One moment I was excited, driving up highway I-5, dreaming with billions of dollars. The next, I was hungry, penniless in Stockton, CA, wondering how I would make it home to Sparks.

I was enjoying my drive, recalling the half-a-billion dollar endowment campaign I just launched two weeks ago for the International Institute for Social Artistry. I remembered earlier this morning, a woman thanked me for my "Dream-Making to Billions: Grant Writing Tips from the Experts" book. She shared that she had $750,000 to add to the $1.2 billion dollars already generated in grant funds by readers of my book or participants in my classes.

Suddenly, I felt a burst of aliveness, an ah-hah moment. An idea popped into my mind that could very well generate tens of billions of dollars more annually for charities, for future generations.

Excitedly, I pulled off the next exit to get my book out of the back. Why? Because in it was a breakdown of the over $300+ billion available each year in grants for nonprofit agencies from four primary funding sources: foundations, governments, corporations and individuals. I opened my book, turned to the page summarizing the annual giving patterns and figures of the primary funders. With my new “generative giving” idea in mind, I quickly calculated.

Briefly stated, this is what I noticed. Corporations, governments and individuals gave over $275 billion in 1999. Foundations, on the other hand, gave around $25.9 billion. Easy enough. However, what was less obvious on a deeper level was that the amount given by foundations actually came from around the more than $518 billion in assets, wisely invested to generate funds for charities now and for future generations.

On page 44 in my book, it reads, “By federal law, foundations must give away 5 percent of the market value of market value assets or interest income each year, whichever is greater. This law means, for example, that the W.K. Kellogg Foundation with $6 billion in market assets must award at least $300 million annually.”

The questions popped up -- What if we focused our attention on a small percentage – say 10% -- of the more than $275 billion available from governments, corporations and individuals? What if we wisely invested that 10% in ways similar to how most foundations do it? We could generate tens of billions in nonprofit funding each year that would continue to keep generating funding for future generations.

I felt a huge surge of energy building up inside me. “Hmmm…” I thought excitedly, “Wow. This ‘generative giving’ idea might just work.”

The next moment I couldn’t seem to find my wallet. In it were my ID, credit cards and cash. I remembered that I last saw it in the bathroom in the hotel in Ventura, CA… three hours back.
I picked up my cell phone and called the hotel. Sure enough someone found it in the bathroom and turned it in. They could overnight it to me in Sparks. Yay!

Back on the road, my excitement was renewed … for about 5 minutes … when I realized my actual financial situation -- two check books with blank checks and a little cash.

“No gas station or restaurant will cash a personal check,” I thought to myself.

I tried anyway.

Sure enough, no one would cash a personal check.

At the next gas station, I dropped all my change -- $26.73 -- on the counter, pumped that much in gas.

An hour south of Stockton, it sank in that I don’t even have enough gas to make it back to Sparks.

So, I called a bank (checking account) rep, who gave me directions to a bank that stayed open later than most. It was in a grocery store in Stockton and open until 6 pm. She assured me that at the bank they would help me once I told them my story. She just so happened to know that area very well and gave me great directions. It was 4:30 pm, and I was less than 30 minutes away. Yay… plenty of time!

That is until I hit rush hour traffic. I got to the exit the bank rep mentioned with 30 minutes to spare. Yay!
Suddenly, the traffic came to a stand still. Up ahead right in the middle of a key interchange was a terrible accident, with two mangled cars, someone on a stretcher, two fire trucks and a policeman rerouting traffic. 6 pm rolled around, and I didn’t make it to the bank.

Now, I was starting to get nervous.

Then, I got the idea to call my bank credit card rep.

She assured me that she can manually authorize a vendor (store or gas station), if the vendor was willing.

No one was. I tried 7 or 8 gas stations and restaurants. Interestingly, few accepted credit cards. Then, I spotted a Burger King, just outside Stockton that accepted credit cards. I was getting hungry now; food was rapidly replacing gas as my most pressing need in the hierarchy of my needs.

I walked into the fast-food restaurant, asked for the manager. I explained my situation, said that I was trying to get back to Sparks, Nevada.

“Sorry, this machine won’t allow us to manually authorize,” she replied.

Dejected and sad, I turned and sauntered away.

“Do you need some food?” I can still hear those words echoing in the air as I walked away.

My heart sank. Earlier I was playing with a new way to generate billions for causes such as eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. Now I was the one who was hungry, and I didn’t have a penny. But, this manager was willing to help me out. I could feel my heart in my throat.

“You’re trying to get to Sparks. What part?”

I heard the voice from behind me and turned to see a man in a booth, eating a burger and fries.

“I have a house in Wingfield Springs,” I replied, “And, I have a condo in Spanish Springs.”

“I live off Los Altos and…”

“Sparks Boulevard?” I interjected.

“No, Vista Boulevard.”

“Wow! That’s amazing. My condo is close by, right across from the big, new Catholic Church on the right side, a half-a-mile from Los Altos and Vista,” I said eagerly wanting him to view me as a somebody. At the time, though, I really felt like a nobody, helpless and hungrier by the moment.

“How much do you need?” he asked.

I turned to look up at the menu above the counter and quickly calculated in my head how much I needed for food and gas to get home. “$25 should do it.”

“Could you use $40?”

As he took $40 in cash from his wallet, I pulled out my check book, and started writing him a check. “What’s your name?” I asked.

“Don Bickford.”

“What’s your mailing address, too? I would like to send you a thank you card.”

I pulled a Dream-Making to Billions book out of my bag and handed it to Don. Interestingly, at that moment, it was the best form of ID I had. I even showed him on the back cover where it said that I had worked at the local community college. I told him I resigned two years ago. I shared a bit about me, including that I adopted a stretch of Vista Boulevard from Los Altos to the church near where he lived.

He said that he had a boat there.

A few minutes later, I ordered a value meal. When I turned around, Don was gone.

In the car and back on the road, the kindness of the manager offering me food and Don giving me money washed over me. I cried. Even this morning, the day after the experience, I feel waves of love for two strangers seeing me… a penniless, hungry man wanting to go home… and offering to help.

When the Fed Ex delivery lady came by this morning, I shared my story with her. “This is the end of the story,” I blurted, feeling excited to see my wallet. “It’s great to see that there are good people in the world,” she replied. I could see the emotion in her eyes.

I appreciate myself for landing on a new “generative giving” model. I appreciate you, Don (my Sparks neighbor), and the Burger King manager, for helping me eradicate my extreme poverty and hunger, while feeling a deeper sense of humanity.

Author's Bio: 

Phil Johncock is an award-winning author, educator and mentor. He is founder of 4Grants.Net, online since 1997. He has a 92+% success rate in getting 48 out of 50 grant funded, securing over $6.4 million. He wrote about his experience in a master's thesis called "The Metaphysics of Successful Grant Writing," which he converted into a book - Dream-Making to Billions: Grant Writing Tips from the Experts, published in 2003 by 4Grants.Net. He created the first college "grant writing certification program" at Truckee Meadows Community College. He now teaches online classes at 4Grants.Net and College of Southern Nevada, as well as mentors in a 12-month mentoring program. His students have gotten over $1.2 billion through his teachings in only 2.5 years.