Jared Paul’s life changed after he chose meaning over money. He abandoned a successful six-figure sales career and started a nonprofit organization, A Good Idea, in the summer of 2008.
“In April of 2008, I went through a life transformation: The more money I made, the more stressed I became, the more my passions began to fade, and the more I stopped dreaming,” says Paul, 33, who had flourished in a variety of sales positions for nearly 10 years.
Amid dissatisfaction with his job and his personal life, Paul decided to dedicate himself to making a difference. So he reached out to people via Facebook and Craigslist and began an informal discussion group that met at the Red Vic Peace Café in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. The meetings led to the birth of A Good Idea (AGI).
“A Good Idea is a vehicle for social change that connects people in need with people who want to help,” explains Paul.
“One of our first events was called Intentional Acts of Kindness, where we would do acts of kindness to complete strangers,” Paul recalls. “When the San Francisco Chronicle decided to do a news piece, we received over 250 e-mails from people who were inspired and wanted to be part of A Good Idea. That’s when things really took off.”
In two years, Paul notes, AGI has been awarded an Acts of Kindness award from the American Red Cross, earned $25,000 as one of the top 100 charities (out of 500,000) in the Chase Community Giving Campaign on Facebook and seen its volunteer base expand to more than 6,000 people.
“Through service in action, we provide opportunities for people to build empathy and compassion and then become inspired to continue using their skills and talents to help others,” Paul says.
Paul credits his Jewish background and upbringing for providing such a firm moral and ethical template for AGI’s mission.
“Judaism is about community,” Paul says. “And there’s a lot of philanthropy in the Jewish community. My parents instilled those Jewish values in me.”
AGI’s next major philanthropic endeavor is a fully accredited high school and residential village for homeless teens. The Hope Academy of Arts & Sciences “will be the first school of its kind in San Francisco,” says Paul. “The focus is on getting the students to attend college.
“The curriculum will include basic life skills with unique lessons on music and the arts,” he continues. “Everything will be designed to teach them how to become compassionate, well-rounded adults. The school will be a nurturing environment combined with top-notch academics.”
Focusing on education, especially for teens in crisis situations, is also part of Paul’s Jewish heritage.
“Every young person deserves an opportunity for an excellent education,” Paul says firmly. “And more so for homeless teens: Education is a road out of poverty.”
In addition to grand philanthropic plans, such as the school, AGI distinguishes itself from many other nonprofits by hosting monthly Call to Arms events. The next one is Thursday, April 22, when AGI volunteers will hand out clothing, food, sleeping bags and hygiene products to the homeless on the streets of San Francisco.
“Through our Call to Arms events,” Paul says, “we try to break down barriers and come to where the homeless live.”
AGI will also host a picnic for the city’s homeless in July, says Paul. “We are changing the previously dysfunctional charity paradigms with unique and creative service in action.”
After being the top producer at a media dot-com in New York City and starting his own successful business in Texas, Paul’s life has become “passionate and purposeful” through service in action to others.
“I did have a successful business career,” he says. “But now people in the business world are coming to us. I have fewer concerns about money than when I was making six figures.”
Paul says simply that he created AGI and the experience has changed his and so many lives. “Everyone is in need of something, whether it’s basic survival, such as a meal or a jacket, or a higher-level need such as inspiration or purpose. AGI believes the simple act of connecting with others in the name of positive social change can satisfy all of our needs.”
For information about A Good Idea, visit www.agoodideasf.org.