I've been especially happy and excited this week. At first, I couldn't quite figure out why. But then I realized it was from thinking about a crazy idea I'd come up with--and it's only made me happier the more I've thought about it.
In short, I had a tiny windfall recently, and instead of spending it or saving it, I decided I wanted to give it away. I grew more and more excited about the idea of using it to pay people a small amount of money--$5, $10, $25--to do unexpected, kind things for other people. Call it a Kindness Microgrant Experiment.
You can read the details of my little program below. But, I'd like to explain how this all came about, and why I've already gotten so much joy out of the idea, that it's basically a bargain at any price.
Apparently, I'm bad at calendars
A year ago, I needed a new virtual assistant, so I tried one of those companies that matches you with a VA in exchange for a cut of their pay. Eventually I no longer needed the help, but I still had more than $500 in prepaid VA credits sitting in my account.
This was money I didn't think I'd be able to get back--although I decided to push for a refund. But as I waited for the company to get back to me, I started to think of things to do with the VA time I'd already paid, in case the company took a hard line.
And the idea kept growing.
Give it away, give it away, give it away now
My first motivation here was less than pure. If the VA company was going to keep my money, I was going to make damn sure that they had to pay a VA to do some work.
Maybe I'd just offer my VA credits to friends, to use for free.
Then, I thought: Why not pay the VA directly, to do things like go to the gym, go grocery shopping, or pick up their kid at daycare?
Then it hit me: Pay the VA to do random nice things for other people, too!
This is when I started to feel my mood improving. I thought about how even a small amount of money might really have a positive impact on some stranger's day. I got excited! But then, the VA company called me back, and I convinced them in about five minutes to refund my money.
I should have been thrilled. I had won! But I had very mixed feelings. The thought of paying people to spread kindness in the world had made me feel excited and happy. And now it was gone.
Twice the kindness
You can see where this was headed. Why couldn't I take the $500 and simply offer it to random people to do nice things for other people? Without the middleman, it would basically mean doubling the money available for the project itself.
In fact, there was no good reason not to do it. Or at least, every time I thought of a reason why it wouldn't work, I thought of a solution.
The only thing left was to find the random people who wanted to kind things for others.
Here's how it's going to work. I've committed to spend at least $500 funding kindness--maybe more, if we find a lot of people who really want to participate.
(Oh, and if anyone reading this likes the idea and wants to chip in and expand the pool of microgrants, just contact me.)
Want to be part of it? Simply go to the Kindness Microgrants Experiment page, and apply. Explain what act of kindness you'd like to do for someone, and how much money you think you need.
Be creative, and think of a way you could use a small amount of money to do something that spreads kindness--in your community, or in the world.
Suggestions so far include:
- Committing to buy lunch for a homeless person.
- Spending a few dollars and a few hours to fix the gate in front of an elderly neighbor's house.
- Buying an iced coffee everyday for a police officer who has to stand in the heat directing traffic in your city.
- Buying food and clothing for needy people overseas.
- Giving away a computer game on Reddit.
Maybe you can come up with something even more creative and efficient. (There's nothing to stop you from combining the microgrant with your own funds, too, of course, so you can have bigger impact.)
You'll find more details and an application at the Kindness Microgrants Experiment page. All I ask is that you send me a description of how you used the money afterward. I'll plan to include it all in a future column here on Inc.com.
Bottom line, you'll be the real hero in whatever project you come up with. All I'm really giving is a tiny nudge and a few bucks--plus the chance to feel really great in the process.