They tell me that life isn't fair...
The company I work for went bankrupt, and after a year I am still looking for a stable place of employment. A talented mother of three loses a husband, a house and hours of sleep wondering how to make ends meet. A trusting eight-year-old gets scammed by a local car dealership crushing his faith in others. If you raise your eyes from your electronic device, you will see at least one person dealing with unearned injustice -- hopefully you're not looking in a mirror.
During a 1100.7 mile trip to Houston, Texas, I swapped these kinds of stories with a colleague over breakfast. For two hours we told tales of bad luck, and could have gone on all day. However, by the twenty-seventh round, we came to an understanding that should have happened after five minutes in. In all our stories all the "unfairness" was alleviated by one helping hand: a job was obtained through a network connection; a car was fixed by a friend; a business was saved by a small line of credit. Simple things that were done by ordinary people that made all the difference in the world.
But it seems that a we underestimate their power to help. We want to help, but we don't know how. It's like our caring brain is separated from our rational brain, and if those two would just get together... All we need is that connecting piece -- that spark.
I propose that we create a space that provides such a spark. A place that gives a boost of goodness through a helping hand, by righting a wrong, and/or performing a calculated act of kindness. Just a group of ordinary people helping other ordinary people, and posting their efforts on various digital platforms in order to inspire other ordinary people to help more ordinary people. Think of this effort as the epicenter of a goodness virus that spreads puppies and ice cream sundaes instead of bubonic plague.
With special help from super-marketer, Matt, I created a snapshot of what this type of organization would look like. Below is the full proposal. I don't know if it's feasible or if there is something all ready around. It's less extreme than a home makeover, but it could be exactly what the world needs.
So, if you could, please read through the idea. Also, I would greatly appreciate if you leave a comment about whether you think this would work (and why or why not). Your viewpoints could help decide if this is something to pursue or an idea to shelve along side baby dentures and disposable socks.
Purpose: To create an organization dedicated to giving ordinary people a win, while inciting a nation-wide movement for good.
What we do: Network for Good (NFG) specializing in being a catalyst for those that need a helping hand. By utilizing an ever-expanding network of do-gooders, NFG will help people change their luck, overcome minor injustices, and experience general acts of kindness. Basically, if someone needs life to get better, we will be there.
Those that we help will fall in three different categories:
Helping Hands: Every now and then a person’s life can be overwhelmingly altered for the worse because of bad luck. He and/or she could have done everything "right" – checked every box, crossed every “T,” played by the rule book. Life just sucker-punched the jaw, leaving this poor jerk struggling professionally, monetarily and spiritually. House fires, job layoffs, illnesses, accidents, etc. all can have a devastating effect. Sometimes even the best emergency plan cannot prepare for the storm.
NFG will become the helping hand that will bring people back to normalcy. By leveraging both the individual’s network and NFG’s “Do-Gooders," a plan is created that does whatever it takes to ensure that success is made a quickly as possible. Assistance can be monetary, but primarily will consist of finding experts who can help make success last. NFG will continue to offer help until the goals are met and everyone is better off.
Example: Joe was downsized and he has been without meaningful work for over six months. His savings has dwindled and his family is starting to feel the stress financially and emotionally. He has answered want ads and signed up for temp agencies to no avail. While his friends and family sympathize with Joe’s predicament, no one really knows what to do next – including Joe.
Joe’s wife nominates him for NFG and the group goes to work on “Team Joe.” Bringing together friends, family, former co-workers, etc. NFG explains exactly what everyone can do to help Joe out, both professionally and personally. Resumes are collected to give to different HR managers and friends have started bringing over meals, toys for the kids, and Walmart gift cards to help with groceries. The more friends and family that actively help “Team Joe,” the easier it will be for Joe’s family to weather the storm.
NFG also sees that Joe’s resume could use some work, so they contract a professional resume writer. He also is having trouble creating connections, so the organization connects with a corporate headhunter. A corporate fashion expert helps him buy a new, more professional suit and some clothes for both interviews and networking events. Finally, a financial advisor helps Joe and his family set a budget that better conforms to the new reality. After a few months, Joe does land a new job and celebrates with his network – vowing to help if others find themselves in the same situation.
Right the Wrong: While participants in the Helping Hands program have needs that require extensive planning, there are plenty who may need a much lighter boost. Many people have minor injustices that have altered their way of life that could be remedied through intervention from NFG or its network of Do-Gooders. These projects take much less time and effort, but they still can have an impact – even if its just to reaffirm a positive view of humanity.
