Top Business & Life Lessons Learned Part 5: Give More…
Nearly all the successful people I know give back. There’s a special kind of satisfaction that comes from helping and serving others. Entrepreneurs are some of the most generous and giving individuals I’ve been fortunate enough to associate with.
The Maverick Method of Giving Back More
A lot of people talk about how they want to donate some huge sum of money to a charity or their church but then never get around to it because they feel like they don’t have enough right now or it’s not the right time. Frankly, I think it’s because it is not a systematic, regimented giving plan. If you would have told me a few years ago I’d regularly be giving $10k, $15k, $20k+ checks to charities I would have thought you were crazy because I could use that extra money myself for something. But when it becomes just a way you operate it’s much easier to start writing those checks with big zeros behind them. My dad thinks I’m nuts when I told him how much I donate but I’m more that pleased with my decision.
Where I Found This
One of the first times I heard about this was from the late Foster Hibbard, who worked with Napoleon Hill. Foster talked about setting up a “giving account” and a “wealth account”. The set-up was simple. You would take a fixed percentage of all money that comes in to you (i.e. 5%, 10%, etc) and put that amount into both accounts each time you received it. I only do monthly – but this follows the “pay yourself first” philosophy of getting rich also. So each month 5% gets paid off the top – no matter what – to myself (for investments and buying assets, not toys) and 5% gets paid to a charity of my choice. (Dan Kennedy worked with Foster Hibbard and has a great distillation of this and his own wealth building philosophy in his book “No BS Wealth Attraction for Entrepreneurs”)
Fact is, I could see significant jumps in my own income once I started this 5% charitable giving. Some of the wealthiest and most successful people of all-time had discovered this secret. It’s been said that Rockefeller walked around everyday with a roll of dimes and gave them away. Carnegie was one of the biggest philanthropists building public libraries. Many people talk about the ‘filthy rich’ or how ‘greedy’ rich people are – I’ve found just the opposite. Most of the truly wealthy and successful individuals are some of the biggest & most generous contributors around.
One perfect example I know personally is Frank McKinney. The Wall Street Journal refers to him as “The Daredevil Developer and Real Estate Rock Czar”. Frank builds these mega multi-million dollar mansion in Florida on speculation (meaning there’s no buyer before he builds it). And the guy plays just as hard for charity. He founded the Caring House Project Foundation to build self-sustaining housing and communities for the desperate. (I’ve got a special bonus transcript with Frank of an interview we did together at the end of this post.)
I firmly believe you cannot out-give the Universe.
If that statement is true then anything you give out comes back to you in kind multiple times. Meaning from a pragmatic standpoint you could look at this really as a return on “charitable investment”. But that’s almost too logical. There’s an incredible feeling from knowing one check you wrote sustained an entire village of entrepreneurial upstarts – like when we donate to Village Enterprise Fund. Or when you get a handwritten note from one of the charities you support talking about how surprised they were to get a $15,000 check out of the blue and what kind of help that means to their program.
Personally, I do due diligence on the charity I’m going to support for that particular month and then I write the check without expectation of what is going to happen with the money.
Time, Talent & Treasure
One of our Maverick members has a saying that I love, and that’s, “You can give time, talent or treasure.” So perhaps if you’re short on finances give some of your time or talent away. Quite frankly, for years now we pretty much only donated money (treasure) since that’s what I had the most abundance of. Today with the Young Entrepreneur sessions we run on Maverick trips and virtual mentorship we have the opportunity to actively engage and give forward. Previously I would donate to a lot of different charitable organizations but now I’m pretty much focused on my passion around young entrepreneurship.
Making a Difference Around Your Passion
At a recent Summit Series in Aspen I got the chance to meet Ethan Zohn. If you watched Survivor you might remember him as the $1,000,000.00 winner. Ethan was a professional soccer player in Zimbabwe before appearing on Survivor. He witnessed first-hand the ravages AIDS had on the African people and wanted to do something – but didn’t know what. After winning Survivor he had the means and a bit of fame to create an educational program with professional soccer players educating children and teens about AIDS through experiential learning called Grass Roots Soccer.
