[email protected] Revealed: Making Generosity Go Viral

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Give away a dollar, and you’ll make someone’s day. Teach someone to give, and they’ll make a difference for a lifetime.The anonymous duo behind the @HiddenCash Twitter account didn’t quite realize that was the point when they started hiding envelopes of money and tweeting clues to their locations.

With over 700,000 Twitter followers, they’ve become de facto leaders of an accidental movement to remind people there’s some good in the world and inspire them to pay it forward. The previously unnamed half of @HiddenCash agreed to reveal his identity to me, along with the story of how it all started, on a cool night in San Francisco’s Mission District.

Behind The @

His name is Yan Budman, and he fittingly works a the Director of Marketing at Indiegogo, which lets people donate to creative projects. Budman’s eyes squinch up to make room for the giant smiles he’s prone to. It’s the contented grin of a thirty-something nice-guy who’s recently spent a lot of time watching people overwhelmed with glee thanks to his clandestine adventures. This Storify he made shows off a slew of HiddenCash missions and the people they touched.

@HiddenCash began after his longtime pal Jason Buzi (previously outed via voice recognition from a phone interview) came into a little money from a business deal. Driving through the Mission around midnight, Buzi noticed a man who seemed down on his luck on the side of the road. He tried to hand some money to him, but scared him off. “There’s probably a better way to do this,” Budman said. “Like what? We’ll just hide money around?” Buzi replied.

It turned out to be that simple.

Buzi had never head of Twitter but Budman had been onboard since 2008. He quickly snapped a photo of Buzi’s fist filled with money, and grabbed the handle @HiddenCash. The duo hid the first few wads of dough near some of their favorite businesses like Yoga To The People and Sightglass Coffee, where they hoped people would donate to instructors or buy some strangers a cup of joe.

@HiddenCash

The positive feedback started rolling in immediately. Followers liked searching for the money, even if they didn’t find it. @HiddenCash started talking up the idea of people sharing the cash they found to make an impact on someone else. Several successful cash hunters pledged to pay it forward, with one planning to use the money they found to buy books for a community library. After few more “drops,” Budman tells me, “addiction set in.”

Suddenly, the whole thing took off. Within two weeks , the project had been featured on top news outlets like the BBC, and the Twitter account had boomed to a half million followers.

“People were just coming out and meeting each other and really connecting in a positive way. The majority of people weren’t even finding money. There were a lot of parents of kids who were like ‘I went to the beach and they didn’t find anything but they want to give their allowance to the homeless or someone on their way home’. It started creating this movement.”

A lady just handed my little sister a box and walked away? whoever it was thank you!!

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