“It always seems impossible until it’s done.” – Nelson Mandela
What would you do with a million dollars?
For me, the answer has never been about buying expensive and/or flashy toys.
For me, what I do with money is more or less what I try to do with every resource at my disposal:
Like a large segment of the developed world, I would very much like to make a million dollars.
So I can give it away.
I, alone, have very little chance of performing such a feat. Very few of us can. But together, it’s a completely different story. Together, we have so much power to change the world if we would only coordinate our resources.
So one of my current projects is the creation of just such a platform:
Following in the footsteps of such popular sites like TinyBuddha, DumbLittleMan, PickTheBrain, Addicted2Success, MindBodyGreen, all of which get multiple millions of visitors every month, my website: CrackingTheHappinessCode.com, is going to be open for community writers to contribute to.
With proper positioning and promotion, this website could join the ranks of the aforementioned sites.
With one crucial twist:
From the ad spaces on this site the revenue will go directly to charity.
In trying to pick a charity that aligns with my values as well as having the maximum impact possible, I’ve found Charity:Water to be a very fitting candidate.
I’ve only begun my travels of our blue-green sphere we all call home, and I’ve seen the amazing progress a country like Thailand has made over the last 2 decades, and how sister nation Cambodia has yet to take these same steps. Clean water is just one of the many issues facing modern Cambodians.
In total, nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack clean water. This is far more than just a health issue. If we want to give those in need a hand up: education, work, women’s rights – then water is a perfect place for investment.
And it really is an investment. For every $1 invested in improved water access and sanitation can yield up to $12 in economic returns.
Here’s how, according to Tim Ferriss, who did a water fundraising drive for his 36th birthday:
In Africa alone, people spend 40 billion hours every year (e.g. the entire annual workforce of France!) walking for water. Women and children usually bear the burden of water collection, walking for miles to the nearest source. The solution? Installing simple water wells for clean water in strategically close locations.
Children can then spend more time in classrooms learning, and women can contribute to their communities with their minds instead of carrying jerry cans most of the day.
Clean water creates more capable problem solvers in places with persistent problems. If you want to empower people instead of doling out aid indefinitely, this is a powerful starting point.
If the altruistic aspect wasn’t enough, just consider: As a result of our collective action there will one day be millions of additional scientists, doctors, professors, and engineers bringing their collective intellect to bear on the challenges facing our world today and tomorrow.
So, now the question is how to raise funds. For that we’ll start by looking at a popular advice website that also makes decent coin.
The popular advice DumbLittleMan.com gets over 2 million monthy viewers, making it the perfect case study for our little experiment.
2 monthly visitors is a fair bit – but how much ad revenue could this actually generate?
Now, there are a ridiculous number of options for monetizing a website, but DLM has opted for pay-per-view advertising. That is, advertisers will pay a set rate for every 1000 people to visit the site and therefore see their ad.
Using the service buysellads.com, this is the breakdown of ad space and price:
It’s important to note that advertisers aren’t paying for the entire 2 million views, but a portion of them, and their ads will rotate amongst one another.
I can’t say whether or not all the ad space has been spoken for, but this at the very least will allow us to calculate a maximum possible revenue from this income source.
2 million views x ($2.99 + $1.99 + $1.99)/1000* = $13,940.00
*(remember, we must divide by 1000, as the price is per 1000 views)
$13,940 per month is some serious coin.
“But wait” I hear some doubters say, “That’s nowhere near a million bucks. What gives?”
No, it’s not, but such an income would total $1 million after a mere 6 years.
And remember, the million dollar mark is arbitrary, I choose it because it still has sex appeal and therefore could garner the interest of people. The important thing is that we’re helping real people who have no or limited access to water.
The charitywater.org website claims that “Just $30 can provide clean water for one person” – let’s see what that means concretely:
$13940/$30 = 464 people per month. That’s enormous.
And yes, I realize there are expenses for website hosting and that ads probably don’t get 100% sold out. But we’re looking at potential here. And this has a ton of potential. Even if the income was 50% of what it is, in terms of helping other people it seems to still be worth it, yeah?
But there’s a second option I’d like to layer on top of this one.
In 2013 Lori Deschene of TinyBuddha colleted 40 stories from her website’s guest coontributors and turned them into the book: Tiny Buddha’s Guide to Loving Yourself – 40 Ways to Transform Your Inner Critic and Your Life.
