Today a wealthy man who wants to retain his anonymity but who tweets as @wearelucky1 returns to London to hand out a series of £1,000 donations to strangers spotted doing good deeds, with the simple request that they use the money to ‘do good’.
UK Fundraising asked @wearelucky1 about his giving, why he chose this approach, and what he had learned from this unusual method of philanthropy.
Your story, as set out on your Wearelucky site, confirms that effective philanthropy is a challenging task. What were some of the other ways of giving that you considered but decided against?
@wearelucky1: I thought about how to make most impact for the money, for making something that would maximise smiles and spread the money in as many directions as possible. I couldn’t decide what was most important, home or abroad, young or old, smart or challenged, fit or sick and so decided to pass on that responsibility in smaller, more manageable chunks.
I looked at charities but didn’t get a good feeling, I didn’t feel like I was going to get what I wanted back. I wanted to be involved and to see
what was happening and to enjoy it and at first I was embarrassed about that but having thought a lot about it I think its OK to enjoy it and to get something out of it. If other people are smiling and I’m smiling as well because of something I’ve done then that’s cool right?
Did you decide from the beginning to include the stories of recipients, their photos, and follow up reports on how they spent themoney? Is that part of sharing the responsibility of giving with them?
@wearelucky1: Yes, I wanted to document the choices people made. I trusted that people when challenged with such a proposal would rise and do wonderful things and I wanted to capture some of that magic. The amount of money is important, it is enough to attract attention and capture the energy of the “Lucky People” but not enough to make the responsibility too onerous. I think it helps them to think of the best way they can use it to know that its going to go up on the website maybe…
Do you have any background in the charity/nonprofit sector, either working for or in it, or as a donor? Was your decision to manage the giving process on your own just personal choice, or an active choice to avoid professional philanthropy advisers or working with existing charities/nonprofit organisations?
@wearelucky1: Not really, I have donated to charity before obviously and spent some short time visiting a wonderful charity KOP in Kenya where I learned something of how things work but I only really scratched the surface.
It was a personal choice, I thought it would be interesting to trust people and see what happened. I have never heard of professional philanthropy advisors and I’m not sure I would have been that interested. I have a thing about excessive intermediation and efficiencies, more people in the chain normally means more mouths to feed.
How much have you given away so far? Do you have a plan to give away a set amount?
@wearelucky1: I will have given away the price of the Virgin Galactic flight US$400,000 in total in various directions: family, charity and Wearelucky.
You travel to various countries. Is it important to distribute your money widely? Do you see any differences in how people in different countries have reacted and made use of your gift?
@wearelucky1: Wearelucky has travelled with me and the way it has worked out geographically has been a happy accident. I’m very happy that the money has been spread in so many directions. It has been interesting the differences in various places. Obviously in India and South Africa many people are in need of money themselves so people have generally used it for themselves or their family, in the US most people used it for healthcare bills and in UK people have mostly passed it forward to organisations and people they know who need it more than they do. It is all about what the Lucky People think is good to them and that’s always good enough for me!
Now that you’ve been engaging in this very practical, person philanthropy, for 18 months (?) have you come across other models of giving that have impressed you?
@wearelucky1: I like the idea of loans to help people achieve something, to give birth to great ideas and then to pay it back, a few of the LP have borrowed the money off themselves in a way and will be paying it forward with the results.
I think the magic comes from personal involvement and energy, and somehow this funny little project has accessed lots of that from the Lucky People.
Have you come across others giving money away to strangers in this way?
@wearelucky1: No. not yet but I hope the fact that I have enjoyed it so much and been rewarded so heavily that it might just inspire someone else to do something similar – or different but just to do something. Not just because it is a good thing to do but because it is so much bloody fun!
After the giving has been completed do you have a plan for the future of Wearelucky? Your interviews with recipients include some useful anecdotal information for those involved and interested in philanthropy.
@wearelucky1: I am going to pause after 100 and reflect. I have a few ideas but nothing concrete so far, I’m sure something with emerge and Wearelucky will evolve somehow I’m just not sure how yet. Any ideas very welcome!