The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation
In the late 80s and early 90s, a summer of violence broke out in the San Francisco Bay Area, and it was known as a time when “random acts of violence” occurred. In lieu of the violence, journalist Anne Herbert called for a societal re-focus: for people to concern themselves with kindness rather than violence. Herbert began a column that told the stories of people doing kind acts in their community, and the popularity of the column would be the beginning of the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. In 2000, the organization expanded to Colorado, and is now thriving as an online source of kindness inspiration.
The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation, also known as RAK, seeks to inspire and provide resources for people to take action and promote kindness. These resources include things such as stories, quotes, videos, ideas, and principles that show people what kindness looks like, and in turn inspire them to show kindness in their own communities.
Kelsey Gryniewicz is the Communications Director at RAK, and got involved with the organization when she was looking for more purpose and meaning in her own work. She was attracted to RAK’s mission, and has been with them for about 5 years where she gets to spread kindness full time.
The company is combined of a small, mighty team that embodies what kindness is and embraces the idea of “Wherever you are, leave it better than you found it.” Kelsey said, “You don’t have to be part of a non-profit, make a huge donation or grandiose gesture to make an impact or positive difference. It can be something as small as smiling at someone everyday.” Sending a note of gratitude, buying someone coffee. It’s these small acts that cause a ripple effect.
Kelsey acknowledged two obstacles the organization initially faced.They first questioned what their focus should be on. Kelsey said, “We can’t be everything to everyone, so we had to determine the best outlet to focus our resources.” The outlet would be kindness in education. The other obstacle is how to measure success of kindness.
Well, kindness knows no measure, but Kelsey has seen the impact firsthand and said she’s “Overwhelmed by the number of people who seek RAK and want to get involved.”
Kindness in Education and Online
RAK’s two ongoing initiatives are a K-12 curriculum for schools and educators, which has over 300,000 downloads across the world, and the Raktavist program (Random Acts of Kindness Activists), which consists of those who are devoted to connecting with other like-minded people to spread kindness in their communities. The education component was built out of a desire to channel kindness somewhere more specific. When the company first started in 2000, they focused broadly on kindness, but they weren’t seeing any lasting impact. Seven years ago, they decided to channel kindness more narrowly by constructing the education curriculum. From there, they established the Raktivist program.
There are over 9,000 Raktavists in 87 countries from ages 14-89. RAK prides themselves in having a diverse community of participants. Anyone who comes to the website can apply for this position. Those who apply to be Raktivists share their own kindness stories and express how small acts of kindness are what inspired them to become part of the movement. They then participate in monthly kindness missions and are engaged in a private Facebook group where they share daily kindness stories.
4 Steps to Kindness
RAK’s curriculum is based on a 4-step process: Inspire, Empower, Act, and Share. The inspiration comes from sources such as shared ideas, quotes, and stories. The empowerment is done through discussion, where students learn the tools to spread kindness. To act, students are then taught how to mobilize kindness in their every day lives. Lastly, the students share the kindness they’ve experienced, which encourages them to keep the cycle going.
The Future of RAK
In addition to the education and online elements of RAK, they plan on releasing curriculums for both the workplace and college campuses to further spread kindness in more communities. Over the next three years, RAK plans to engage millennials in their own communities, such as at universities, the workplace, and in the media. The goal is to mobilize such leaders who are passionate about kindness through online engagement. Because media is such a large component of culture, RAK will seek out how they can best encourage leaders to make a difference through this outlet.
How You Can Help
RAK is organically grown and privately funded through an endowment, so they don’t do any fundraising, advertisements or accept donations. In the future, they hope to form some partnerships with like-minded organizations so they can further their mission. However, you can get involved with RAK right now by either finding inspiration through their site, applying to become a Raktivist, or, for educators, implementing their lesson plan into your curriculum.