Imagine if one person could change the world. That’s the mission of Dallas-based entrepreneur and philanthropist Ariel Nessel and his Pollination Project which will give away $1,000 a day–every day–this year. It’s a movement he says could inspire people to do great things in this world.
It all started after an epiphany in 1997 that led Nessel to change the way he viewed animals and the suffering he was causing by consuming animal foods. From that moment, he shifted not only how he related to food, but the way he related to others. It was a time of awakening when he realized the tremendous impact everyone has on countless other beings and the world itself.
Soon after that, Nessel (who had done extremely well in the real estate market) decided that he wanted to make a positive impact, beyond simply writing checks to nonprofit organizations and potentially having them go towards overhead. The 39-year-old, who also teaches yoga and meditation, wanted to see the results of his donations by inspiring ordinary people to do extraordinary things. It was then that he came up with the idea for The Pollination Project.
The concept is simple: He and his team make $1,000 grants to individual change-makers who have an idea on how to make their community and their world a better place. It’s not intended for large organizations like many grants; it’s designed for people like you and me who just need a little seed money to start something wonderful. By doing so, Nessel feels more in sync with his desire to impact the world, he says:
I didn’t want to be greedy and focus on creating more wealth through my business. Instead, I wanted to feel more connected to others and be able to sponsor their great work.
At the end of this year, Nessel will have given away $365,000 to 365 individuals. One thousand dollars may not seem like it will make that much of a difference, some people wonder, but according to Nessel, it does:
When I tell people about this idea, the response is ‘Wow, that’s really different and really cool, but what can anyone do for $1,000?’ A lot of people think that amount is insufficient, but once I explain how far $1,000 will go and what can be done with that seed money, people get it and really feel that connection.
Projects that are funded through The Pollination Project include:
– compassion towards all life (people, planet, animals)
– environmental sustainability
– justice in all of its forms
– community health and wellness
– putting consciousness into action
– social change-oriented arts and culture
One grant recipient, Hashem Abushama, is already feeling the impact. He is an 18 year old living in the Palestinian refugee camp of Arroub. He came to The Pollination Project and requested funding to beautify his community which he describes as an overcrowded and dirty refugee camp. He and his team of volunteers will paint murals on walls, put trash bins around the camp to keep trash out of the streets, and conduct workshops about taking care of the land in the elementary school classrooms of the Arroub camp.
Alex Sandoval is another example. She is a high school senior who is using the funding to launch and promote a sex education/drama club in her high school. They will do educational workshops and performances about safe sex not only in their high school, but all over their Los Angeles community.
And then there’s Sister Donna Francis, a trained nurse from Berkeley, CA who now lives in a remote village in Ethiopia. She, along with Waves for Water, distribute free water filters to the community. Now she is using the grant money for seeds and gardening supplies to create new shared food sources for her community.
It’s the ripple effect at its finest, really. This, says Nessel, is the whole idea:
Instead of a top-down approach in changing the world, this is a bottom-up approach. I hope that everyone sees an opportunity through their own personal gifts–whether it’s to donate money, teach yoga or the arts, or just to be kind to others–to use their talents and make a small difference in their community.
And is it working? You bet, he says:
Meeting all of these great people in the world who are just showing up so selflessly, it’s very encouraging to me to feel that way about humanity.
For more information about the Pollination Project or to apply for a grant, check out their site.
Photo: courtesy of Ariel Nessel