Carl's Experience With 500

Posted by Nipun Mehta on Jul 23, 2007
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Carl Frankel, an well-known entreprenuer and philosopher, nominated a generosity entrepreneur.  Ultimately, his generosity entreprenuer -- a Native American radio deejay -- held a contest and select three incredible individuals to give the money too. 

Carl wrote various entries on his blog, which I'm including below in sequential order.

May 11, 2007

I went to a most interesting gathering last night. My friend Nipun Mehta was in town. Nipun’s a focal point (a leader, really) in what I think of as the “Gandhian capitalism” movement. The basic notion is—don’t do it for money. Do it out of love. Do it in service. Do it for free.

Nipun has launched a website,, that describes itself as an “experiment in the joy of giving.” Volunteers at CharityFocus have given away millions of dollars in free web-development services to non-profits. Another of Nipun’s projects,, distributes, for free, “play it forward” cards—you do someone a favor and then give them a card, inviting them to a random act of kindness in their turn.

Nipun’s activities are attracting a lot of attention, and anonymous donors too. Recently he received a check for an experiment in giving. A bunch of us gathered at Miriam’s Well, a lovely retreat hidden away in Saugerties, where five people of the highest integrity and commitment to positive change were each given $500 and invited to give it away in whatever manner strikes their fancy.

The narratives that are created as a result of their actions will be recorded in some way—probably on It’s a sweet idea & social experiment. The more people can be persuaded, cajoled, inspired, whatever, to give from their heart, the better it will be for the world. The exercise in “generosity entrepreneurship” that I was privy to last night is intrinsically humble, and the commitment on the part of all participants was to hold it in that spirit. Yet we all know, as well, that the Internet has miraculous qualities. Who knows? This humble experiment could catch a spark and end up being broadly inspirational.

It’s a funny thing. What we’re trying to do here at Our Hudson Valley Network is very cutting-edge. Fifty percent of profits to a cause (climate change, in this instance) is a whopping number. But doin’ it for free … well, that takes the game to a whole ‘nuther level. Social enterprises like Our Hudson Valley Network aspire to model a new story about capitalism, one that removes the cutthroat edge and is much more aligned with service and the greater good. “Gandhian capitalism” isn’t about transforming our economic system. It’s about a revolution of the heart. Or, more rightly put: it’s about a revelation of the heart.

May 27, 2007
A couple of weeks ago (May 11th), I blogged about my friend Nipun Mehta’s visit to this town. Nipun is a Gandhian capitalist—he is the leader (a term I daresay he’d object to) of a movement to integrate the heart and service into capitalism. The non-profit he founded,, has given away millions in dollars in web services to non-profits.
Because Nipun has so publicly detached from wanting money, he keeps attracting money. Recently an anonymous donor gave him a nice-sized check and invited him to put together an experiment in “generosity capitalism.” Nipun decided to get the money into the hands of worthy individuals, capture the stories, and put them out to the world. He enlisted me and some other friends to find five individuals who could be entrusted with $500 each. These people would then be charged with giving the money away in a manner that was aligned with the values and purpose of the undertaking.
I invited my friend Robert Johnstreet to be da giveaway guy, and he consented. And that brings me to this: Robert has decided he’d like to give the money in two chunks of $250 each to two deserving individuals. But how will he identify those people? Here’s what we’ve decided to do—invite people to nominate people they know for these gifts. We are now OFFICIALLY soliciting applications for these two $250 grants. The ground rules are as follows:
—You cannot nominate yourself. You cannot get someone to nominate you, either. (We’re counting on you to play this game fairly. If you could use the money, and who couldn’t, please just sit on your hands and hope that someone nominates you.)

July 7th, 2007

We're pleased to announce the winners of our "generosity capitalism" $500 giveaway:
  • Leslie Miller (nominated by Barbara Stemke and Kathy Sheldon), is a Kingston-based artist with metastatic cancer.
  • Charlene Kelly is a Saugerties resident who, in the words of nominator Ruth Hirsch, is a "brave, valiant woman ... for whom the money would make a very big difference."
  • Janine Pommy Vega (nominated by nominated by Nina Sheldon) is a poet who will use the funds to to pay the transportation a young NYC writer starting a writing residency in a Dutchess County prison.

These women's stories are moving and inspiring. I encourage you to read them.

This exercise in "generosity capitalism" came about through an anonymous $500 gift. Ideally, it is just the beginning. Please consider building on this foundation with a contribution of your own! All three winners would appreciate additional contributions and put the money to great use. Please contact us at, and we will provide logistical details.

We had about ten nominations in all, and regret that we couldn't give money to everyone. All the applicants were worthy--all merited our support. Thanks to everyone who participated in this process!

We owe a particular debt of gratitude to Nipun Mehta, the (servant) leader of the national generosity capitalism movement, who sent the $500 our way, and to Robert Johnstreet, host of the local (WKNY) Sunday talk show Free Range Thought. Robert served as the main judge and was our all-around reliable buddy in this process.

Thanks, everyone--and let's keep this wheel turning!

July 11, 2007

From: Carole Kaye
Date: July 11, 2007 9:34:59 AM EDT
Subject: citizen awards

dear carl,

what a beautiful project!  i was so moved by the three womens' stories -- i've known jannine for years and am blown away that, with her own illness, she would elect to use her share for someone else.

i would like to contribute $25 to this project and hope it will continue for a long time to come.

please let me know whom to make the check out to and where to send it.

thank you for all you do.

love, prema

Posted by Nipun Mehta | | permalink

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  • Barbara Gallo wrote ...

    I would like to congratulate Leslie Miller on her award, and the lovely biography she has written. Leslie's battle with cancer has been very inspiring to me, and I think of her and pray for her and Todd often.