-line so that you can grab it anytime you want" they told Vicky, the chief of the UCPD, as she threatened the satyagrahis with more legaloid charges and physical extraction (including a bulldozer which was used to excavate the surroundings of the redwood -tearing up some of its roots- while the remaining 4 civil disobedients were holding the NNC banner ~100 ft above the ground).

    The lack of imagination temporally won. An oak older than the University of California is gone, but that gift-economy meal will be nourishing our creativity and souls forever.

    Perhaps the example of this kind of satyagraha will expand our community's circle of kindness to include all living beings.

    If you want to be a rebel, be kind. Human-kind, be both.

    In service,

    Some citizens of The Earth Community.

    ** Yes, the rebels of the kindness revolution have conflicts that escalate the love ;-) Hide full comment.

  • Nina Sanfilippo wrote ...

    I would love to give to the four widows and widowers on my block where I live. These were very lovely and loving couples and now they are left alone. I would put $25 in an envelope with some smile cards and place these in each mailbox down the block. What a beautiful surprise this would be, letting the widow and widower know that somebody loves them and is thinking of them and sharing their heart and thoughts with them. They are not alone.

  • Kernisha wrote ...

    I will buy boxes of food and give it to the homeless people. Everybody needs to eat:)I'm sure they will be very happy :D

  • sister in need wrote ...

    I NEED KINDNESS? can any angel show kindness to me? help me giveeducation11@gmail.com

  • jayashreesanghani wrote ...

    i sratted teaching english to my maids child and other friwend her maids child we decided to do it together so one day she and next day I to all the three children in community hall then other friend sais cani send my maids children and then the children said our friends can they come with in 5 yrs we have 50 children who are 1st generation school going come to our centre after school and we hwlp them with not only english but also computers and well being . The best part is every time I think oh its becoming burden or the children need this the hlp comes from known and unknown circles .so i beleve in co creation