The Favor Club: “Paying it Forward,” But On Fire

love getting emails from Jonathon Youshaei. It’s always something interesting with him: thoughts on an article he’s submitting to HuffPo.  Intro to someone he thinks I should meet. Swapping ideas for Harvard-Penn alumni synergies. Finally taking me up on an intro to his LA carbon copy (and from what I can see, it’s been very bromantic). An email ode over the Google intern list-serv bidding my intern class farewell. There’s one email, though, that has truly changed how I communicate on a weekly basis: an invitation to his “Five Second Favor Club,” a community he founded with his friend Edward Lando.

Inflatable jousting with Jared Kleinert

Inflatable jousting with a fellow listserv member

The idea is simple: bring together a group of passionate people working on interesting things, and provide them with an avenue to overcome an obstacle we all face: getting a lot of people to do something easy. Five-seconds worth of easy. We all have those moments: we need people to tweet out our cause, like our page, vote for our project; but tapping into our usual communities doesn’t quite cut it. There’s too much apathy on Facebook and clutter on Twitter for our posts to actually reach the people who would be the most interested in what we have to share.

While people use the listserv for usual candidates for favors — like an FB page, share a tweet — it’s also increasingly been used as a forum to hand out favors: Invite to a Dropbox party. Invite to Medium. Early access to Google Shopping Express. Early access to Square Cash invites. Even the most mundane favors can start thought provoking conversations; whether its being asked to help promote the launch of an exciting new project, or give feedback on a blog post a member has authored.

The concept is brilliant, and I’m amazed that word hasn’t leaked out. Even if you don’t find the favors themselves fundamentally interesting, even if you don’t have a single altruistic bone in your body, participating in a favor goes beyond the tit-for-tat mentality of returning favors, and reaps more than the “warm-glow of giving.” The listserv has exposed me to interesting ideas, and even people I’ve met (and inflatable jousted with) in person. It’s a community that grows very organically; I’m personally always eager to loop in a friend working on an interesting project (hi there, Nikila & Neil!)

As far as I know, the Five Second Favor Club is one of a kind, but I see no reason for it to be that way.  While “Favor Marketplaces” such as Trade A Favor exist, a listserv has the advantage of building a community, and allowing for relationships that develop over time and across favors. The community I’m part of initially grew out of Penn and seems to be centered around budding millenials in tech, but there are endless niches where this could work. Start your own. Give it a try. You’ll never know what could come out of it!