I have a question for you. What do these things have in common?
Random Swings of Joy in LA
Honey on the rooftops of Melbourne’s CBD
A Cardboard fort night in Toronto
A fairy floss cannon in New York
They all happen to be past recipients of Awesome Foundation grants. The Awesome Foundation is an ever-growing, worldwide network of people devoted to forwarding the interest of awesomeness.
We provide small grants to projects that wouldn’t necessarily get funding from more traditional channels. In the words of one of our trustees, The Awesome Foundation provides micro-genius grant for flashes of micro-brilliance. There is a catch however.
There’s no strings attached. We claim no ownership of IP, ideas or expect anything in return.
Honestly, the only reason we are part of the Awesome Foundation is because we want to grow local awesomeness. We just want to make the world – and for me personally Sydney – a more awesome place to live.
The Awesome Foundation started in Boston in 2009, by Tim Hwang. Tim discovered that it was ridiculously hard to get small amounts of funding for small projects.
Getting funding for big projects or ideas can be relatively easy – especially if you could go through regular channels like charities, angel investors or loans. But although big ideas can be amazing and world changing, long tail ideas – hence my dinosaur - may not have as much groundswell and support to be able to receive money through these channels. No one really wants to fund an idea that can’t have a massive return on investment.
The Awesome Foundation fills this niche by providing people with awesome ideas, the chance to receive funding to help make their ideas a reality. Because everyone cares about something - no matter how big or small – and it’s the small ideas that keep the world moving. It’s about being agile with ideas. Having small, frequent grants allows us to take more risks – as we’re not investing as much as someone like an angel investor would be.
Each grant we give away every month is $1000. Every month each of the 10 chapter trustees donate $100 to a pool to fund the $1000 grant. There’s no tax deductions or ways to get the money reimbursed, we just give the money away to someone doing something awesome.
Since starting in Boston, there are now over 20 chapters around the globe in heaps of different countries. There are two in Australia – the first one was launched in Melbourne and now Sydney. Chapters don’t always need to be based on location – we have recently launched Awesome Food which includes trustees from USA, UK and Canada.
There’s also no head office or central location. The different chapters are connected online and we all help each other out when we need support.
And In those 20 chapters, we’ve been able to give 250 thousand dollars worth of grants. That’s a lot of awesome.
So a bit about Awesome Foundation Sydney. We started in March this year by two awesome guys – Steve and Bruno.
Steve and Bruno then scoured the universe for eight other awesome trustees, including myself. We have a really diverse group of people as trustees.
Every month, we meet up for a dinner somewhere in Sydney and discuss the month’s applicants – who apply on the Awesome Foundation website. After we’ve made a decision on who will receive the month’s grant, we call them straight away to tell them the good news.
We then collect the cash – here is $1000 in cash if you have ever wondered what it looks like.
And then meet our recipient to give them a traditional brown paper bag with their grant.
Since we started – we’ve tried to be really diverse with our grants – donating to causes and hobbies such as art, media and research projects.
So how do we define awesome? Surely we must know what is awesome enough to give them $1000 cash.
According to the dictionary, Awesome means that it inspires awe. Which is really descriptive I know.
But we really don’t know how to define awesome. It’s just an entity or a feeling – you know something is awesome just by reading their application.
But our point of view is that if the Awesome Foundation can help awesome ideas, it will spread awesomeness – by the people who directly receive the grant and those who indirectly benefit by being part of networks or are impacted by the result of the idea being realised.
And we know people who have awesome smaller ideas will also have awesome world-changing ideas. We’ve recently been awarded our own Kickstarter page – so we can help promote and support previous recipients of Awesome Foundation grants in changing the world.
So those ‘Random Swings of Joy’ that were funded in LA? They’ve recently run a successful Kickstarter campaign to set up the swings in Bolivia – they are flying over next month. This is just an example of how a small idea, with support from the Awesome Foundation can be world changing.
So as Sydney’s social innovators - so what are you doing that’s awesome?