50 ways to be ridiculously generous—and feel ridiculously good.
I realized—many years ago—that when I behave generously, I feel rich. I like to feel rich. So I choose to be generous.
Behaving generously doesn’t necessarily mean “donating money” or “giving away your last cookie.” Those are two options, sure, but there are plenty of other ways to be generous.
You can share knowledge freely, instead of hoarding it. You can send a handwritten note, instead of a text message. You can make eye contact, instead of checking out and staring down at your phone. You can introduce a friend to someone they ought to meet and help them secure a new job, client, or opportunity. You can do big things, simple things, all kinds of things.
Here are 50 ways to be ridiculously generous—and feel ridiculously good.
The best part is, you don’t need to “prepare.” You don’t have to “buy anything.” You don’t need to “give it some thought.” You don’t have to “clear space on your calendar.” You just need to fold a little generosity into your day—which often takes just a minute or two.
The tiniest act of generosity can change someone’s day—or even change their whole life.
Here are 50 possibilities to inspire you. You could do one item from this list every day, 50 days in a row. It’s going to feel so good. And you’re about to become everyone’s favorite person.
1. Give a compliment to three strangers: a child, someone your own age, and an elder. Try to share a compliment that’s not related to their body or physical appearance. Instead, praise their inner qualities and skills. Say, “You’re amazing at riding that tricycle!” “You have the most calming voice. I could listen to you speak all day long.” “You inspire me to be more courageous.”
2. Find a Little Free Library near you and donate a book. Can’t find one? Start one.
3. That public radio station or podcast you’ve been streaming for months—or years? Become a member and contribute monthly to keep the programming going. Don’t put it off. While you’re at it, send a praise-filled email to the host or production team.
4. Find a blogger who’s been slammed with cruel, vicious comments lately. Send them an email. Say something kind. Encourage them to keep writing.
5. Choose a local show (improv, stand-up comedy, indie rock), convince a bunch of friends to buy tickets, and go see it. It can be an in-person show or a virtual show. Turn off your phones and give these performers your complete, undivided attention. Applaud vigorously. Make these hardworking performers feel like the superstars that they are.
6. Choose a struggling (or not-so-struggling) artist and publicly thank them for adding beauty and inspiration to the world. Post a positive review online. Mention them in your newsletter. Or send a personal note to say, “I love your work. Please keep going.”
7. Choose a big-name celebrity that you admire and write them a genuine, heartfelt letter of thanks. Just to say, “Your work really moves me, and I appreciate what you do.” Send this note with no strings attached and no expectation of a reply. Purely just to say thank you.
8. If you see a couple—and they’re trying to take a selfie of themselves while on a romantic date or trip—ask, “Would you like me to take that photo for you?” Offer to help. Capture the moment. Extra credit: ask, “How did you two meet?” and give them an opportunity to tell you their love story.
9. Send a bouquet of flowers to someone you love—to celebrate something specific or for no particular reason at all. It’s old-school and always a classic. Alternate ideas: send a potted plant rather than cut flowers, send a pizza delivery, or make a contribution to a great cause in their honor.
10. Sponsor a local yoga class. Buy 10 or 20 spots and give them away. You can give out passes to friends, colleagues, neighbors, or strangers. Or tell the studio, “The next 20 people who come in can take class for free. I’d like to pay for their spot in advance.” Yoga for everybody!
11. Tell a teenager: “You are so brilliant. I can’t wait to see who you become. And I love who you are right now.”
12. Tell your mom (or someone who feels like your mom): “You raised me right. Here is one of the biggest lessons I’ve learned from you: _______________.” [fill in the blank]
13. Tell your dad (or someone who feels like your dad): “You’ve given me so many gifts. Like the ability to _______________. Thank you.” [fill in the blank]
14. Be like Diane von Furstenberg and start your day by sending out one email specifically designed to help somebody else—without directly benefiting you at all—before you do anything else. Make introductions, send encouragement, offer a helpful resource or link.
