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Secrets of the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy

Regular _floss readers may remember the article I posted last month about The Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy. The group gives away $100 grants to people, as long as those people promise to give away the money in a creative way. We got so many excellent reader ideas in the comments section, we decided to take a closer look at the Society's past giveaways.

Before we get started on the actual philanthropic practices of the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy, let's take a quick look at the history of the program. In my original article, I mistakenly said the Society was based in the Bay Area. As it turns out, the San Francisco and Athens, Georgia, branches are only chapters of the original group, which was started by Courtney Martin in New York City back in 2006.

Miss Martin was an aspiring writer who had just finished her first book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters, and suddenly found herself in possession of a six-figure royalty advance. Unlike most people, who would be thrilled to have this amount of cash in their pockets, Martin felt guilty that she suddenly had so much money, so she decided to give some of it away to charity. The only problem was that she didn't know how. In the end, she decided to give nine of her friends and family members $100 and then ask them to give it away as they saw fit. She only asked that they reported back to her a month later.

And thus, the Secret Society for Creative Philanthropy was born.

[Image by Flickr user Surat Lozowick.]

The organization met together on a regular basis, but in the last year, their publicity has exploded. The no-longer-secret society was featured in the New York Times, Forbes, and San Francisco Chronicle. Aside from the San Francisco and Athens chapters that have already sprung up, Martin says there are chapters being planned for Maui, Krakow, Houston, Santa Fe, Vancouver and Los Angeles. If your city isn't on the list, Martin encourages you to just start your own anyway. Based on the comments section in our last article, I'd say plenty of you have grand enough ideas to start a chapter in your neighborhood.

Now what about the giveaways that have already taken place in the existing chapters? Here are 15 that definitely stand out as prime examples of creative philanthropy in motion.

  • Editor Kate Torgovnick collected the works of young New York students involved in a nonprofit literacy program and is turning their writing into a book.
  • Brett Lockspeiser broke his $100 into dollar bills and sat in a San Francisco BART station with a sign that said, "I will give you $1 for you to give to someone else." Many people gave it to a grateful musician who was playing in the same subway station. One passerby posted a note to Lockspeiser on Craigslist later, assuring she did pass on the dollar.
  • Television writer Becky Friedman broke her $100 into 10,000 pennies and then passed them along to friends who lived throughout the country. She then asked her friends to spread them out in their cities in order to make lucky pennies easier to find.

[Image by Flickr user Cobalt123.[

  • Helen Coster, a journalist for Forbes, put $100 into a "thank you" card and then asked her friend to give it to the friendly clerk at the local drug store who always manages to brighten her day when she buys toothpaste.
  • Kamy Wicoff, the founder of SheWrites.com, offered the award to the most frequent commenter on her woman's writing website. The winner of the $100 ended up being a former corrections officer who was looking to take up writing.
  • Alphabet City resident Michael Radparvar spent his $100 to fix a bike he found on the street, which he then gave to a person whose bike was recently stolen.
  • David Ibnale tried to give away umbrellas to passersby during a Bay Area rainstorm, only to find that many people thought it was a suspicious act.
  • Jocelyn Wyatt filled up two boxes with Reese's peanut butter cups, Kraft macaroni and cheese, and red licorice and then sent them to college students who were doing volunteer work in Guatemala and Senegal. Since she spent the full $100 on the treats, she had to spend an extra $120 of her own money to ship the food.
  • Christina Zanfagna lived out a movie scene and offered to buy drinks for everyone in a restaurant. How many times have you wanted to yell out to everyone "the next round's on me"?
  • Clark Kellogg put the $100 in a bank account and estimated that it will turn into $2.1 million (??) in 100 years. He has left written instructions for his great-granddaughter to distribute the funds to strangers when she retrieves it in the next century.
  • Jeremy Mende brought a stack of dollar bills to San Francisco's Union Square and then offered to pay people $1 if they had a conversation with one another. He videotaped the results and it's now a popular online video:

