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Saturday, May 5, 2012

What would you do with $20?

First, let me offer an enticement for reading all the way through this post: it includes a secret for a challenge and a giveaway.  So keep reading!

Last weekend, I had the privilege of working with 70 people (young, old, single, married) who showed up on Saturday knowing only that it they would be going on an adventure, that we fondly called "Love Out Loud." Knowing nothing more, they showed up.

When they did, we talked a little about what it means to help others, how sometimes good intentions can yield negative unintended consequences (especially when we try to help, without the benefit of a relationship), and how sometimes by insisting on "giving," we can rob others of doing the same (by not receiving well). 

And then we began the adventure.

Each person was handed an envelope.  Inside was a piece of paper and a $20 bill.  On the piece of paper were three rules about the money:

1.  It's not yours!  You can't do something for yourself, directly or indirectly (including making yourself feel better).

2.  You have to do something to help someone else. 

3.  You had to be willing to come back in a few hours and tell your story.

The results were amazing!

College students studying for finals were given study breaks and a snack. Folks living on the street were given a warm meal and a friendly conversation and, in at least one case, a friendship.  People living in elder-care facilities were given flowers and workers were given snacks.  Nurses and doctors working in the emergency room were given snacks and a break.  One person just stood on the street with a sign that said, "I promise to pay you a compliment" and in small print "If you promise to pay it forward."  When people signed the pledge to pay the compliment forward, he gave them $1, as a thanks.

Sure, it was short term and, yes, these were small, random acts of kindness.  But repeatedly, we heard people saying during the storytelling time that it made them think, "what would it be like if I used $20 a week of my own money with this same challenge?"

And this got me to thinking about how this might scale. What if a business were to say, "we are going to set aside some money -- not for sponsorships, not to help our brand, but simply to help others -- and then used those funds to stretch the organization by matching employees to go out and act?  What if employees were encouraged to do more than just donate the money, by building relationships with organizations and individuals that were helping to make the world a better place.

So here's the challenge part of this post: 

What would you do with $25, applying the three rules above?  

If I gave you $25 right now, would you be willing to match that amount and use the $50 to help someone else (and then post a comment here to tell your story)?

If you are wondering about the giveaway part of the post, here it is:

I will do just that!  For the first 10 people to post a comment here, I'll give you a $25 credit on Kiva. (Yes, you have to have a Kiva account for this to work.)  I'd hope you'd consider matching that amount and help an entrepreneur in the developing world.

I know it's not much.  But what if . . . ?

As we've often said to our children:

Start where you are,
Use what you have,
Do what you can,
It will be enough.


*Todd is a partner at the law firm of Jones Day, where he founded their Silicon Valley Office and runs their Renewable Energy and Sustainability Practice. The views expressed in this column are solely Todd’s personal views, not the views of Jones Day or its clients, and the information provided as to his affiliation with Jones Day is solely for purposes of identification and may not and should not be construed to imply endorsement or even support by Jones Day of the views expressed herein.

 © R. Todd Johnson, 2012. Business for Good.SM is a service mark of R. Todd Johnson. The thoughts, ideas and words expressed in this column are the property of R. Todd Johnson and may not be otherwise used or reprinted without express permission from Todd.

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  3. Thanks, Ben, Katharine and Bob. Credits are on their way! Don't forget to post your stories here!

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