No strings attachedThe Awesome Foundation was born in Boston in 2009, when a group of high-tech workers decided to donate their own money with no strings attached.
It's since grown into a global movement with more than 50 chapters worldwide, 14 of them in Canadian towns and cities.
Unlike a charity, there are no conditions, something even the recipients find a little weird.
"We really do mean no strings," says Ocampo-Gooding.
"Sometimes people are like, 'I would like to give the money back, the project didn't work out.' We say 'No, it's yours. Figure out something great to do with it.'"
Organic farming and dance parties: also awesomeValerie Stam is also a fellow of the Awesome Ottawa chapter.
People take part in a 'Dance dance office revolution' on Sparks Street in Ottawa last summer, a project funded by an Awesome Ottawa grant. (Awesome Ottawa)She rhymes off some of her favourite projects so far: an organic gardening program that allows seniors to grow their own food, a project that gives Karen refugees from Burma a chance to farm the land near Ottawa, and one of her favourites, a lunchtime dance party on the street in downtown Ottawa this August.
"On one level I think it's just getting us out of ordinary everyday experience," she said. "Dance dance office revolution ... that was an experience that takes people out of ordinary office day jobs and allows them to have something special."
The dance party was a huge success — in a city that's not known for getting down.
Unlike with traditional charties, the appeal of the Awesome Foundation is the knowledge that every dollar goes to the person with the idea.
Stam works in the non-profit sector and says she feels empowered when she has a say.
"I give to charity regularly anyway. But here I get more say in where my money goes. It's a way of giving money to projects that are worthy, but can't fit the not-for-profit mould."
In other words, it's not just cutting a cheque — it's committing the time to deciding who is awesome enough to deserve the money.
It's a different form of giving Stam hopes will catch on.
Since its humble beginnings, many Awesome Foundation chapters have sprung up globally to conserve, sustain, and support the worldwide ecosystem of awesomeness. Projects have included efforts in a wide range of areas including technology, arts, social good, and beyond.