Here's How You Can Get $5K — No Strings Attached

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
Do you have a passion project you've been trying to get going, but that keeps getting stalled because you don't have the cash moola? Nadia Eghbal, who works on the open-source team at GitHub, is giving away two $5,000 grants — no strings attached — for, in her words, "whatever you can’t stop thinking about."
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Yes, we realize this sounds too good to be true. But it's legit, if you're willing to put in the work. Allow us to explain:
Eghbal first came up with the idea while reflecting on a fellowship she was awarded in college to design a project around climate-change investing.
"I’ll never forget standing in the bank deposit line, staring at the check in my hand for $18,000," she wrote in a piece on Medium posted today. "I was a college student with less than $1,000 in my bank account. I had never held a check like this before. And somebody had mailed it to me because they thought I had a good idea."
Nearly a decade later, she can still relate to her wide-eyed college self — so she decided to pay it forward. She started by offering one $5,000 grant, she says, but then a donor offered to match her gift, making it possible to award two.
Eghbal is leaving the requirements intentionally vague, but does say she gravitates toward projects for which the funding isn't readily available, the take or backstory is unique, the impact extends beyond the life of the project, and the timeline is on the shorter side.
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"Really, I'm curious to see what people come up with," Eghbal wrote in an email to Refinery29. "I think we can all relate to that feeling of a dream or idea that you can't stop thinking about, so that's the best measure of a qualifying project IMO — but then I want to know why that's really important to you, and that it would mean a lot to be able to see it through. I think our job in this world is to find what's beautiful in other people and encourage it to exist."
We couldn't agree more, and her words make us think that more of us should be giving away money to strangers in whom we believe (well, those of us who have money to give away, that is). Who knows, maybe this type of rogue crowdfunding will result in many beautiful — and useful — projects.
In case you're interested in applying, all of the guidelines and frequently asked questions are in the aforementioned Medium post. Like, what exactly does "no strings attached" mean? "I’ll give you 50% up front," Eghbal writes. "I’ll check in with you before sending the second half. Then I’ll do a follow-up phone call and/or email at the end to hear how it went. That’s it!"
The applications are due on May 1. May the buckets of money be ever in your favor.
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