100 Dollars 50 Conversations from MendeDesign on Vimeo.

  • That's not the only viral video showing the works of these guerrilla do-gooders. Andrew Marantz paid strangers in New York's Bryant Park to hold his hand and share secrets while he taped the connections:
  • Joshua Krafchin walked along New York's B train and begged people to take one dollar bills from him. Like Ibnale, he found a lot of people were surprisingly suspicious to take something from a stranger with no strings attached. The expressions of the distrustful subway riders are pretty amusing:
  • Martin's mother broke the $100 into 400 quarters and spread them around a grammar school playground, which provided the kids with one of the most stimulating recesses they had ever had.
  • Amy Coenen wrote inspirational messages about giving on the back of $5 bills and then left them as tips throughout the city.

I know many readers already left comments about what you would do with $100, but if you haven't already, share your ideas here. Also, tell the tales of the time a stranger's generosity helped brighten your day.

I think between all of you we can easily spark enough inspiration to bring a few new chapters to the Society.

As for me, I'd send anonymous cash donations to a few of my favorite blog writers. There are a lot of bloggers out there that bring me hours of joy and I know they get minimal thanks and compensation for their time.

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The Little Known Airport Bookstore Program That Can Get You Half of What You Spend on Books Back
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Inflight entertainment is a necessary evil, but the price can quickly add up without the proper planning. Between Wi-Fi access and TV/movie packages, you can run into all kinds of annoying additional charges that will only increase the longer your flight is. Thankfully, there is one way to minimize the cost of your inflight entertainment that’s a dream for any reader.

Paradies Lagardère, which runs more than 850 stores in 98 airports across the U.S. and Canada, has an attractive Read and Return program for all the books they sell. All you have to do is purchase a title, read it, and return it to a Paradies Lagardère-owned shop within six months and you'll get half your money back. This turns a $28 hardcover into a $14 one. Books in good condition are re-sold for half the price by the company, while books with more wear and tear are donated to charity.

If you haven’t heard of Paradies Lagardère, don’t worry—you’ve probably been in one of their stores. They’re the company behind a range of retail spots in airports, including licensed ventures like The New York Times Bookstore and CNBC News, and more local shops exclusive to the city you're flying out of. They also run restaurants, travel essentials stores, and specialty shops. 

Not every Paradies Lagardère store sells books, though, and the company doesn’t operate out of every airport, so you’ll need to do a little research before just buying a book the next time you fly. Luckily, the company does have an online map that shows every airport it operates out of and which stores are there.

There is one real catch to remember: You must keep the original receipt of the book if you want to return it and get your money back. If you're the forgetful type, just follow PureWow’s advice and use the receipt as a bookmark and you’ll be golden.

For frequent flyers who plan ahead, this program can ensure that your inflight entertainment will never break the bank.

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The Best European Destinations to Fly to on a Budget This Summer
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Get your passport ready. According to Kayak, it's the cheapest summer for air travel to Europe in three years—especially if you're flexible about where you want to go.

Kayak crunched some numbers to discover the cheapest European destinations to fly to from each U.S. state, usually including several international airports in that calculation. Prices can vary wildly depending on where you live, but with this data, you can at least figure out the cheapest median airfare you can expect.

Across the board, Reykjavik, Iceland—a famously budget-conscious place to fly into—was the cheapest destination for the most airports analyzed. But how low that median price actually is varied quite a bit. If you're flying out of Pittsburgh, you can get to Reykjavik for a median price of $319, whereas if you're flying out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, the same destination will cost more like $789.

An orange map of the United States with illustrations showing the cheapest European travel destinations for the summer
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Dublin came in second for the cheapest-destination crown. It was the cheapest European destination city from 15 U.S. airports, though those airports apparently have quite expensive international flights in general. The lowest median airfare to Dublin is in the $700 range.

