Anyone who has seen the film of the same name, released at the start of the Millenium, may well be familiar with the term 'Pay It Forward', and it hard to say anything negative about the concept.

In summary, a kind act of one person is rewarded by the receiver doing an act of kindness for two different people (usually strangers), who each in turn do the same, forming a 'virtuous pyramid' of uni-directional acts of kindness. Some of these acts may be simple, and others may be life changing (as in the theme of the film), but where did such an amazing idea come from?

Over 100 years ago, an author by the name of Lily Hardy Hammond coined the phrase of the age-old concept, but the popularity went 'mainstream' with the success of the film about the principle, and the random acts of kindness of audience members turned this concept into reality. Originally in the USA, and now globally, there is even now a 'Pay it forward' day, taking place on April 28th. Put it in your diaries, as no doubt Aurora will be planning to celebrate!


In a seminar recently, we talked about a fictitious but legendary lady called 'Gina the cupcake maker' who had taken her passion and transformed it into a business. We talked about how, despite being so good at what she did best, still never made it in business. Her futile efforts to become an expert in everything else but her passion, in order to keep her business afloat, left poor Gina to be over-worked, under-paid, and spending less time making cupcakes than she did when it was a mere hobby.

Our participatory audience keenly contributed with not only to what Gina could have done differently to have stood a chance, but also with what they could have each done to help her, asking for nothing in return.

Paying it forward is not just about the perpetuation of random acts of kindness for strangers, but instead more about helping people out of holes they can't escape by themselves. We at Aurora has create a scheme, for homeless charities, where a homeless person can carry a special card, not asking for money, but instead asking to 'connect', allowing people to learn about them, how they got where they are, how they will get out of the hole, and how people can make a real difference, without even contributing financially. (contact us for more information).


Pay It Forward may be a great concept, but everything has a cost. As with all great things, there are always the 'piranhas' looking to take advantage of good natured giving individuals, who leave themselves vulnerable to being taken advantage of. Giving is not just a financial donation, but an emotional one, and vulnerability often ahs its greatest effect at the emotional level. Also, with many people looking at ways of pretending to have a problem, simply to scam others, this leaves the kind natured people as vulnerable. Recently, I heard of a lady going to a petrol station in the late afternoon, claiming to be stuck wthout her purse, and not being able to get to collect her children from school unless someone could 'lend' her the money. Even with her registration number, a working mobile phone number, and other 'reassurances' that this person was genuine, that was the last they saw of her, never being paid back. Kind people, and apparently lots of them, had all paid for her petrol, to help get her out of that 'hole', only to be scammed. Those generous givers may have lost the money for the petrol, but their greater loss is an emotional one, and their trust in humanity.

Pay It Forward, however, is not about being paid back for kind acts (although recognition, gratitude, and any assistance is always heartfelt to receive), but historically about one way acts of kindness to those in need. Sadly, some people, like the one behind 'the petrol station parent scam', are always looking for ways you to live off the backs of others, so do be warned, and never give more than you are willing to lose if the 'victim' turns out to only be doing it for their own advantage.

With over 200,000 charities in the UK, the number of them resorting to guilt and emotional pressure has increased to the point that people have become numb. Donor fatigue, where people are worn out from trying to help, has become donor apathy, where people become so disocciated from these causes that the cause no longer has any emotional relevance.

Aurora's whole business model and ethos is actually built around satisfying the needs of everyone they come into contact with, focusing on their needs first, before looking at their own. Using the principle of 'WiiFT' (What's In It For Them!), Aurora considers the needs of customers, businesses, charities, suppliers, partners, bloggers, advertisers, and each and every stakeholder, to make sure that they each get out of it far more than they put in! Sadly, not many other businesses think like that, and those that do often give away so much of themselves, that they cannot function. Aurora works with them to help them to create a sustainable business model that can help them make a profit, and still be proud of who they are.

We believe that businesses that develop a sustainable business model considering the Pay it forward principle, and 'WiiFT' are the ones that will solidiy their longer term place in the future.

But the 'PIF' principle is a good one, and my experience is that there are so many ways we can each help others, that thse that truly deserve it tend to be recognised. Call it modern day 'Karma'.

Pay-It Forward may be a very old concept, but in the business world, we believe if honourably and congruently done, it will be nothing short of revolutionary.