In Africa, soccer players are some of the biggest heroes for the kids growing up and this makes for a perfect vehicle for spreading awareness and educating. Ethan’s non-profit has impacted over 220,000 kids and growing. With World Cup coming up next year in South Africa, his charity was selected to be engaged in bigger outreach programs throughout the continent.
He took his passion (soccer) and turned into something that made (and is still making) a tremendous difference for a serious epidemic.
Real Time Fund Raising
I’ve got to tip my hat to my friend and Maverick member, Chris Zavadowski. He did a great job really exceeding his goals with a fundraising effort for Charity Water a few weeks back. He put together a cool webinar I was on with a few Internet experts sharing what they’re doing now and throughout the event he asked people to tweet or Facebook about the donation page.
He ended up raising over $20k and significantly blowing past his initial goals, and a lot of it was similar to the old telethon models. Charity water had a great tool where you could see in real-time what the donation amount was. This type of social proof caused others to donate or previous donors to re-commitment and donate more to reach the next goal.
You can see from this screenshot – one tweet got a $1,000 donation from fellow Maverick member Mike Hill. Plus the fact that Jeff Walker promised to match any donations that came during the time he spoke – it really upped the ante.
Buy One Give One
I’ve really been inspired lately by Toms Shoes with their simple giving model. When you buy a pair of shoes for yourself – they donate a pair to a child in need. Easy to understand and truly impactful. In just 3 years they’ve already donated 150,000 pairs of shoes.
In Aspen, I also had the chance to meet Lauren Bush and Ellen Gustafson from Feed Bag. The story behind Feed Bag is pretty inspiring too, but there’s a bigger lesson I’ll share in a moment. Lauren Bush was a student at Princeton University when she saw that the UN World Hunger program was looking for a student spokesperson. She applied and went to work first-hand with a program that delivered meals to impoverished children in third world countries. From that on-the-ground experience she was forever changed and wanted to make an impact. She had the idea of combining some of her fashion contacts she made as a model with this idea of charitable giving.
Her idea was simple but profound: create a fashionable bag that people would want that also feeds a certain amount of children per year – hence the name FEED bag. The only problem was that the UN is not an entrepreneurial venture. They didn’t get the concept of selling at retail to donate a percentage for a specific cause. Lauren had a deal set-up with Amazon.com, but they needed a vendor name for the application; so she enlisted Ellen from the UN, a kindred spirit, to create a company on-the-fly for this.
From that small beginning Feed Bag got sold in Whole Foods and has ended up raising over $2.4M+ for the hunger program – enough to cover the entire Rwandan program by itself.
Now the big lesson. Feed Bag is actually a for-profit enterprise with a social conscious. I love the idea of creating something (that’s wanted) with a by-product for good, i.e. buy a fashionable bag and feed 10 children. There is no guilt involved – like many charities play on – however, there are is strong psychology at work. The bag is very prominently printed with the words FEED on it and it gives the user a feel-good story to tell others. Plus anyone else who knows what the bag stands for will recognize the person as having a social conscious. Win-win.
To me, what I find even more exciting than giving a percentage is having a tangible result instead of a percentage charitable donation. With the FEED bag, you know that for 1 bag bought you’ve fed 10 children. This is a BIG idea!
We saw this a bit with the one laptop per child program but I don’t think that was that big of a hit because not too many people wanted the laptop for themselves or their children. The Feed bag and TOMS shoes are “cool”.
This tangible and specific charity by-product of a sale got me thinking. In fact, in our painted picture, I reference this. We’ve already started this Maverick Business Adventures where for each member who joins we donate to Village Enterprise Fund and fund 3 micro businesses in East Africa. And we want to do this even more with a specific product that is tied into a specific charitable action.
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As I mentioned, I wanted to give you the transcript of a special interview I did with Frank McKinney. It’s quite long so I’m going to include it in the PDF when we compile all 5 parts of this blog series.
We’ll let you know as soon as the PDF version of these posts is done. To make sure you don’t miss it sign-up on the upper right-hand side of this page for blog updates. And if you want even more on the philosophy of “Make More, Have More Fun and Give More” – check out the ‘Maverick Manifesto’: http://www.internetlifestyle.com/blog/ramblings/maverick-manifesto-video/