Without fail, whether speaking with new or seasoned fundraisers, at least once a month I have to remind someone of the following quote:

If you are in a position whereas you regularly draft, review, or approve content, you might want to consider jotting it on a post-it note and sticking it to your monitor as a reminder, or add it to your approval checklist. We’ll get to what this has to do with happiness bombs a little later, but first:

This week, I’d like to challenge you drop one, just one happiness bomb on someone and take 15 minutes to reflect on how it feels. Then take another 15 to reflect and brainstorm on how you might translate that feeling into your future interactions and communications.

Why drop happiness bombs? Because we are all about cultivating the joy of giving, and in order to do so we’ve got to amplify our personal narratives in order to become intimately familiar with the joy, so that we can be radiantly unapologetic in asking others to support our cause.

What’s a happiness bomb? It’s a simple unexpected reward that you leave someone without any expectation of reciprocation. A gesture, item, idea, to stretch your self-actualization muscle, and let others bask in your munificence. A happiness bomb is literally the embodiment of philanthropy² –  the giver receives more from the act than the receiver.

Here are 15 examples to choose from. Note, as fundraisers our job is to educate individuals of the importance and urgency of our cause, then invite them to join us in championing change, of which obviously one main facet being that we ask “strangers” for financial support – therefore, I would highly suggest that you try this on a stranger in order to get the full impact.

  1. Pay it backwards: next time that your are in line for coffee, pay for the person behind you or give the cashier an extra $10 and tell them to use it to pay for as many people’s orders as possible.
  2. Send a high school teacher a kind email to thank them for how much of a positive influence they were on your life and the worldview and values that you now espouse. C’mon we all had one of them.
  3. Mail a handwritten thank you note a donor who’s first gift to your organization was 1 year ago today.
  4. Volunteer somewhere in your community for one night. When was the last time you volunteered?
  5. Give a homeless person a bag of fresh new socks.
  6. Notice a well-behaved kid? Take a moment to tell their parent[s] how much of a fucking awesome job that they are doing parenting.
  7. Call the donor services department of a local charity – tell them that you just want to call to thank the “unsung heroes”, and thank them for their generosity and the important work that they do.
  8. Leave a kick-ass testimonial on a colleague’s LinkedIn profile
  9. Tape a $5 bill to the side of a pack of diapers. Alternatively, get $10 worth of toonies and drop them at random locations on the sidewalk as you go about your day.
  10. Buy an extra copy of the latest business-related book that you’ve read and leave it on a colleague’s chair after they’ve left the office for the day with a nice anonymous note.
  11. Have a bouquet of flowers sent to your receptionist anonymously
  12. Give a compliment about a waiter/tress, sales clerk, etc., to his or her manager. Or leave them a big, out of the ordinary tip.
  13. Ask a colleague if they’ve been working out, and tell them that they are looking great.
  14. Leave a box of chocolates for your after-hours office cleaners.
  15. Group idea: Get everyone to pitch in $20 and buy a bunch of flowers then bring them to the local retirement home and hand them out.
I hope that you take the time to overcome your hesitation to actually take part in the challenge. These are beyond your general random acts of kindness – as they involve your commitment to being generous with your finite resources, time, money, attention; in order that you can truly feel what it is like to give selflessly in the same manner that you ask of your supporters.

So what does all of this have to do with the quote at the top of the post? Simple:

Happiness feels a lot better when you’ve given to a real person

The reminder bears repeating – your donors don’t give to your organization, they give through your organization [see the “your donors don’t give a shit about you section“] Therefore, it is imperative that you stop communicating with your donors in vague, overwhelming statistics [that donors can and will easily ignore as a unsolvable problem] and start crafting your communications around personal one-to-one stories that truly resonate – that you start building donor journeys that are built to germinate personalized narratives into which donors can write themselves into. That you drop happiness bombs.

Which of these two pictures give you a more visceral reaction?


It isn’t without thought to certain sensitivities that I juxtaposed the image with the post title. Her name is Phan Thi Kim Phuc. You can read more about her here.

Where do you start with learning to tell better stories? Well, why not with some of the best storytellers of the past 20 years – pixar [see this post]. And guess what? They’ve just teamed up with Khan Academy to create “Pixar In A Box,” and in this third instalment of the series, lessons are sourced from Pixar directors and story artists including Inside Out and Updirector Pete Docter, Brave director Mark Andrews, Inside Out story artist Domee Shi, and Ratatouille animator Sanjay Patel.

“In every bit of honest writing in the world … there is a base theme. Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love. There are shorter means, many of them. there is writing promoting social change, writing punishing injustice, writing in celebration of heroism, but always that base theme.
Try to understand each other”
May you continue to cultivate the joy of giving, because once upon a time…


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