Channeling Bob Ross: Happy Little Accidents

As TWIF approaches its fifth year of existence in the Seattle community, I am continually asked what my motivation was for starting this amazing organization.  The truth is that I never thought I’d be a leader of a nonprofit. TWIF was created accidentally. However, I am proud to say that TWIF has really changed me over the past five years, which is a great thing! I hope everyone involved in TWIF feels the same way.  

It all started with a personal blog. After I relocated to Seattle from the East Coast, I created a blog called The World is Fun to make a list of all the things I wanted to do to inspire me to explore and get in touch with my new surroundings. Thanks to my blog, I soon started feeling like I knew this great city better than some folks who had lived here for years.

My personal adventure blog began to evolve into TWIF during the recession. I was not working and wanted to start giving back to keep me busy and prove to myself (and my friends) that charitable work is fun and fulfilling, rather than stodgy and expensive. After an exciting brainstorm about how we could shake things up and do charity a little differently, my friends and I came up with TWIF’s first charitable event in 2009: Beard & Stache Fest.

The Beard & Stache Fest started as a charitable effort that used beards to inspire giving back in a way that didn’t feel like traditional charity. We affixed photos of local bearded guys to donation cans and placed them at local establishments around town. To vote for your favorite bearded man, you simply dropped in your pocket change into the chosen can. Each donation went directly to Treehouse, one of my favorite organizations, which provides essential and academic support for foster kids in King County. The event was organized under my blog name for anonymity, and thus, TWIF was officially (accidentally) born.

The project was very well-received by the community and was a successful first effort for TWIF. We helped raise a few thousand dollars with the participation of 100 bearded contestants and 20 local businesses. Over the years, tens of thousands of Seattleites have been exposed to ways to give back to their community and Beard & Stache Fest has gone on to raise over $38,000 for Treehouse and the foster kids of King County.  

From there, the rest is history. In the past five years, TWIF has grown immensely and we now have a dedicated volunteer staff of 60 people and over 3000 volunteers.

I may not have intended for TWIF to be a nonprofit organization, but it turned out that we were filling a hole in our community. Seattle needed a different kind of nonprofit that would honor our city and remind people that giving back is not only important, but fun as well. Together, we’ve had the opportunity to do really great things for Seattle. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

- Amy is the Founder and Executive Director of The World is Fun. She's also a big fan of Bob Ross.