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Magnifying Your Money

Jennifer 8. Lee Dec 23, 2011

Tess Vigeland: One philanthropic buzzword you hear a lot right now is micro grants. A single organization uses small grants to create and fund projects around the world.

Commentator Jennifer 8 Lee has some experience with one such group. And she has one word for it.

Jennifer Lee: What could be more awesome than spreading awesomeness? The Awesome Foundation‘s mission is to increase awesomeness in the universe, one microgrant at a time. It’s ordinary people giving ordinary amounts of money to make extraordinary things happen.

Here’s how it works. Every month, a group of 10 or so people get together and give $100 each to create a $1,000 grant that they give out to something that they think is an awesome idea.

This kind of microphilanthropy has helped fund a giant hammock in Boston Commons, swings in Los Angeles, rooftop bees in Melbourne and a map of kisses in Toronto.

The Awesome Foundation started in 2009 in Boston, but has now grown to 29 chapters on four continents in cities like Calgary, Melbourne and Berlin. When Awesome Pittsburgh was launched, the city of Pittsburgh declared Oct. 18 “Awesome Pittsburgh Day.” How awesome is that?

I helped start Awesome Food, which funds Awesome food-related ideas around the world. So far. one of the projects we funded is Urban Jungle, a group in Atlanta that picks fruit from trees in abandoned lots, washes them and gives them to homeless shelters.

Now ask yourself, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if…” — and fill in that blank. That is your Awesome Foundation proposal. Or if the answer is, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if there were an Awesome Foundation chapter where I live?” Find nine or so friends. You too can further awesomeness in the universe.

Vigeland: Jennifer 8 Lee is a journalist and the author of “The Fortune Cookie Chronicles.”

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