Example: To get to work. Jodi rides her bicycle. Every day she pedals the half hour ride and locks it up in front of the office building, and then pedals home again. She rides her bike in every weather condition or she would have to rely on the city bus system, which takes twice as long. One day, however, she leaves work to find that the lock was clipped, and the bike was stolen. She now worries how she will get to work, or if she can even replace her bike.
A friend nominates her for NFG and they quickly contact a local bicycle shop to see if together they can set Jodi up with a new set of wheels. The store manager gives a great deal on the new bike, helmet and titanium bike lock in exchange for some good will and free publicity. NFG, the shop manager and the nominating friend all present Jodi the bicycle, with the only repayment to pay it forward.
Calculated Acts of Kindness: The third program type includes doing good for those who may or may not have a deep need for help. Some examples of activities could be helping a high school senior apply for scholarships at colleges, mowing a lawn for an elderly couple, or paying for groceries for an unsuspecting family. These small acts may be the least amount of planning or work, but they could have the most impact on inciting a movement.
The idea of NFG is not just to serve as benefactors for a few individuals, but to start a national movement of good. In order to promote the organization and create groundswell, NFG will use social media and other digital avenues. By creating content – videos, postcasts, blogs, etc – that can go viral, NFG can hit different platforms targeting vastly different demographics. The more content created, the more chance to raise awareness and gain active participants. And since most content can be monetized, revenue will grow as long as viewership grows, which let NFG help more people in more ways. Hopefully, these efforts inspire more people to help others without NFG help.
The following are the platforms that NFG will utilize:
YouTube: The only stipulation that NFG will require of service recipients is that they film their journey and show it on NFG’s YouTube Channel. The short films will not have a set time limit and be shot as “rough cut documentaries.” Each post will tackle a specific time snippet of service (Joe’s appointment with the resume writer; The surprise reveal of Jodi’s bicycle; etc). The goal will to upload at least two videos a week, monetized with paid advertising through Google Adwords program.
Podcast: NFG will produce a weekly podcast that promotes both NFG activity and what good deeds others are performing in the world. Using a round-table format, the podcast should bring personality to NFG members and create a relationship between the organization and fellow “Do-Gooders.” The program can highlight behind-the-scenes stories, rationales on why they chose the people for services, and spotlight those who are not receiving services, but could use some good in their lives. The podcast would be free through iTunes and other podcatchers, but paid sponsorship could be offered. Also, additional content could be offered through Patreon.
Website & Blog: The hub of activity would be the NFG website and blog. Here, daily updates of what we are doing could appear, as well as links to all the YouTube and Podcast episodes. Attached to the website will be a blog that offers more philosophical views on doing good. A series of Guest Bloggers should provide content and connect with their already-established networks. The website can utilize both paid sponsors and Adwords without it comprising NFG’s core mission. If the website and blog is successful, a forum can be created where “Do-Gooders” can interact and discuss how more people can be helped.
Social Media: The main “advertising” for the NFG will go through social media, as it has the greatest chance to inform people of the organization and the YouTube and Podcast channels, while maintaining a constant connection to those who want to do good. Success of NFG will hinge on how well these platforms are developed.
Even though the mission for Network for Good is to give a helping hand, NFG will be set-up as a for-profit company. The main reason is because of how NFG generates revenue for services. A non-profit exists mainly because of benefactors through grants and donations. NFG would like to raise revenue through ads, Patreon, corporate sponsorships and merchandise. Not concentrating on fundraising cycles will free NFG from the endless task of asking for money and allow the company to focus on programming and expanding the network. Also, for-profit companies have less regulations on what they can do to generate content and revenue, which is beneficial as NFG tries new ways to help people on a personal level.
The following are all possible revenue streams:
Google AdSense: Advertising on YouTube and websites usually goes through the Google AdSense platform. Every time a user views an ad (Cost per Mille) or clicks on an ad (Cost Per Click), the content creator receives a portion of the revenue collected from the advertiser. Currently, Google gives 68% of all ad revenue the content creator and pays on every 1000 views (or per click). Ads are also set on a bid system, so the amount of revenue varies.
