December 20, 2010
Phil Singerman, president of Endless Acts, wants to pay it forward. His business encourages people to do good deeds so charities make money.
Weigel: So walk me through how this works.
Singerman: Say you have an event -- it can be anything but let's use a wedding as an example. Instead of giving pieces of chocolate to each guest, the bride can order our personalized gold coins with a special engraved message on one side, and the words "Let This Be the Spark That Ignites Endless Positive Acts" on the other. Then we encourage people to go and do a positive act, and log on to EndlessActs.com and record it. I donate $1 for every good act that is recorded online to the charity of the bride's choice.
Weigel: What do you consider to be a good act?
Singerman: It can be anything from walking someone to their car in the dark, to donating food to a soup kitchen. And there's no judgment on what you do for your deed -- it can be as simple or as broad as you want. We have a 30-day window where we ask that people do the deeds. Then we print up all the submissions for the person who hosted the event and show them how their gift inspired so many positive things, and send a check directly to the charity. We have no limit on how many coins a person orders. We'll even print just one -- say as a birthday gift or a thank you instead of flowers.
Weigel: What motivated you to do this?
Singerman: I used to own a company that designed and manufactured prepackaged gifting items. When I closed my business a couple of years ago, there was so much anxiety and fear everywhere I looked. I had determined I wanted to do things for other people. I was at a food bank one night helping out and the mood was dark and dreary. The economy was getting hit hard and people were depressed about their situations. Then someone, out of nowhere, pulled out this mandolin from under a table and started playing. Then another person did the same. Two mandolins! I mean what are the chances? Then this woman started clapping to the music, and everyone started dancing. The whole room became energized and happy. I was amazed that one unexpected act led to a response and had such a chain reaction. The ripple effects were dynamic. I thought, "There is something here." So I created the concept of doing good things as a way to give to charity. It's so much more gratifying than just writing a check. I'll hand money to the Streetwise guy and I feel good for about 30 seconds. This lasts much longer.
Weigel: It's a pretty unique idea. So the charities that receive the money are chosen by person having the party or the wedding?
Singerman: Exactly. Any charity they choose. They purchase the coins from us and we have them engraved. They are $5.95 each -- 24 karat gold-plated coins. They look beautiful and are worth so much more than that.
Weigel: So how do you make money on this if you are donating a dollar for every good act that's written on the site?
Singerman: People pay for the coins, and they are created at a very low cost by people who believe in our cause, so there is a small amount of revenue generated that way. But we aren't trying to maximize income, it's about encouraging good acts.
Weigel: What's the best part about your job?
Singerman: I didn't realize this until I started doing the research, but doing good things actually changes your brain chemistry. I was startled by how much information is out there on this -- hundreds of scientific studies. I have several of the articles posted on my website because I think more people should know about this. It's more than just a good feeling.
Weigel: You've only been up and running for 10 months. How would you say it's been going?
Singerman: I'm pretty blown away by the ripples in the pond that I'm seeing. People want to do something good but many of us are tapped out. We don't want to be bogged down with being on a committee or big time commitments. When you tell them there's an opportunity to donate to institutions based upon participants doing something good, that changes how they think about the donation. The dynamic shifts.
Weigel: Any goals for the New Year?
Singerman: I want to inspire hundreds of thousands of good acts. I want to create a movement so people can come and see all the things that have been done on others behalf and be inspired by it.
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