I’ve been reading about a new trend in philanthropy that is very interesting to me, and may be to you as well. There are various names associated with this trend, including stealth giving, guerilla philanthropy, or just random acts of kindness.
I started noticing articles about this late last year. Yahoo ran a “You in?” Campaign with the goal of creating a ripple effect of kindness. They asked viewers to share their stories of kindness to spur friends and associates to do so as well. They reported, “Whether you pay someone’s groceries anonymously or drop off a coat for the homeless, your actions will inspire others around the world to join you.”
The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported on an amazing family from Vancouver. In what they referred to as “a guerilla giving” campaign, the family started to leave small cash gifts in public parks, at bus stops, and in other random places, to be discovered by strangers — an activity that was part scavenger hunt, part social experiment. The anonymous gifts, in the form of bags of $1 coins, included notes signed by G.G. (guerilla giver) that were designed to inspire further philanthropy. Comments recorded on the Guerilla Giver blog, indicate that these random gifts of kindness were so unexpected and impactful that they might be considered be life-changing.
I know many of us offer acts of kindness by being generous with people around us. As example, I will often take friends of my sons to places they wouldn’t normally have the chance to visit, as a way of adding value and meaning to their lives. I have some sense that this will eventually lead to their own acts of compassion and kindheartedness.
I have gone a little beyond that type of generosity as well. On occasions, I have purchased a stranger’s coffee in Starbucks that looked particularly stressed, and once paid for a family’s dinner out after overhearing their conversation about the financial burdens they were facing. While I didn’t ever talk with the strangers I offered “gifts” to, I did watch their faces when they were told their bills were covered. I could tell they were amazed and touched.
I am not sure that these acts were ever life-changing, and I know they weren’t in keeping with my usual strategic giving, but it did feel good to make a difference in someone’s life that day. And who knows, the people I gifted may have done something nice for someone else, who then did something special for another. I suppose this is the most we can ask for – that we might start a chain of kindness, or generosity, that could then spread throughout our communities.
I wonder if the trend will continue, spurring more grassroots philanthropy across the continent? What do you think? Have you ever participated in stealth giving? If so, share your stories.