15. Go through your closet and donate items to Dress For Success—or its equivalent in your country. You’ll declutter your wardrobe and help a job seeker feel more confident at their next interview.
16. Put away your phone and close down your inbox for a day—or even just an hour. Give the world the gift of your undivided, non-digital attention.
17. Experiment with Tonglen meditation: inhale suffering (yours and others), exhale compassion (for the whole world).
18. Tip generously. Not sure how much? This is how much. Except double it.
19. Record an audio message for someone you’ve been meaning to thank for a while. Text it to them and tell them: “Keep this audio note and play it whenever you’re doubting your awesomeness.”
20. Buy a coffee or meal for a stranger and start a magical chain reaction.
21. Do somebody else’s laundry. Or give someone a gift card for a laundry service so they can outsource this task. Brighten their day and ask for nothing in return. (They might weep with gratitude.)
22. Turn a photo from your smartphone into a real postcard. Send it.
23. Give someone a grrrrreat massage. Here’s how.
24. When a friend tells you a piece of good news, respond with sincere enthusiasm. Make a fuss over them and say, “This is amazing news. We need to celebrate!” Whether it’s a new job, big client, moving to a new home, or something else, plan a celebration for your friend and do something to mark the moment. (Often, we rush through life so quickly and forget to take time to pause and acknowledge our victories. Helping a friend celebrate is such a generous gesture.)
25. Overwhelmed with too many things to read? Instead of canceling your newspaper or magazine subscriptions, donate them to a local school for a few months until you’re ready to start receiving them again.
26. Waiting in line? Strike up a conversation with somebody who looks bored, numb, or checked out. Start by asking: “What was the best part of your day?”
27. Applying for a job? Trying to woo a client? Or make a friend? Send them something helpful and astonishingly generous—before asking for anything. (Here’s an example.)
28. Create a generous “auto-responder” (sometimes called an “out-of-office” message or “vacation auto-reply” message) for your email—full of links, resources, fun videos, answers to commonly asked questions, a complimentary gift, or whatever else you want to include. This is an easy way to offer people something inspiring, entertaining, and helpful (or all of the above!) automatically. They can enjoy the cool stuff while they await your reply. (Want to see some creative examples? Check this out.)
29. Buy a massage for a veteran of war. Just contact a massage therapist, make a payment, and then contact your local veteran’s health administration and pass along the details.
30. Reach out to a friend who’s been having a rough time. Say, “I know you’re dealing with a lot right now. I’d like to do something to make your life a tiny bit easier—to provide some relief. Here are 3 things I could do for you: (1) _________ (2) _________ (3) _________. Please let me know if you’d like 1, 2, or all 3. It would bring me joy to do this.”
Fill in the blanks with things you’d be willing to do, such as cooking a meal, babysitting the kids, driving them to a doctor’s appointment, cleaning (or sending a housekeeper over to tidy up their home), or whatever you want to do.
Note: instead of asking, “What can I do to help you? Please tell me what you need,” provide 2-3 options and ask your friend to pick what they want. This might be less overwhelming for your friend and can make it easier for them to accept help.
31. Make a playlist of uplifting music. Title your playlist: “Music to create hope,” “Music for motivation,” or “Listen to this when you want to feel lifted and inspired.” Share the playlist with a few friends, colleagues at work, or one special person in your life.
32. Pick your favorite small business, service provider, or freelancer who’s incredible at what they do. Tell 3 friends about them. Say, “You need to hire this person. You will be so happy you did.” Send new business their way. They’ll be so delighted!
33. Leave a wrapped gift on top of your trash can with a note for your friendly neighborhood waste disposal professional. Or leave an envelope with a cash tip. They deal with unspeakable filth, every week, all for YOU.
34. Brew a big pot of coffee. Fill up some eco-friendly cups. Offer free coffee to joggers who are going by your home, or to everyone at work, or to everyone at the bus stop, etc.
