My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)


(Photo: Sanctuary Photography)

34. I’m turning a glorious 34 this year, right about now.

It’s going to be a great natal year–-I can already feel it. Perhaps it will be good luck for you, too: in this post, I’m giving away a round-trip ticket anywhere in the world.

But back to that strange birthday gift…

Much to the chagrin of my momma-san, I’ve become quite difficult to buy presents for. Some friends even think I’m impossible to find presents for.

It’s not entirely true. I love handwritten letters, home-made brownies (like Fred Wilson), girlfriends dressed in next to nothing, and–-most of all-–when people do something nice for others.

In lieu of gifts this year, my birthday wish is to help the poorest kids in the world learn to read. I believe literacy, and the self-determinism it allows, is fundamental to solving the problems of this world. Want an alternative to extremist terrorist schools, to have fewer welfare states, or to prosper with better economies? Teach people to read and help themselves…

On a personal level: can you imagine never having read a book? Never being able to satisfy your intellectual curiosity? That’s unacceptable.

Since I am turning 34 this year, if you feel so inclined, please help me build a library for children through Room to Read by donating $34 (or whatever you can) to my donation page (give it a minute to load). Readers on this blog have already changed the world in real, significant ways, like this school in Vietnam that you all built!

A stand-alone library costs just $20,000 and can provide the educational foundation for multiple generations of kids. Here are two additional kickers:

– If you all help raise $20,000, I will personally foot the bill for another $20,000 library.
– I will put the names of the top 20 donors (and one person below) on dedication plaques placed on each library, 10 people per library. These are real libraries that will be finished in 2013, which you can see with your own eyes. It’s an incredible feeling you’ll never forget.

If we don’t reach $20,000, the funds will still go to Room to Read directly for building schools. If we raise more than $20,000, all extra funds will go to building more schools.

Beyond the good karma, I’ll add another incentive to act now: a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the world that Star Alliance flies, which is just about everywhere. There is no expiration date on the trip, so no rush on deciding where or when to go. Here’s how it works:

No later than 11:59pm PST this Sunday, July 31st:
– Spread the word however you can. Send people to this post or to my library page.
– Leave a comment below telling me what you did (Facebook, Twitter, e-mail blast, add to your e-mail signature, encourage employees/friends to do the same, etc.). Measurement of any type gets huge bonus points.
– Lastly, answer the following question at the top of your comment: “What does education mean to you?”

I’ll pick the top five promoters, and you’ll all vote on the winner of the round-trip. Easy peazy. This winner will also get his or her name on one of the school plaques as a top donor. Pretty sweet, right? Perhaps that’s where you’ll globetrot with your free round-trip ticket?

But the best reason of all…

Beyond the bribes, you’ll feel awesome about yourself for doing real good for little ‘uns who have so little, perhaps no future without education. Trust me.

Superman is not coming to help these kids, nor is the government–will you pause for a moment and step up for even two minutes? It would mean the world to me. I’ll share pictures and updates from first construction to opening day.

Again, here is where to go to donate $34, $1, $1,000, or whatever you can.

Thank you for reading this post. You are all rock stars, and I continue to write on this blog purely because of you.

Posted on: July 29, 2011.

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331 comments on “My Unusual $20,000 Birthday Gift (Plus: Free Roundtrip Anywhere in the World)

  1. Seriously awesome. Bravo, my friend.

    I’ll get the word out on my twitter, facebook, and email list.

    I would rather not be entered into the contest–you’ve already done a lot for me, so please leave that glorious prize for someone else–but as you know education means everything. Literacy has been my savior.

    Donating now.

    Great job.


  2. Another spectacular birthday event. Congrats. And just to clarify is it Sunday August 31 or July 31? (Cos 8/31 is a Wednesday).


  3. Awesome Tim! Happy Birthday and what a great cause to donate to. The ability to read and comprehend has been one of the biggest tools to my personal success and I know that it will make a difference for others as well.


  4. Howdy

    What does education mean to me? It means gaining the freedom to explore a far large and more interesting world than a person could have imagined. Education also allows for insight and understanding into people and cultures that are different from ones own. But it also gives a person a chance to determine their own path in life and shape the world around them to be a better and more enlightened place than how they found it.

    For my part in this I’ll be sending out the word on Facebook, Twitter, and via e-mail. Even in the age of the internet a library is an important and valuable resource for anyone seeking knowledge or entertainment.

    – Kris Busby


    • Kris, so well said! Education is and has been the foundation of civilization on all levels. I just find it so sad that people concentrate all their efforts to help children only in Africa and the East (commendable though) whereas Europe is mostly ignored, probably because it is thought to be a well educated continent. However, that is surprisingly not true. I am thinking of a country like the Ukraine where the conditions in some of their orphanages are totally appalling! Apart from near starvation the children are put out in the streets at the age of 14 without any education whatsoever, mostly becoming part of street gangs and a world of crime just to survive. Just thought I should mention that.
      Tim, 34 is still very young. I wish you a birthday filled with inner peace.


  5. To me education means possibilities.

    I Just added this link to Facebook, Tweeted the link and Blasted my sales team with a donation pwn!


  6. Tim, this is a super idea! As a teacher (at the post-secondary level) I get many students right out of high school that struggle in a college environment due to literacy and reading comprehension problems. I am an avid reader and I could not imagine having never experienced the joy that books can bring. Education is such an important part of being successful at anything. Being able to read opens up the minds to new possibilities and enables the seeds of knowledge to grow.

