Creating Unexpected Joy

Values matter. A lot.

Sure, every company has a set of stated values. But the great companies live these values, which permeate the culture and drive every company decision. Moz and Gnip are two such companies. GiveForward is another.

GiveForward is a medical crowdfunding community that helps friends and family rally support around their loved ones during times of need. At their core they believe that no one should have to face an illness alone. They have derived a mantra, “Create Unexpected Joy” (CUJ), from this core belief which they describe as “surprising people with unexpected gifts of humor, compassion, and humanity.”

If you visit their office you will see CUJ written on their walls and you will hear the words C-U-J come up repeatedly throughout the day. But what I love about GiveForward is that CUJ isn’t just something they paint on their walls. It’s not simply a slogan or contrived corporate branding.

It’s something they do. Every. Single. Day.

For everyone at their company, CUJ is a way of life. Every decision from customer service to product development to whom they hire and fire is filtered through the lens of CUJ. They put their money where their mouth is – every employee at the company gets $500 per year to create unexpected joy for others with no strings attached.

I’ve been involved with GiveForward since 2012 because their values deeply resonate with my own.  The concepts of #GiveFirst and random acts of kindness are integral parts of my value system that overlap almost entirely with the concept of CUJ.

So when GiveForward reached out to me recently and asked me if I’d be the first money in for a new CUJ program they were launching called the GiveForward Community Fund, I decided to take them up on their offer to do a test run.

They said, “Brad, put in $1,000 and then give us a week to deploy the capital. We’ll send you the results after a week and if you are not impressed, we’ll make a $1,000 contribution to NCWIT.”

I’m a sucker for offers like this.

About a week later, they sent me an email with the results. They distributed $500 of the first $1,000 to a campaign for a father fighting late stage colon cancer.  The campaign goal was originally $40,000, but the $500 had a ripple effect. The random donation from the Community Fund inspired others to do the same and the campaign quickly exceeded its $40,000 goal. That night, the man’s daughter, who started the campaign for him, posted an update to their GiveForward page that read:

“I have personally never felt so much love and kindness in my entire life.”

Reading this update sealed the deal for me. I signed up on the spot for $1,000 a month.

I’m looking forward to being part of GiveForward’s Community Fund.  This is a company that leads with its values and I think they’re onto something here.  All it takes is one person to give forward randomly to someone they don’t know to set off a chain reaction of generosity that extends to thousands of people.

I’m delighted to help start this chain reaction and excited to see where it goes.

  • Tried to read this post to Rich but started crying. Creating unexpected joy might be the best mission evaaah. That. And Give First. 🙂 thanks for sharing this.

  • Interestingly for GiveForward the word ‘Cuj’ (or ‘Qaj’) in Armenian translated to English means ‘Brave’ (or be brave). I think it speaks true to those who make brave steps in improving our world entire.

  • williamhertling

    Thanks for sharing and for giving.

  • Jonathan Taiber

    The GiveForward team is a rare one indeed. Can’t think of a more impactful business model where CUJ is spread through all “touches” in and out of the organization.

  • Well done, sir!

  • Kudos Brad. Having such a fundamental impact on one’s life is creating true value!

  • bradbernthal

    Love this. It is astonishing how fast values travel. I’m researching the relationship of mentors in accelerators. Speaking with Managing Directors around the US, and a few internationally, the language of “give first” is repeated often. People read blogs. They share information through networks like GAN. Powerful to see how the values of a collaboration economy travel. Give first is one of Boulder’s best exports.

  • Give Forward’s co-founders are great people. It’s a great company. One of those that I wished I pulled the trigger on but when they were raising seed I wasn’t as educated as I am now.