Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.
- Princess Diana
The above quote by Princess Diana beautifully captures a core facet of how I live life. In this post, I will share with you a personal practice I've named the "Charity Fund," which is an important part of my philanthropic pursuit.
At various points in my life since embedding this practice into my life, I've been the recipient of many acts of kindness. Many of these have been incredibly humbling, and I am incredibly thankful for the helping hand when I've needed it. I sincerely believe these are, in part, thanks to the Charity Fund practice.
While growing up, I attended schools which strongly advocated for respect, kindness, and community service in order to combat discrimination, isolation, and youth aggression. I vividly recall a school-wide program called Random Acts of Kindness (a.k.a. RAK 'em up). The idea was that if you were observed by a staff/faculty member doing something selfless, you could receive a RAK 'em up ticket. Once you collected a certain amount, you could bring it to the office to enter the monthly draw for a prize (e.g. super soaker, paid holiday, or something else cool). I believe this planted a seed of philanthropy in me as a kid.
How the Charity Fund came to be
After turning 19 (legal drinking age where I live), I got a job working at a private retail liquor store. Part of the setup was that there was a Tips jar at the cash register where customers could leave some money for the staff.
Some customers had a habit of tipping after every purchase, even if we'd had little interaction during their visit. To me, it simply did not make sense that people would tip me for doing the job I was paid to do by my employer. It did not feel to me like I earned this money so it didn't seem appropriate to spend the money on myself.
Equipped with this thought but no further guidance, it wasn't clear to me what I should do. I took my share of the tips each shift, collected them in a jar at home, and set about figuring out what to do with it.
After some reflection, 19-year-old-me came to the conclusion that the Tips money was a symbol of peoples' goodwill and gratitude. Even when I did not do anything directly worthy of their gratitude, they gave a token of positive energy to me. With that in mind, I decided that the collected monies would be for the sole purpose of paying it forward and transferring goodwill.
How to use the Charity Fund
Based on how the Charity Fund came to be for me, I set a few simple guidelines:
- The act of kindness should be genuine. Do not give when your heart and mind are not pure.
- To have no expectation of reward, try to complete the act of kindness entirely anonymously.
- Remember that Charity Fund benefits people, not necessarily those who are visibly in need of assistance. This is about making somebody's day, not solving social/systematic problems.
- There need not be consideration for extracting maximum value of the money (i.e. stop being a business nerd, Joshua); nothing wrong with receiving donation receipts where they are available, but this should not be the motivation.
Adapting the Charity Fund for you
Just as that walk of life was impermanent, I've adapted the Charity Fund to my varying circumstances since then. Here are a few ways this can be done:
- If/When the amount of cash gets to be too much, create a bank account dedicated to the Charity Fund. This is great for keeping an eye on the amount
- Dedicate a % of your income towards the Charity Fund (weekly, monthly, annual, doesn't matter). Move the funds into a Charity Fund account at regular intervals (mark it in the calendar!).
- Offer a service for which you charge (e.g. project management, marketing savvy, event planning), but where the money received goes to your Charity Fund.
Practical Applications of the Charity Fund
The types of activities associated with the Charity Fund are truly limitless, whether it's in the form of purchases or services. Here are some suggestions:
- Send flowers or gifts to somebody (whether they are having a tough time or just to brighten their day!), include a thoughtful personal note.
- Put a few coins into peoples' parking meters (doesn't work as well these days with pay by phone, haha).
- Taking orders for a coffee run for public service employees (e.g. firefighters). Might help to have one of them come with you to confirm it isn't sketchy (life as a dude can be tough, people always doubt your intentions, haha).
- Pay for somebody's groceries or restaurant/café order (taken to an extreme, you can buy out a restaurant's or bar's entire tab at a particular time).
- Become somebody's anonymous benefactor (i.e. pay for something they've always wanted like membership or a course).
As you'll note, a lot of the above can be done even without the Charity Fund concept. Where I've personally found the Charity Fund to be a good mechanism is in separating out a clear budget for philanthropic activities, beyond the charitable donations that I plan annually for causes I support.