    I have posted your link on my facebook page and to my twitter followers of other teachers, former students and colleagues that will hopefully feel the same way I do. Sorry I could not give more :( I think what you are doing is fantastic and I hope you raise your money quickly!


  7. This is the kind of thing that makes you truly remarkable, Tim. We’ve got to keep people engaged in books. (I’m kind of sick of people not knowing proper spelling and grammar.) Books are wonderful. They can take us anywhere, and they keep our minds sharp.

    I’ll be reading about this project’s success, for sure.


  8. Hi Tim,
    As an educator, education means the world to me. Watching a child’s eyes come alive when they learn something means so much. This is a great thing you are doing. I’ve shared this on Facebook, “Liked” the blog on Facebook, and then “tweeted” it.
    Thanks for doing this, and I hope you have a great birthday.


  9. To me education means being able to improve your personal situation. Given nothing else, if all you have is an education, you have been empowered to live life to the fullest and the sky is the limit. With an education, we can all achieve our dreams!

    I have added the link to your library fundraiser onto my email signature, made it my status on Facebook, tweeted about it, and told my family about your goals and reasons behind the goal.


  10. You are undoubtedly one of the most unique people I have ever met.

    I will take you up on your offer, give a donation and spread the word via social media, email, etc. whatever creative ways I can think of – for this outstanding cause!!

    Books will transform their lives and give them a vision for their future.


    • Update:
      What does education mean to me?
      Education in its many forms, is a vehicle that will allow anyone with a strong desire and belief in themselves to accomplish ANYTHING they set their mind to.
      Time and time again I have seen, heard, and experienced situations and people who have harnessed education and used it to achieve dreams that otherwise would not have been reachable.
      Never stop learning! Never!

      I posted links on Fb and twitter and captured images of them if you want proof, not sure how to post that here…
      Made donation and talked with husband about why I chose this organization.
      BTW, Happy Birthday!!


  11. Great move,… Happy Birthday, getting the work out by FB and mail. I imagine not being able to read like being in a country where you don’t speak a single word of the language. Reading is the basis of communication, it almost belongs to ones senses.

    All the best Tim, lets get the books out there.


  12. Education means freedom, choice, wonder, and possibility in life.
    What a great idea.
    Amazing, smart, and going in the right direction. Thank you for your incredible example. Happy 34th Birthday to you!
    I added it to my Facebook update, my twitter, and will include it in my next email to clients.



  13. Tim, Do you mean “This Sunday, July 31 instead of Aug 31?” I’m happy to post this on my FB and Twitter pages. We need literate children as much as they need trees.


  14. As an internet marketer, I have a handful of e-mail lists that all add up to about 8500 people. Between that and my friends and family on facebook, I will get the word out to about 9000 people and encourage them all to share this with their friends. For my e-mail lists I will offer a free ebook product to anyone who donates as an extra incentive.

    It’s hard for me to imagine what it would be like to not be able to read. Most of what I have learned in my life has been through self education, and without reading I would be lost. The beauty of what you’re doing here is that the trickle down effect of teaching someone to read is HUGE. What they can accomplish in their life, and how they can help others who also need it. As far as I’m concerned $20,000 is enough to help just ONE child, but know this will help many more than that is amazing.

    As another note, if I were to win the trip to anywhere in the world, I would plan to visit this library, or one similar to it, and raise funds to supply the library with computers and internet connections to help further their education.

    This has also inspired me to see if I can raise the funds to build my own library. Thanks Tim.


    • Update: Posted both to facebook, and did my email blast. For my email blast I promised a free ebook to anyone who donated that give tips on growing their own online business (this is what my list all about). Also, on top of that I did the same thing here that Tim did: I told everyone on my list to tell me how they got the word out about this, and tell me what education means to them. Out of those I will pick one and give them a free copy of my next product (online business video course – $500 value) EARLY, when it’s not scheduled to be released until mid september.


    • Hi Steve McBride, good Irish name. I will donate right now as I totally agree the trickle down effect is Huge. Another great Tim vision. Gary Mc


  15. Hey Tim, Just some days back I realized its time your birthday is coming soon and what will Tim have in mind this year.

    And here it is!

    I just wanted to be early to comment but will have a “grand” plan of promotion for the same.

    Will continue with my upcoming comment very shortly with some action steps taken.

    Abhinav Gulyani

    P.S. Happy birthday! And may god bless you with 10X more gratitude in the coming times ahead! Your increase in gratitude towards life in exchange helps the world around you! Enjoy the day!


  16. Tim – such a great idea, and great cause, kudos mate.
    Spreading the word on facebook, blog, twitter and G+. Books hold a special place in my heart – a crucial conduit for that timeless wisdom of the ages. The dedication in my first book read: “This, my first book is dedicated to the memory of my Mum, who taught me that knowledge holds power, and that knowledge when tempered with honesty, humility and love, becomes wisdom, true and timeless..” We didn’t always have a lot growing up, but we did have a lot of love and a lot of books!


  17. “What does education mean to me?” Great question and one that has certainly influenced my life.. that was the exact one I answered in a scholarship application essay in 2006 which won me a four-year fully paid tuition at the University of California. My answer then was “a combination of learning and doing” and thinking about it now, it still rings true.

    I might be deep deep deep in debt if it weren’t for that opportunity.

    Without reading I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today–growing my muse doing what I love designing and printing gangster-rap greeting cards, while living abroad. Literacy is an amazing skill and definitely one that should be available to all.

    Going to spread the good word every way I can. I would be honored to win the trip (currently planning an epic adventure with my great friend) but I’m here to support no matter what.

    Thanks Tim.

    Melissa Rachel Black