Thursday, April 29, 2010

UOWHO: The Random Acts of Kindness Bracelet

April 29, 2010 is Pay It Forward Day

© 2010
by Joyce Mason

I am a great proponent of acts of kindness, random or otherwise. I discovered UOWHO (You Owe Who?) on Twitter. I knew you’d want to hear about this unique idea for fundraising, fun raising, and raising your KQ—Kindness Quotient. Anyone who has ever seen the movie, Pay It Forward, knows the gist of doing kind things for no good reason other than it’s a great way to live. The consequences can be amazing, what I call a divine domino effect. The Good Samaritan in the Bible is another great example of someone with a high KQ. I was raised by parents whose KQs were off the charts.

How Kindness Bracelets Work

The UOWHO bracelet acts as a physical, tangible reminder for people to “pay it forward.” Its creator, Lloyd DeShane, sees it as an encouragement and an inspiration to physically get out there and commit an act of kindness.

According to Lloyd, there a quite a few kindness initiatives out there and many aim to inspire people to “pay it forward.” But with our busy lives and with so many daily distractions, it’s not always easy to remember to be on the lookout constantly for someone who might be in need of some help. On the other hand:

If you are wearing a UOWHO bracelet on your wrist, you not only have that reminder but, in passing your bracelet on, there is a much higher likelihood that the recipient will actually pay forward your act of kindness.

When you help someone out, you pull out one of the ten little tabs from the bracelet, tell the recipient what the concept of the UOWHO bracelet is all about and ask them to pay it forward to someone else. When you see from the number of tabs removed that others have paid forward acts of kindness done for them, it acts as a further encouragement for the latest recipient to keep the chain of giving active.

It’s very hard for someone to receive a bracelet that represents six other people's acts of kindness and then not carry that on. In that way, each bracelet has the potential to reach ten people in all. If you didn't have that reminder, that physical encouragement, it would be all too easy not to follow through. That is the power of these “giving” bracelets. They are a physical, tangible and very proactive way to spread a very positive message. Couple that with the ability for groups to brand the bracelets for fundraising and awareness creation and you have a very powerful and positive tool at your command.

User Feedback

A number of people that have used the UOWHO bracelets agree it‘s an emotional high.

The power of kindness works in reverse and brings happiness to the giver of the kindness as well as the receiver.

Lloyd mentions a reaction I share: being a bit apprehensive about talking to or helping strangers even when seeing a need. The bracelet can act as an icebreaker, an excuse to help. “The bracelet made me do it!”

Where the Idea Came From

“The idea came to me in church,” Lloyd says, “but I really don’t want people to think this is a faith-based only concept. I believe it is applicable to everyone. Our church talks a lot about being bold and living by example. Ideas come to me all the time as a mechanical design engineer. My family and I often get involved in community projects and we enjoy giving. The challenge for this was to come up with something simple that would spark others to join in and continue the giving.”

“UOWHO came to me simply by thinking about all the people I owe, who have done kind things for me and my family. UOWHO (You-Owe-Who?) is also a question I ask myself every day, if I see someone in need. Don’t I owe it to them to help or at least try?”

One of a Kindness

"Pay it Forward, the sponsor of Pay It Forward Day, is a fantastic organization and I am very impressed when people reference us as similar.” Lloyd also told me that Pay it Forward primarily deals with big projects in time and money, all wonderful contributions. UOWHO, by contrast, is designed on a small, more personal scale to be just as important. It encourages taking time every day as opportunities present themselves to help people. These windows to help can run the gamut from the obvious—helping someone with directions or lifting something heavy— to the not so obvious. An example of the latter is checking with a neighbor to be sure everything is OK, if you notice their car hasn’t been moved in a few days or the grass hasn’t been cut in several weeks.

Kindness Bracelet Stories

Lloyd shared two of his favorite examples:

• A schoolteacher bought bracelets for all her students. Two weeks later, she had car trouble on a major freeway and a man stopped to help her. He presented a UOWHO bracelet to her and explained the concept. He turned out to be the father of one of her students.

• A youth group leader in a small town in Illinois bought bracelets for her youth group to pass out to the entire church. She has seen the bracelets all over her community, in businesses and at the market; she has heard stories of spreading kindness. She is beaming with excitement as the person that instigated the chain reaction of kind deeds.

Cumulative Kindness Energy

I was curious to know what it feels like to be one of the later recipients of the passed-on bracelet. I suspected it would feel even better, knowing you were completing a long chain of kind acts. Lloyd confirmed he’d heard stories to that effect. One person claimed the bracelet has more energy as it gets closer to the tenth act of kindness. She called it Cumulative Kindness Energy.

Reasonable Prices—on Purpose

One of the things I love most is the reasonable price—$1 per bracelet—which makes them accessible to individuals, fund-raising groups, churches—anyone, really. I was curious who uses them most.

