Danny Seo knows how to make a difference. When he was 12, he founded Earth 2000 National Inc., and he served as CEO until he was 19. Today, the award-winning nonprofit has more than 25,000 paid members.
Seo, now 22, has also written two books. His most recent book is a practical guide called "Heaven on Earth: 15-Minute Miracles to Change the World" (Pocket Books, 1999). "Most people say they're too busy to make a difference," says Seo. "But we all have at least 15 minutes a day. If you use that time well, 15 minutes can matter."
Recently, Fast Company spent a little more than 15 minutes with Seo, talking about how busy people can use their time wisely.
Create Mini Miracles
"When we say the word 'miracle,' our minds concoct dramatic scenarios — raising millions of dollars to find a cure for cancer, for example. But there are concrete, small things you can do. A good example: Donate your airline frequent-flier miles to an organization that flies sick kids to treatment centers and hospitals. Also, when you travel, collect bottles of shampoo, conditioner, mouthwash, and bars of soap from hotels, then donate them to a local shelter."
Choose Your Cause Carefully
"It's important to figure out what you feel most passionate about. Your passion will be an asset to the cause. After that, you need to figure out what talents you can offer. For example, if you're in a marketing department, you can work on commercial materials, literature, and graphic design. Most nonprofits have enough volunteers to do the nitty-gritty stuff, but they never have enough professionals to support the organization."
Less Is More
"I don't believe that we have to choose between contributing something worthy to humanity — like fighting hunger, poverty, and abuse — and enjoying some hard-earned leisure time. That's why I believe in 15-minute miracles. One idea to simplify your mini-miracle work: When you contribute your time to an organization, don't donate specific blocks. Instead, ask the organization ahead of time what needs to be done. Finish your assigned project in an efficient manner and leave when you are finished."
Heavenly Tips to Avoid Hell
"One increasingly popular way to give to a charitable organization is by donating a used car. Most of these fund-raisers are scams. Sell the car and make a cash contribution. Also, avoid point-of-purchase giving. Who doesn't have 50 cents to spare to help a starving child? But the truth about these point-of-purchase boxes is that the charities receive a predetermined amount, sometimes as little as $1.50 per box per month. Collect your spare change in a jar and, at the end of the month, count it up and write a check to the charity for that amount."
Coordinates: Danny Seo, email@example.com, www.dannyseo.com
A version of this article appeared in the December 1999 issue of Fast Company magazine.