Thursday, August 30, 2007

Sharing the Bounty

Didn’t you always want to be one of those lucky winners of the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes or the lottery? Even a “queen for a day,” on a program from before most of you were born. My friend Kris has the idea of creating a way to do something unrequested and unexpected by humanity or by the world. She has termed it RAK – Random Acts of Kindness.

We met over lunch today with another neighbor and with Kris’s daughter to brainstorm our RAK. Kris got this idea from a friend in Nebraska who has been doing it for 20 years. The way her group works is that they meet monthly and each person throws $20 in a pot. If there are 20 people in the group, this amounts to $400, which one group member is then entrusted to spend any way she wishes, as long as the gift is anonymous and is beneficial to someone who needs it. The following month that person hosts the group and reports on how their collective money was spent.

We quickly came up with a list of ways we might spend our money, including helping people and helping the environment. My idea was to fix the brakes on one of the 4 older cars currently sitting in front of our house and then simply give it to a family in need. There are programs to provide school supplies for children in Guatemala, shoes for children in South Africa, you name it – there are an infinite number of projects just waiting to be funded. Some require the donor to do some work. Others simply require writing a check.

We came up with a list of potential people to include in our group, spanning both genders and a wide range of ages. We searched for people who were thought to be generous, resourceful, but most importantly those who would be willing to look at this as a group project where there was no named leader, but just a group dedicated to making the world a better place in which to live, even if in small ways.

We determined that we need a web site to serve as a common place for members to get information and to record the history possibly even with pictures of what we do. My web-guy husband has agreed to make the website.

We left with the assignment of contacting a set of the suggested participants to assess their interest. Of my two, one immediately bought into the idea. The other immediately said ABSOLUTELY NOT, saying she couldn’t see spending $300 a year that she couldn’t write off on her taxes. This just proves that we all have different ideas about philanthropy!

We will have a potluck dinner on September 30 to kick this off with those who are on board.

Interestingly enough, on our way home from lunch today we were driving along a neighborhood street that borders NVCC. A foreign student looked distraught as he attempted to pick up pages that were scattered all over the road. Kris immediately pulled the car over and we jumped out declaring this to be our first RAK activity. He looked at us as through we were from outer space as we handed him the pages to put back in the notebook that dropped. Perhaps no Americans had shown him a courtesy like this before.

Kris called in excitement this afternoon to report that Oprah had given $1,000 to every person in her audience and asked for a report on their RAKs. I love it!

For so many years I helped families in the Suitland area where I worked. I have missed this chance to help others and look to our RAK group as a new opportunity to continue the giving, where I don’t have to organize it all.

Please leave me a comment if you have any information about how a group like this might work. We are committed to making a difference!


Blogger media concepts said...

It's an interesting idea, that sounds a lot like Pay it Forward (see book and movie).

12:39 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Matt -- I just Googled "Pay It Forward" and came up with this. Looks like a very similar idea. Thanks for the info.

12:43 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I love the idea. I can only imagine what would happen if everyone practiced random acts of kindness/behaved like decent human beings on a regular basis.

7:12 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- Your ideas are welcome. I will need to come up with a good way to spend the money when it's my turn!

8:56 AM  
Blogger bozoette said...

Check out Donors Choose -- an organization where you can specify where you want your contribution to go. Also, some companies (mine, for example) have matching gift programs for donations to worthy causes. Those would be more mainstream ways to help; it would be interesting to seek out less visible ways as well. I'm going to think on this some more!

9:25 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Bozoette -- At lunch we talked about finding partners to match our money and make it go even further. Tell me about your company.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Ulysses said...

If you need labor/skills for any of the ideas, I'd help with that.

11:31 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Ulysses -- I will carefully note your offer of labor/skills, especially when it's my turn to spend the money. I really do like the idea of giving to someone who will be totally surprised by the gift.

12:06 PM  
Blogger bozoette said...

I work for Fannie Mae. They will match employee donations to approved 501c3 organizations. When I donated money to the Red Cross for tsumami and katrina relief, they matched my donation. They also matched the money I raised when I did the DC AIDS Walk a couple of years ago.

6:46 PM  

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