From the start, it was important to UOWHO that the idea behind the bracelets is about the giving, not about the bracelets themselves, especially as people would be giving them away soon after getting them. To persuade groups to use them as a tool to raise funds for their particular cause, it was very important that they could be manufactured and purchased at a low cost. The goal was to keep the sale point to the final customer as close to the $1 mark as possible. Kids were always going to be an important part of making the UOWHO concept work. They have no fear in doing a kindness for a stranger and are an added inspiration in getting adults actively involved. It was vital to keep the price affordable and attractive to youngsters.

Bracelets are offered to fund-raising organizations for $0.60 each, so they can use the profits to fund programs as they sell them at $1.00. Adults are equally enthusiastic about the bracelets. There’s an equal split, now, between children and adults. The kindness bracelet is a simple concept that fits into everyday life, including school, work, church or wherever you happen to be.

Guerilla Marketing, Guerilla Kindness

Bracelets can be personalized with a company’s logo or website. Using these bracelets in business has many benefits. Committing random acts of kindness is a very proactive and positive thing to do. It creates a lot of good feelings and some great personal stories. It’s good PR to have your group's logo on a bracelet. Awareness of your group and your cause is spread as the bracelet passes from person to person. UOWHO bracelets and their chain reaction of giving was once called guerilla kindness, as in guerilla marketing.

The original idea was to give credit or visibility to the organization as the initiator of the kindness. Recipients of both a bracelet and an act of kindness would be appreciative to the individual as well as the company or organization that sponsored the bracelet. That also applies to companies looking for awareness— a great way to get your name out in a positive way.


With my eye for color, I was curious which color is the most popular. Lloyd said it was funny I should ask. The most popular color is the one he didn’t like, but his wife insisted on—black. The second most popular is purple. In addition to their standard colors, UOWHO offers a color match for organizations that want to purchase bracelets in lots of 250 or more.

Some people chose a color that matches what they’re wearing that day. (I would!) These bracelets have the potential to become a fashion statement, both from the kindness and color perspective!

The Kindness Community

UOWHO would love to collaborate with similar organizations in the future. An example of another organization with a similar theme is the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. UOWHO‘s view? There can never be too much kindness in the world. UOWHO doesn’t want to be in competition with others who are promoting their own kindness initiatives and is always happy to give the good works of others a plug. Different people have different approaches and preferences about how they perform their acts of kindness. There’s plenty of room for everyone.


During the last Random Acts of Kindness week, I poked my finger into a local phone book, as random as you can get! I sent the person, whose name my finger found, $5 in cash with a note in an envelope. I explained why I sent it and said she didn’t have to respond in any way, but if she wanted to, that was fine, as well. I never heard from her—not that I expected to. I did wonder for about a week whether or not she thought I might be crazy!

Part of me was dying of curiosity to know her reaction. I kept hoping it would be a pleasant surprise that made her day. Yet part of me also knew she might be a cynic who thought I was a fool.

UOWHO bracelets are not designed for people to have any way of tracking the kindness chain. I think this is good. That’s not the real point. The point is to trust Higher Power to multiply these good deeds. Still, there are great stories that go with each notch of those bracelets. Lloyd concurred.

“Wow, you are one of the few people who agrees with me on this topic. It seems people really do want to know how their bracelet did! Like you I believe it doesn’t matter what was done specifically as long as we are all participating in kindness.”

Human observation: People tend to be far more suspicious of the giver's motivations when they try to give money, as opposed to a simple act of help. Reactions seem milder with small amounts of money, especially when someone pays for your coffee or the car in front pays your bridge toll, but the kinds of acts of kindness UOWHO encourages help someone out in a physical, rather than monetary way.

Tracking a bracelet from person to person would be fascinating but hard to achieve. UOWHO encourages people to share their stories. It inspires others to try it for themselves. But tracking one particular bracelet through ten different people is a tall order.

One idea under consideration for the future is to create a virtual UOWHO bracelet user group through a mobile and/or Facebook app. Although this might tend more towards online acts of kindness, perhaps not exclusively, it would enable each recipient to record their story before passing their virtual bracelet to the next person. This is an idea whose time may come as the UOWHO concept and physical bracelets start to gain more traction.

Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights will always share stories of great people and products that “do good.” Thanks to Lloyd and everyone at UOWHO who contributed to sharing this story with us. Please comment on your reaction to this post and share your own Random Acts of Kindness.


Lloyd DeShane is originally from Illinois and now lives in Glendale, Arizona. He formed the UOWHO.COM Company in early 2009. Both Lloyd and wife, Sharon, are devoted members of their local church. They wanted to find a way to get more people involved in spreading kindness and good will. Lloyd and Sharon discussed many ideas and eventually came up with the UOWHO bracelet. As an engineer, Lloyd was able to design the bracelet as well as the equipment to produce them. After getting some very positive feedback from his initial approaches to church and non-profit groups locally, it was soon clear that UOWHO was about to play an important part in both of their lives.

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