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'Do Good, Have Fun, Make Money'

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This past week, in the middle of a press interview, I realized that one vital part of a personal philosophy of mine was coming true in spades. And it was exciting. There's nothing like having to explain what you do to strangers to make you self-aware. And when those strangers have the power of the press to help make or break your business, I'm doubly self-aware.

I found myself explaining that I was having fun. The business I've helped nurture for over 15 years had turned another corner, and life was fun again. The past three years (think Recession) haven't been fun, it's been much more like an uphill trek carrying an over-stuffed backpack. With each step, I was worrying that my backpack was filled with bricks of lead, rather than bricks of gold.

Having fun is part of my three-legged stool philosophy of "Do Good, Have Fun, Make Money." Like a three-legged stool, if any of the legs of that philosophy are missing, I'm not doing something right. While we were still Doing Good, the "have fun" and "make money" legs were broken. Life was more pogo stick than stool. Bumpy, and just up and down. During the interview, I realized that had changed. Finally, this holiday season, what we do at iGive is truly fun again. And, looking backward, it's been closing in on fun for several months.

Why should anybody care if I'm having fun? I'm hoping that I'm a 6'6" canary in the proverbial coal mine. I'm having fun because iGive is busy. And if iGive is busy, something is going right in our economy. iGive lives at the intersection of shopping and charity, this is our busy season. On the busiest days, our volumes are 10 times that of a normal day. That means that 10 times as many charities are going to be getting checks, 10 times as many shoppers are getting a chance to help (and feel good that they're helping), and socially responsible stores are getting 10 times the traffic.

We're helping people help the causes that they care about, and they really appreciate it. That means we get 10 times the number of thank you notes from iGive members. And that feels great. We never tire of the fun of being thanked. We all take turns answering the emails we get, so that each iGive staffer gets to share in the excitement.

The sheer volume of transactions is also fun. We have to be truly on our toes to make sure that all systems are operating properly. When something goes awry (with 1,222 stores reporting to us, something is always bound to get garbled someplace), we need to move fast to figure out what the problem might be, fix it, and then move on, so that our shoppers' experience is never impacted. I think it is fun to be good at something, and get to practice that something.

It's fun learning about all the new causes and charities being listed at iGive. On Cyber Monday alone, our members listed 48 new organizations that they wanted to help. They range from the expected -- a group renovating an amazing old theater -- Wilcox Theatre Historic Preservation, to the inspirational -- Heroes Live Forever. Because the economy seems to be improving, these causes can reasonably expect to raise money to help them accomplish their 48 different missions.

Those other two legs of the philosophy are also important. We think what iGive helps our members accomplish is Doing Good. And when we get it all working right, and the economy cooperates, the Making Money part is fun, too. It's fun to hire people, to design new software products, to contract for programmers and engineers to bring new ways of doing business to life.

While I'd love to take credit and say we're busy because we did things smarter or better, I really think we're really busier mostly because things are slowly getting better. This season, I'm really grateful to be having fun.

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