Example: NPC uploads a video and it receives 60,000 views in the first day. 50% of those views did not skip the ad, giving the video 30,000 paid impressions. Based on what Google bids out the ad for, NPC receives between $54 - $90 for that day. Projected over the month, that’s $1,621 - $2,701. Over the year, the video generated $19,718 - $32,864 (provided viewership remained constant). NPG wants to upload at least two videos a week.
AdSense also directs revenue through automated ads located on the website. These are usually paid out in a Point Per Click cycle, also bid on through Google. Like YouTube ads, Google gives content creators roughly 68% of ad revenue.
Patreon: AdSense can be a significant revenue source for videos and websites, but it can be fairly volatile and depends on how many views and clicks an ad gets and the amount of the bid price. Patreon allows creators to generate a more stable income stream by allowing users to directly purchase content, either on a monthly membership fee or a la carte.
NFG would still offer YouTube videos and Podcasts free of charge and use Patreon for “bonus” content. Other organizations have had success offering uncut, live streaming feeds or more in-depth articles and film snippets. Content creators receive 90% of revenue (5% Patreon fee, 5% average credit card processing).
Sponsorship: As the network grows, NFG can start soliciting for corporate sponsorships for their various digital offerings (website, blog, forum, videos, podcast, etc) and/or programs. Sponsorship will not affect program offering, who NFG decides to help, or views and opinions given through digital content. Sponsors will sign contracts drafted to be mutually beneficial.
Merchandising: The NFG online store will be attached to the NFG website and Facebook page. The store will offer branded merchandise (T-shirts, mugs, etc) that promote NFG, what they do and how they help. Branded items should also serve as a catalyst for the overall goodness movement NFG would like to initiate. Items will either be shipped out of the NFG office or through print-on-demand services.
Along with branded merchandise, NFG will engage with affiliate marketing, either through the online store, or through links with Amazon.com and iTunes. Any time NFG members mention a product through the podcast, YouTube videos, blog or social media, an affiliate link should be published somewhere accessible (within blog post, show notes, etc). Affiliates make up to 15% through referral links.
Crowdfunding: Based on the highly interactive nature of NFG program offering, it makes it a great candidate for Crowdfunding projects. Platforms such as Kickstarter, GoFundMe and Indiegogo give companies opportunities to promote products and ask for funds upfront to defray development and distribution costs. It may be advantageous for NFG to institute a crowdfunding campaign to generate buzz and start-up revenue, provided that the digital framework is already in place. The pledge amount will vary based on what NFG believe they can generate and what rewards it can give to backers.
Network for Good is based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, and all costs associated will reflect the midwestern city’s sensibilities. Because the production is mostly web-based, a city like Indianapolis becomes ideal because costs will be a fraction of those in a coastal entertainment hub.
Congrats, you made it to the end. Please leave a comment if you thing this is a terrible idea. Please leave a comment AND SHARE if you think this is a wonderful idea. The more you comment and share, the more we can show the Powers That Be that this flower should continue to blossom. That is if this idea was a plant. Which it's not. It's a poorly crafted metaphor.
Please comment anyway.
In 1999, I received a rejection letter from an anthropomorphic tomato…
My senior year in college I applied for a slew of jobs that revolved around marketing, but had yet to score an interview. Taking a few flyers, I applied to some small entertainment outlets that were looking for writers or entry-level production assistants. One such company happened to feature singing moralistic vegetables.
We sent paper resumes in those days, as most employers were skeptical about online applications. On expensive ivory paper, we printed three paragraphs begging for a half-hour in-person judgement. After attaching a one-page review on our life's work and attaching a certified U.S. postal stamp, we mailed out our hopes, dreams and salary expectations.
For our efforts, hiring directors mailed back a much thinner letter letting us know that they would rather hire a constipated tuberworm than a fully qualified college graduate. The rejection letter was usually plastered on company stationary and signed by the head of human resources secretary. It was heart breaking, but it was tangible. At least we knew that a flesh-and-blood human-like being evaluated the application, vomited, composed themselves and returned the correspondence. A rough thank you for spending an afternoon embellishing for their enjoyment.
Now we send applications via the interwebs. Employers download your pdf into automated systems that dissect experiences into keywords. Many don't even want the cover letter anymore, and prefer you just 1-click apply through LinkedIn or ZipRecruiter. Now with technology, companies can take all that problematic personality out of hiring. That leaves a lot more time to swim around large money bins like Scrooge McDuck.
