You Can Make a Difference—And Your Friends Want to Help

You have the power to make a difference in the world with just a few dollars. And your friends are just waiting for you to ask for their help.

By Pam Marino

You have the power to make a difference in the world. And your friends are just waiting for you to ask for their help.

That lesson was driven home for me a few years ago when I accepted a challenge thrown down at a conference. The proposition was to multiply some money to help others within three weeks. I was intimidated at first, but in the end I discovered meeting the challenge was a lot easier than I thought, and I was amazed by how eager my friends wanted to partner with me.

A Daunting Test?

The challenge came at a Donald Miller Storyline Conference in Portland, OR., as part of a point about “living a better story”. Audience members were given the opportunity to take envelopes that contained either $5, $10, or $20 bills. The catch was that we had to commit to doing something that would help another person or organization, ideally in a way that multiplied the money.

My envelope had $20 in it. The challenge felt daunting. How would I multiply the money? In such a short period of time, up against an already busy schedule? What if I failed?

As I left the auditorium clutching my envelope, it crossed my mind I could turn around and give it back. Yet beneath the doubt was a sense of excitement. What if I succeeded? What good things could come from a $20 bill?

Let the Multiplying Begin

After a few days of consideration, I decided to help at risk youth in the Silicon Valley and immediately thought of the Bill Wilson Center,  an organization with an excellent track record. Looking at my calendar, I knew I needed to do something simple. I thought, everyone needs to eat, why not use the $20 for a simple soup and salad supper for my friends? I’d ask everyone to bring a donation for the center.

I sent out invitations for a dinner just two weeks away, detailing to my friends what I was raising money for. I gave them the option of sending in a donation if they were unable to attend. With such short notice, only about 10 made it to the dinner; another 10 sent in donations.

At the end of the night, the $20 that I so worried I would never be able to multiply in only three weeks had grown to $1,000!

‘How Can I Help?’

I recently watched this play out again at the church I belong to, Sunnyvale Presbyterian. We did a similar challenge giving participants four weeks to either give away or multiply the money to benefit individuals or organizations; we specified it not come back to the church.

At the end of the month, we invited everyone to a luncheon to share stories of what happened. One group pooled the money, invited friends to an open house, and raised more than $3,000 for transitory housing for recently arrived refugees. A young girl baked cookies and sold them at her school, raising $150 for breast cancer research. Others organized collections of socks for soldiers, food for the hungry, or books for disadvantaged children.

One thing that stood out was how many of the stories went something like, “When I told my friends what I was doing, they instantly said, ‘How can I help?’” Friends were jumping at the chance to get involved.

Go to Good Neighbor Stories for the full article, including reasons why your friends want to help, and how to design your own challenge to multiply a little bit of money and make a difference.

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Good Neighbor Stories October 16, 2012 at 11:59 PM
I'm so excited to hear this, Robin! Please come back and share what you did, if you're willing. Good luck!
Robin November 05, 2012 at 02:40 AM
Wow! What a difference you inspired me and my friends to make! Lovely ladies came to my home this afternoon to learn more about the Grateful Garment Project (http://gratefulgarment.org/), and generous folks who couldn't attend made online donations. In addition to learning about this incredible program, contacts were made, over $700 was raised, and clothing was donated to victims of sexual assault. Thank you for inspiring me to do this!
Anne Ernst November 05, 2012 at 06:35 PM
Robin, this is great! I wonder if any of the ladies who joined you are inspired to do something themselves?
Good Neighbor Stories November 05, 2012 at 06:42 PM
That is so awesome, Robin! I'm so happy to hear that! Thank you for letting us know!
Robin November 06, 2012 at 08:42 PM
I heard again from Lisa at Grateful Garment...over $1100 generously donated, in addition to the clothing donated (and I'm picking up more clothing from a friend this weekend). Hoping some one who came or who learned about the group will also do something, but truthfully, feeling good that people learned about the need in the first place. And there were some contacts exchanged...perhaps another church clothing drive or a meeting with a Tikkun Olam group will result...who knows? Anybody wanting to do a teddy bear drive with your scout troop, or to collect new clothes or toothpaste or anything else on the list...this is a pretty amazing organization.


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