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If you believe in putting yourself out there, no matter what the situation, you are destined to win.

The story is about Adam Braun, the founder of Pencils of Promise.

Who is Adam Braun and Pencils of Promise

Adam Braun is an American entrepreneur, writer, and humanitarian. He is also the COO of WeGrow by WeWork, and founder of Pencils of Promise, non-profit organization building schools and expanding access to education for children in the developing world. 

Braun was also the CEO and the co-founder of MissionU, a debt-free education program, acquired by WeWork in 2018.

He created the “for-purpose” strategy and authored The Promise of a Pencil: How an Ordinary Person Can Create Extraordinary Change. The book is also The New York Times bestseller.

The Pencils of Promise Story

Adam attended Brown University and went abroad on their Semester at Sea program to travel and see the world. He visited around 50 countries all over the world, asking children what they wanted the most. Apparently, in India, a local boy begging on the streets when asked about what he wanted the most, replied- he wanted a Pencil. Braun gave away his Pencil, but the incident left him perplexed and concerned. 

He confessed that the incident served as inspiration for him to take up something for the greater good in society. Often in life, we are stuck for our calling and finding our purpose. We live in the dread mode, eventually succumbing to old age without living up to full potential. 

Braun took this as a cue and started an organization by the name, Pencils of Promise (PoP).

Braun founded PoP as he turned 25 in October 2008, with $25 capital. The idea was to involve people from all walks of life and be a part of a revolution. Soon it picked pace, and in 4 years, PoP founded over 100 schools. Currently, it has built over 500 schools, assisting over 75000 students.

The How and Who of $999,999.99 bitcoin

If you have a cause for the greater good, someone will find you and be a part of your cause. 

It was December 2008, and Braun noticed people sharing a link of a Pineapple Fund launch on his Facebook feed. All it said was, the person behind the fund is an early bitcoin investor, having enough money now due to windfall in bitcoin rates. The investor was donating $86 million in bitcoin to charities.

Now, that’s turkey on the plate waiting to be had. Even though Braun had stepped out of the active CEO role at PoP, he was involved with the purpose and the vision he foresaw. Every penny is a bonus when you run a social work, and each person supporting is a conscious individual added to your network.

As an optimist individual, who is out to get as much from the people, Braun asked his team at PoP to put an email to the Pineapple fund team seeking a donation.

The moment of silence

Sometimes the thing is waiting to be your’s, but with an effort displaying sincerity. The universe validates your commitment to the cause. It was just one of those testing times. Braun didn’t hear from the fund, and days passed. 

The team at PoP checked a few days later, and it was a charity named Water receiving a funding of $1 million from the Pineapple Fund. Scott Harrison( Founder and CEO of charity: Water) was a friend of Braun. He decided to seek advice from Scott on how to go about the donation process.

Scott asked Braun to email to the fund with a headline that could grab attention.

Braun knew this is his chance to make a difference. Hence, he sat down writing the critical mail that would change the course of his charity and cause.

The heartfelt email that did the job

“Subject: You are the reason I started Pencils of Promise”

“HI, my name is Adam Braun and after seeing your support of my friend Scott Harrison’s organization charity: water (an amazing charity) I reached out to him and he suggested I shoot you a note as well.

To give you some background, 12 years ago while walking through the streets of India I met a young boy begging on the street who when I asked him what he wanted most on the world, simply answered, “A pencil.” It turns out he had never been to school before, which I learned was the case for 57 million children around the world. Inspired by that boy, several years later I founded Pencils of Promise to build schools, train teachers and increase access to quality education for children in the poorest parts of the world where education is needed most.

The organization began with just $25 and the goal to enable any person regardless of age, status or location to change lives. Truthfully, what you are now doing is the exact reason the organization was created, to show that philanthropy can be a vehicle to inspire others… This is now our 10th year of operation (founded Sept 2008 and now incorporated in the USA, Laos, Ghana and Guatemala), and from the beginning we’ve always believed the impossible could be made possible. From the start, we crowdsourced our early donations through small contributions from youth across the country, and over time have grown into a global movement that’s built more than 400+ schools around the world for nearly 75,000 children so far. Most important though, we’re completely data-driven and are pushing new boundaries of transparency in the education space (see here for examples).

I can assure you that if you were to select Pencils of Promise for one of your $1M grants, we would be able to immediately use those funds in the communities we serve across Asia, Africa and Latin America to transform tens of thousands of lives through building new schools, training teachers, providing holistic community support and implementing our e-reader program that truly transforms learning for children in rural poverty.

What you are doing is insanely inspiring to so many of us who have dedicated many, many years to this space and I hope you’ll enable us to support even more children going forward. If you have any questions please don’t hesitate to let me know!”

In gratitude for your consideration,


The above mail is the actual mail sent by Adam.

And the ………bang

The next week was quiet, but the 8th day got the news for Pencils of Promise. The news about changing fortunes and a catalyst to their plans for supporting the society.

The Pineapple fund replied.

Hi Adam,

“First, apologies for my delay in getting back to you. I’ve been super swamped with emails and personal/family commitments around this festive season.

We’d love to make a $ 1 million contribution to Pencils of Promise, even though it is outside of the scope of work we usually fund. Would you be able to set up bitcoin payment processing facilities?”



$999,999.99 received by Pencils of Promise

Closing thoughts

If you conceive an idea and believe in it, there will always be help from like-minded people. You just have to hold a firm belief. The world rewards you for good deeds and brings together support from different quarters. Society needs more of Braun and the mystery Pineapple Fund who put themselves out there and believe they’ll find the same community. These are the individuals who go out of their way to serve humanity to bring about a change that we so desperately need.

Had everybody been comfortable in their own life without a semblance of concern about the world, things would never change.

I have joined the PoP, you can too.

Here is a similar story and read for you

Important sources and links

Clifford,C. (2018,January 30).  How this founder got a $1 million donation from an anonymous bitcoin multimillionaire. Retrieved from

Braun,A. (2019, January 29). The True Story Behind A $ 1 M Donation… in Bitcoin. Retrieved from