Helper’s Helper

Summary: Helper’s Helper is an idea that can generate hundreds of billions of dollars a year for charities, through increased funding and increased volunteer hours. The idea is to provide a workshop package for charities, so that they can offer time and money management trainings to their volunteers and donors. This creates a win-win: the volunteers and donors get more time and money, and they are asked to donate about 25% of their new-found time and money to the charity.

We consider Helper’s Helper to be a potential trillion-dollar idea.

The current approach: When charities need more money or volunteers, they do fundraisers to increase their donations, or write grants, or advertise for volunteers. This does nothing to increase the pool of money and volunteer hours in any given geographic area. As a result, when one charity wins funding there’s less money for others. Similarly, when you volunteer for one charity, that’s time you can’t give to another.

The upgrade: Have high-leverage charities offer time and money management trainings to their volunteers, donors and others. Then ask for 25% of the new-found time and money. Remind donors that they are ahead with the 75%, and also that the 25% is often an investment in the local community, or in a charity that will relieve great suffering.

Doubt 1: Most volunteers and donors won’t want to do the hard work of learning and change.

Counterargument: There’s some truth to this but we need to highlight the benefits of the increased time and money to the volunteers. Also we need to point out that more overall good being done is unlikely without an increase to the overall pool of time and money.

Doubt 2: People won’t maintain their new time and money habits and patterns. They’ll stop giving.

Counterargument: Have a bi-weekly or monthly follow-up in which people can keep sharing their tips and progress, and have their efforts affirmed. (This could be by video chat.) People will feel part of a team that is supporting the nonprofit, and they will enjoy sharing tips or hearing about others’ successes.

Doubt 3: The money that’s saved is money that won’t go into the economy, so jobs will be lost somewhere.

Counterargument: Jobs may be lost in the private sector, but it’s likely more jobs will be created in the nonprofit sector, because it’s more service oriented. This is a very important thing to emphasize: This approach can create jobs. Not only that but an increased nonprofit infrastructure of services will better cushion the transition of anyone in the for-profit sector who lose their job.

How big is this idea? Here’s the calculation:

Ideally, over $500 billion a year could be generated. If it’s divided 75% for the participants and 25% for the charities, it would mean $125 billion a year more for the charities.

Here’s where the $500 billion figure comes from: The richest one-tenth of the world’s population would be 700 million people, mostly the middle class of the wealthier countries. For the sake of simplicity, let’s assume they are all just middle class people. If 50% of these people can save just $100 more a month through money management, that would yield $420 billion a year ($100 x 12 x 350 million). $100 a month may sound like a lot, but in an actual small group situation, I led a group of participants to trim monthly recurring expenses like insurance and utilities, producing savings of up to $1,500 a year.

Now for the other part of the $500 billion: In the United States, more than 40% of all adults who can volunteer do volunteer. Let’s assume that capable adults and teens make up half of the population — the rest are too young, too old or too infirm. Therefore, imagine that only 20% of the 700 million people in the world volunteered an extra three hours a week, using time gained through time-management. If this time were valued at only $7.75, that would yield $140 billion dollars a year. ($7.75 x 3 hours/wk x 50 weeks x 140 million people = $163 billion.) Thus, the total of donations and volunteer time is worth over $500 billion a year.

To some people this calculation will seem far too optimistic. We have two responses to this. First, it’s a matter of engagement and commitment. If people come to a workshop only willing to pursue easy savings — low-hanging fruit — they will get small returns. But if they embrace it as an ongoing contest or challenge to save resources, most will experience deeper change, and long-lasting rewards. This will be due in part to good ongoing support. Our second response is that the calculation, even if not achieved, helps people to grasp that this is not an idea that can yield just a few million dollars, or even just a few billion dollars. It has much greater firepower, and is worth the efforts to develop it and make it happen.

More information is at HelpersHelper.Org, a website still being built.

Plans and Needs: We plan to do trial workshops to try out and fine-tune the content. We also plan to do a YouTube video to promote the idea. We will need participants for the workshops and also actors, videographers and post-production for the video.

Possible Impact: Few ideas on Earth are worth half a trillion dollars a year, and able to potentially do about $125 billion a year in good. The billions can go toward alleviating suffering, preventing needless deaths, and restoring the environment.

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