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.
On Sunday I’ll be running the Detroit Marathon with a bunch of friends including my partner Jason Mendelson who is running his first marathon. Becky Cooper, our CFO, and Jill Spruiell (Jason’s EA) are also running their first marathon, as is Andrew Tschesnok, the CEO of Organic Motion.
As this is my second marathon in my Random Act of Kindness series, Amy and I are again raising $10,000 for someone on GiveForward. We’ll be matching $5,000 of contributions from this community with a gift from us of $5,000. Our recipient this time in Max Simmons who we refer to as Jedi Max. We don’t know Jedi Max – we just know he’s fighting cancer and is awesome.
Here’s Jedi Max’s story:
Max is a fun-loving, spirited seven year old who has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma Multiforming or GBM, a type of brain cancer. It is one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. The doctors have already removed most of the tumor, though he still has a long road ahead. He will be receiving chemo and radiation. Max’s treatments are an hour’s drive each direction and he will be receiving them for six weeks, five days a week. His parents, Jay and Scott, are concerned about not meeting the non-medical expenses such as gas, food, and other things that may come up. With how things stand now, Jay may not be able to return to work. Max loves everything Legos and Star Wars. He is doesn’t have a mean bone in his body and wears his heart on his sleeve and his heart is as big as Texas. He is a true Jedi Warrior!
Let’s end Friday on a high note. The recipient of our first Random Act of Kindness in support of my marathons is now cancer free! If you go out this weekend, do a random act of kindness. Buy the meal for a young couple in the same restaurant you are in. Tip 50% instead of whatever you normally tip. Do something unexpected for someone you don’t know.
When you support a family member in need, you’re doing the right thing. The community you are part of is counting on you, and fulfilling your obligation to them is part of being a member of that community.
What happens, though, when you help someone you don’t know? What happens when one community deliberately seeks out someone who needs a leg up and attention and support and reaches out – with no possibility of reciprocity? That feeling is extraordinary, and as I run the 29 marathons I’ve got left to go to make my 50 marathons by age 50 goal, I have been thinking harder about fundraising as part of this experience.
After my close friend Andy Sack was diagnosed with testicular cancer, the impact of a medical emergency really hit home for me. Andy’s fully recovered after surgery and a 62 day chemo regimen – the experience caused me to think a lot about what families go through when a loved one is ill.
During this time, I met Ethan Austin, the co-founder of GiveForward at Lindzonpalooza. I was blown away by what they are doing and decided to team up with them to do 29 random acts of kindness over the next few years.
For each of my upcoming marathons, I’m going to run in support of one of the GiveForward campaigns. Amy and I will kick off the fundraising with a commitment of at least $145,000 ($5,000 per marathon) and encourage our extended community to contribute whatever they can. We may increase this amount in the future ($5,000 will always be our minimum) depending on the total level of contribution (more contributors = bigger contribution from us.) I’m also going to do some random things for the people who contribute on a marathon by marathon basis – look for me to have some fun with this rewarding my community for helping with a random act of kindness.
The people we will support will not be people we know. Rather, they will be people who inspire us and who we want to shine a random act of kindness on. Our fundraising efforts will be a complete surprise to these families, and our hope is that we can create a little unexpected joy for the people we support.
The first random act of kindness is Justin Salcedo from Devine, TX who has testicular cancer. I’ll be running the Missoula Marathon on July 8, 2012 in Missoula, Montana for him. His family friend set up a GiveForward page for him and wrote the following description:
Justin Salcedo is from a small town south of San Antonio, TX. We live in Devine, TX. He is a good athlete, a good son, and a good friend to everyone. Always has a smile on his face. He just recently found out he had testicular cancer. His mother is the one who told me the story of how he found out about his cancer. I have known him for about 17 years. My sister-in-law baby sat him when he was little. My son and Justin were in pre-K together, they were in little league baseball, our local youth basketball league, Middle school athletics and 2 years highschool athletics. So for this news it was a shock to me and I am not his immediate family. It feels like dream…..
The GiveForward campaign is called Kicking Cancer. Our goal is to raise at least $10,000 by May 31st to help out Justin and his family. Let’s do this for Justin and show the world how the power of a community can deliver random acts of kindness.
PS – if you can’t afford to donate, I urge you to share Justin’s GiveForward page on your Facebook wall or give Justin a “virtual hug” by leaving words of encouragement on his page. Neither of these things will cost you a dime but they might mean the world to Justin.