Now, I can’t make income projections for this as the only data I have access to are the 56 customer reviews.
However, TinyBuddha has an even larger audience than DumbLittleMan and this has likely earned significant revenues since it’s time of publication.
Of course, Cracking is a significantly far way off from 4 million or so monthly visitors. But this is exactly why creating a book in the same style is a good idea.
Basic psychology dictates that we care about things we put work into – just look at the world famous example of Betty Crocker cake mix.
As recounted by Psychology Today, in the 1950s, General Mills released a new line of instant cake products under their Betty Crocker brand. Sales were abysmal. According to their research, this was because housewives felt guilty about not working hard enough in the kitchen.
So General Mills made the product less convenient, made household bakers everywhere add an egg on their own, and relaunched the line with huge success.
By creating a community-generated product, it will help increase the number of people who want to see the project succeed and will be willing to promote it.
Because let’s face it. This is an excellent idea. No thinking person would suggest that providing clean water for a billion of the world’s poorest is anything but.
The difficult part is overcoming the inertia and apathy we as a society have when it comes to social change.
And I am no way exempt from this. Up until I started this project, my net contributin to soial change has been pretty much zero (I volunteered at an event for victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, but that’s the entire list).
We need to reach what Malcolm Gladwell calls “the tipping point” – the point at which an idea has enough mind share within a population to catch on.
Blogs and social media are a ripe opportunity to do this. But we need traction for the idea to catch and spread like a mind virus – of the positive variety. Like the way we can’t help but share videos of kitties and puppies playing together.
I’ve already started gathering content for this, so if you’re a writer and want to be published beside some living legends like Harleena Singh from Aha-now or Henri Junttila from WakeUpCloud then you’d better check out the writing guidelines here and submit your entry.
So, we’re off to a good start. Let’s look at one last example, of someone who has “been there, done that.”
In 2013 Tim Ferriss raised $107,292 in a Charity: Water campaign for his 36th birthday.
Now, this is a slightly different setup, as a fundraising campaign through Charity: Water directly has a 90 day time limit.
In 90 days our idealized DumbLittleMan scenario would make about $40,000. A healthy sum, but let’s face it, Tim crushed that number with his campaign.
Obviously, Tim has a lot of supporters and followers and was able to mobilize a ton of people to make this happen. He also added in a “bribe” of his own by offering a free round-the-world flight to one lucky supporter of the campaign.
So while I don’t have the coin or connections to offer such a prize, the way I look at this is that we only need 10 Tim Ferrisses in order to raise a million bucks.
Here’s what we could do:
Reach out to a bunch of people with a TF caliber of public support and get them behind the project. Doing good is sexy, and if a bunch of heavy-hitters know they’ll be surrounded with other heavy hitters (not risk their reputation, show “social proof” that the idea is good etc), they’re more likely to take part.
Have all these people provide 1 digital “bribe” for any person who donates. An ebook, interview, whatever. Some sort of premium content that can be hosted for free or cheap and downloaded.
As Derek Halpurn of Social Triggers has said, only offer the highest quality material in an offer. I’ve seen other initiatives that offer something like 150 ebooks at some crazy low price, but this dilutes the value of the best bits of those 150.
Then, to be super badass, we can outreach to 100s of others who have smaller but still significant followings. They could get a unique landing page (where they send their followers and nobody else sees) where they add their bonus/bribe to the offers of the A-listers, both preventing the A-listers offers from being diluted by 100s of other offers and giving these other indivuals a chance to be right along side the cream of the crop.
That is – incentive to participate and promote.
I can see this taking place after the first 2 case study examples have been implemented. Traction is difficult enough to get as it is. But with these first items of business in place, we can show some of the internet’s top influencers that this is an idea with traction, support, and has already gotten results.
The second part of this campaign will take some putting together before it’s able to launch with impact, but the first part is effective immediately. I’ve never given $1 million away before, so some of these details will change as the project evolves. So far there are 5 ways to get involved:
In the midst of a million blandtastic list posts reminding us to “stop caring what other people think” and that “you can do anything” that get a billion shares on social media but do nothing to actually change the state of the world, I’m here to challenge you to action.
Water changes everything. And we can change water:
Leave a comment with your thoughts, I’d love to hear them.