35. Buy a gift for a total stranger. (Search wishlists here.)
37. Choose a friend. Grab a blank notebook. (Or this book.) Fill the book with love notes and compliments written by you and by other people, too. Give it to your friend. Now they have an entire book filled with reasons why they are awesome. They can flip through this book any time they’re feeling down.
38. If you have a colleague who is self-employed, encourage them to charge more. Tell them, “You provide incredible value. You deserve to be paid what you’re worth. I think you should raise your rates. If that’s something you want to do—I’d love to help you do it.” If they’re open to it, help them brainstorm, strategize, and figure out a plan to roll out the new (higher) pricing.
39. Leave a platter of homemade treats in the common area of your office or apartment building. Extra credit: provide a list of ingredients (for folks who have food sensitivities).
40. Pray for someone. If you don’t pray: send love.
41. Nominate someone for an award—and then cross your fingers and hope that they win! Such as: The Webby Awards, The Stevie Awards, a Book Award, The Black Podcasting Awards, The BEQ Pride Trailblazer Award, The National Small Business Award, or a local award in your city, state, or region. You could also make up an award (such as, “Best Dog Walker of the Century”) and present it to someone you love.
42. Help someone land their dream job or dream client. Tell them, “I’d love to proofread your resume and check for typos.” “Would you like me to take a quick look at that email before you send it?” “Want to borrow my lucky blazer for your interview?” Tell them, “You’ve got this.”
43. Volunteer to mentor an aspiring entrepreneur through your local SCORE chapter. (You don’t have to be an “expert” or know “everything.” You just have to know a few things—enough to help someone get started on their journey.
44. Go to the art supply/craft section of a local shop and leave a note that says, “Your art makes the world more beautiful.” The right person will find it, exactly when they need it.
45. Leave a rave review for your favorite podcast, your favorite book, your favorite product, your favorite anything. Five stars!
46. Arrange a luxurious gift for a public school teacher. A concert pass. A nice bottle of wine. They work incredibly hard for incredibly low pay. Send some love.
47. Plan a weekly co-working session and invite a friend to join you (either online or in-person). Tell them, “Let’s get together, once a week, and use this time to work on our goals.” Use this time to write your novel, finish your dissertation, map out your marketing plan, onboard new clients, declutter your home, whatever you want to accomplish. This will be hugely beneficial for you—and your friend, too. They’ll be grateful that you took the initiative to plan this weekly get-it-done date.
48. Ask someone, “How are you doing—really?” Give them the opportunity to share what’s really going on. Listen without interrupting. Give them the gift of your presence and attention.
49. Set a boundary and actually enforce it. This might be, “Actually, I don’t work on weekends.” “No, I don’t offer discounts for my services.” “I’m not available to meet until 2 weeks from now.” “My phone will be off for the rest of the day.” “I can deliver this project next Friday, but not before then.” Why is it generous to enforce a boundary? Because when someone witnesses you doing this, they will realize, “I can do this, too.” They’ll be inspired by your behavior and feel permission to set their own healthy boundaries, too. You’re leading by example.
50. Start this 50-day cycle of generosity all over again. Just because you can.
About the Author
Alexandra Franzen (who goes by “Alex”) is a best-selling author, award-winning editor, and entrepreneur based in Hawaii. She’s the co-founder of Get It Done. In addition, she works as a copywriter for top brands. She has written six books including two novels, and has contributed to Time, Forbes, Newsweek, and Lifehacker.
Her work has been mentioned in The New York Times Small Business Blog, The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Times, Fast Company, BuzzFeed, Inc., and she once appeared on the Peabody Award-winning radio show, Marketplace.
Alex deleted all of her social media accounts 8 years ago. She’s known for writing essays on technology, mental health, and why we all need to unplug more. If you’re self-employed and curious about quitting social media (or want to cut back and use it less), check out The Marketing Without Social Media Course, which includes 100 ways to find clients/customers without social media.