I was pleased to be asked to help judge Facebook’s My Giving Story contest, which is encouraging everyone to share a story that inspired them to give. To me, it is individual stories, the people behind non-profits and businesses that inspire me.
One example that springs to mind happened a few years ago when I was in Ulusaba, our wonderful game reserve in South Africa. A woman from the local village approached me. She was forthright in her request: “Mr Branson, can you please lend me money to buy a sewing machine?” While I am often asked for money, it was an unusually direct question.
She told me she was a talented seamstress and believed her business could really grow. But she needed the cash to get it off the ground. “How much do you need?” I asked. “$300 would be enough,” she replied. “And, what is more, I’ll repay it within three months and employ six people full-time.” I was very impressed with her enthusiasm, focus and ambition, and happily gave the $300, not wanting to be repaid.
Three months later I was back near Ulusaba visiting community projects supported by Virgin Unite, when six women came up and gave me a beautiful gift of hand-made cotton pillows and clothes. They also gave me $300 – they were the six women the entrepreneurial seamstress had employed.
I asked where she was, and was told she was rushed off her feet, at the market selling products. Her business was thriving. The episode taught me that the value of giving is often in providing somebody with the opportunity to make something unique themselves. It’s why Virgin Unite is an entrepreneurial foundation, to unite people and entrepreneurial ideas to create opportunities for a better world. It’s also why I spend the vast majority of my time working with Virgin Unite, raising money to cover the foundation’s overheads, so 100 per cent of all donations received go directly to initiatives we create or support.
What inspires you to give? Share your giving story and you could win up to $10,000 for your favourite non-profit organisation.
Read more giving stories in our Give and Take series on virgin.com this December.