Unsurprisingly, though, the bigger the airport you fly out of, the more likely you are to find a cheap fare. From both international airports near New York City, you can get to Paris for a median price of just over $500. From Denver, you can get to Brussels, Belgium for $379. From Miami, you can fly to Madrid for around $545. From Boston, you can get to Stockholm for $479. (If a state didn't have its own international airport, Kayak used the nearest one, meaning that a whole lot of New England is included in Boston's cheapest fare data.)

The prices are all median airfares, so you could encounter both lower and higher fares, depending on the flight you book. But if you’re looking for travel on a budget, it looks like Reykjavik and Dublin are the way to go from most cities.

If you've gotten inspired, now is a good time to book. According to Kayak, you should book summer travel six months in advance, but other travel sites say you should book a little later. CheapAir.com recommends booking summer travel around 47 days in advance, which right now means planning for early June.

See the full list of prices and destinations below or head over here to Kayak.

State

Airport Code

Destination

Median Airfare

Alabama BHM Paris, France $1110
Alabama HSV Frankfurt am Main, Germany $875
Alaska ANC Reykjavik, Iceland $677
Arizona PHX Madrid, Spain $563
Arizona TUS Zurich, Switzerland $805
Arkansas MEM London, England $1068
California SFO Reykjavik, Iceland $442
California LAX Reykjavik, Iceland $404
California SAN Dublin, Ireland $766
Colorado DEN Brussels, Belgium $379
Connecticut BDL Edinburgh, UK $548
Delaware BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Florida MIA Madrid, Spain $545
Florida MCO Reykjavik, Iceland $541
Florida TPA Reykjavik, Iceland $615
Georgia ATL Budapest, Hungary $640
Georgia SAV London, UK $830
Hawaii HNL London, UK $906
Hawaii KOA London, UK $960
Idaho SLC Venice, Italy $468
Illinois ORD Reykjavik, Iceland $450
Indiana IND Reykjavik, Iceland $788
Iowa DSM London, UK $898
Kansas MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Kentucky CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Kentucky SDF Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Louisiana MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Maine BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Maryland BWI Reykjavik, Iceland $359
Massachusetts BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
Michigan DTW Reykjavik, Iceland $409
Michigan GRR Reykjavik, Iceland $789
Minnesota MSP Budapest, Hungary $463
Mississippi MSY Dublin, Ireland $732
Missouri STL Dublin, Ireland $752
Missouri MCI Reykjavik, Iceland $600
Montana BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Montana BZN Dublin, Ireland $797
Nebraska OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Nevada LAS Copenhagen, Denmark $563
Nevada RNO Reykjavik, Iceland $871
New Hampshire BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
New Jersey EWR Paris, France $521
New Mexico ABQ Geneva, Switzerland $705
New York JFK Paris, France $517
New York BUF Reykjavik, Iceland $740
North Carolina CLT Dublin, Ireland $739
North Carolina RDU Dublin, Ireland $665
North Dakota BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Ohio CLE Reykjavik, Iceland $457
Ohio CMH Dublin, Ireland $694
Ohio CVG Reykjavik, Iceland $509
Oklahoma TUL Venice, Italy $760
Oklahoma OKC Venice, Italy $952
Oregon PDX Reykjavik, Iceland $642
Pennsylvania PHL Reykjavik, Iceland $497
Pennsylvania PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Rhode Island BOS Stockholm, Sweden $479
South Carolina CHS Reykjavik, Iceland $789
South Dakota OMA Dublin, Ireland $864
Tennessee BNA Dublin, Ireland $771
Tennessee MEM London, England $1068
Texas IAH Madrid, Spain  $598
Texas AUS London, UK $642
Utah SLC Venice, Italy $468
Vermont BTV London, UK $780
Virginia ORF London, UK $845
Virginia RIC Dublin, Ireland $793
Washington SEA Munich, Germany $663
West Virginia PIT Reykjavik, Iceland $319
Wisconsin MKE London, UK $835
Wyoming BIL Dublin, Ireland $822
Washington, DC IAD Reykjavik, Iceland $482

 

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