In return, employers give applicants this message:
This past year, I have replied to 127 different job postings I have received 8 rejection letters. Apparently 119 Human Resources departments were too busy to send out a message letting applicants know that they didn't make the cut. Not even an automated e-mail. Not a great look for the automated e-mail company that I applied to.
Not that I miss 119 "You suck" letters, but I do miss what they represent. Over 86 separate companies just told me that my existence is only noticeable if I can be a marketable asset. If humanity lies in the details, then 86 separate companies made a conscious choice not to care. It's no wonder that an Accenture study reports that over 70% of the workforce feel disengaged.
Civility comes at a premium. We have shelved our souls into demographic buckets of vitriol: Snowflakes versus Deplorables, Rich versus Poor, DC versus Marvel. We have an instinctive need to organize. Brain science says the more that we feel that we don't matter, the more we organize people into these negative segments. It's even better for our psyche if we receive bad news than to receive no news. We don't do well when we are ignored.
A rejection letter can be heartbreaking, but the brain appreciates that the company cared enough to give you closure. After a year of job hunting and being ignored 119 times, my brain has pretty much checked out. It makes me appreciate the other 8 a whole lot more, and it's a weird place to be when you look favorable on those who tell you to go away.
In 1999 I received a rejection letter from an anthropomorphic tomato -- and the world was better for it.
It's 1100.7 miles from my front door to the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, Texas -- or 1771.4 kilometers in your un-American metric system. You need to know this to understand why I know about gas station casinos, Whataburger traffic jams and the Great Signage War between the Athiests and Puritans. I guess I could tell you about these things without telling you that I traveled 1100.7 from my front door to the Region 4 Education Service Center in Houston, Texas—but, I spent 17.5 hours driving a Honda CRV on Tuesday and 17.5 hours driving back on Friday—so, I feel like these insignificant points are relevant.
Here are the ten (10) things I learned on the trip:
1. Louisiana has gas station casinos: Yeah, get me $20 on pump 7, a Blue Frost Gatorade, this package of Ho-Ho snack cakes, and let it ride on 35 Black. Every gas station had a gambling parlor, from large truck stops to Mom-and-Pop two pumpers. They had names like "Little Mame's" and "Jumping Frogs" and reeked of cigarettes and broken dreams. Finally, I can feed my gambling addiction performing routine errands!
I am not Jack Grubb. I am Mr. Married White Male Age Range 35-54. I am Return User US-en Bounce Rate 84%. I am a statistic -- a series of digital bits of information -- and you are, too.
I know this as truth from numerous conversations to and about social media marketing companies. The discussion usually goes as follows:
Them: We utilize multi-channel SEO algorithms to generate a larger, faster click-funnels.
Me: I just try to create stuff that creates a connection between an individual and the organization.
I understand where these folks come from, as a sales-funnel approach can be beneficial to the bottom line. Keywords, cost-per-clicks and conversion rate optimization needs to factor into a budget. Brand managers need sales to grow exponentially. Marketing companies need to ensure the big bucks keep flowing as efficiently as possible. And if they can look cool doing it, so much the better.
You drag yourself into the weekly Leadership 'Level 10' Meeting, fully prepared to hate this morning. As you enter the room, you notice a bright pink box. Your heart rate quickens as you lift the lid, and there before you are twelve assorted halos of happiness just waiting for devouring.
But then you hear her -- the Doughnut Slayer. Her shrill voice wafts down the hall like nails on a blackboard. She hasn't even reached the doorway, and already you grab your delicate treat and dive into your seat. Looking down you noticed that you grabbed a plain cake ring. You wince and try to replace it with the Boston Creme you really wanted, but it's too late.
She walks in with purpose, ready to proclaim her doughnut intentions.
Last Friday I had the pleasure of taking my littlest Princess to an enchanted land called Food City. It's a magical place, full of bananas, discount canned raviolis and disgruntled stock workers. It's also has a whole lot of customers unawares that a father can take his 2-year-old daughter shopping without anyone ending up dead or deported to Guam.
Now, I have been taking my spawn, and the one before her, shopping for groceries once a week going on seven years now. We enjoy our weekly treks, starting off by singing Mr. Blue Sky by ELO and ending with a nutritious meal of Chicken Nuggies sans sauce. Whether it be Kroger or Meyer or Walmart, we have braved them all. We're so confident of our shopping prowess, that we'll even go on a triple-coupon Thanksgiving Wednesday before a snowstorm.
And being a studly man carting off a much smaller human, I've been treated differently than female caregivers. Story time at the library usually has me sitting a table all alone, with the other mothers avoiding eye contact while keeping a hand on their rape whistle. Waitresses at the fine establishment, Bob Evans, have pulled me aside to explain how the children's menu worked. And there's been more than six times I had to change a poop on the bathroom floor because the changing table only resides in the women's room -- and these are poops I didn't even make.
The trip to Food City last Friday brought the term "Daddy's Day Out" to a whole new level. The moment we left the car, I was greeted by:
I've been pondering a lot about wizards lately. The way that think they're vastly superior to all us No-Majs. With their secret societies, and their bathrobes for clothing, and their penchant for endorsing creature-based indentured servitude. Who died and made them Dumbledore?
Maybe I'm just testy because of the last conversation that I had with Joe Pigglebottom, who just happens to be an auror in this place called the Ministry of Magic. We were going to go to see Paddington 2, and he just pops in and...well you tell me.
Joe: Hey, man, you ready?
Me: Dude, you can't just pop in like that. We talked about it. What if I was naked?
Joe: Then I could tweak your nipples.
Me: I don't think you understand. I don't want my nipples tweaked.
Joe: Fine, I won't apparate in anymore. I'll ring the doorbell like a schmuck.
Me: That's all I'm asking. Anyway, Jenny said she may want to go with us.
Joe: Great! I'll just apparate over and...
Me: No! You can just pop out of thin air inside people's houses. What if she's naked?
Joe: Then I'll tweak her nipples.
Me: That's called sexual assault. And it's genuinely frowned upon.
Joe: You muggles are so prudish. Fine, just let me get my parchment, an ink bottle and a quill.
When you find yourself unwillingly self-employed*, each day employs a fairly predictable schedule:
6:00 am - 7:00 am: Wake up and shower
7:00 am - 7:55 am: Force kids through morning routine
8:00 am - 8:05 am: Deposit kids at school
8:05 am - 4:25 pm: Apply for jobs
4:30 pm - 4:45 pm: Entice kids (with candy) to actually leave school
5:00 pm - 9:00 pm: Dinner, dancing, and bedtime
9:00 pm - 11:00 pm: Check to see how many times I can give plasma in a given week
11:15 pm - 5:59 am: Dream about koala bears
If you ask anyone with a pulse, 2016 blew chunks. Those same somebodies also claim that 2017 crapped bricks. Now they tell me that 2018 should be generally unpleasant. No wonder 80's nostalgia has hit an all-time high. If only we could have fun again. If only we could Wang Chung again.
But should the 80's deserve this connotation of a Mecca of wonderfulness? After all, the "Me Decade" gave us the Cold War, an assassination attempt, Just Say No, Olympic Boycotts, Chernobyl, the Challenger Explosion, the Iran Contra Affair, the McDLT, New Coke, and the fact that you could hire an entire army from the back pages of the magazine Soldier of Fortune. The rich still got richer, the poor still got poorer, and yet optimism reigned supreme.
So what's different from today and yester-year? Perhaps the constant barrage of social media heightens our social issue defensiveness. Perhaps identity politics reduce us to angry stereotypes warring with our closest friends. Perhaps its a conspiracy from the powerful Frozen Orange Juice Cabal.
Perhaps its the lack of TV theme songs.
I don't accept help well, and I don't know why. It's not a "don't show weakness" thing as I routinely list all the things I do wrong. My pride and ego live in a tiny shoe box located in the upstairs closet, so I know they don't get in the way. I guess I could blame the ingrained stubbornness of American ingenuity, but that seems way too philosophical. I just have trouble with help.
For instance, I could be hauling a player piano up 30 flights of stairs in 105 degree heat. Each step pulls my back further out of alignment, resulting in excruciating pain, and I'm pretty sure I just tore my ACL. On the third flight, a professional piano mover comes up and lets me know that they'll take this behemoth the rest of the way up -- free of charge. I still would say, "No, that's ok, I go this," while mentally highlighting who gets my Bugs Bunny baseball picture in the will.
Jack Grubb writes an incredible blog, Losing the Internets, which is read by at least 37 people and over 2,100 Russian SPAM bots. In his spare time he helps small companies find their marketing voice. Jack currently lives deliberately in Appalachia, Kentucky with his wife, two daughters, Jack Russell and a Lego collection beyond compare.