I Spoke To Brandon!

I doubt many of you are still reading, but I thought for the sake of completeness, I ought to write this – likely final – post.

Sadly, I never heard back from Brandon Stanton after we wrapped up the campaign and I emailed the pictures/video. I guess HONY chose to keep their distance for their reasons, and I respect that. But, today Brandon was doing a book signing in downtown Brooklyn, and I decided to swing by.

We spoke briefly, but he immediately recognized and acknowledged the campaign, asked how it worked out, and congratulated us. In retrospect, I wish I had the guts to offer to buy him a cup of coffee and tell him all about it. But, I’m very happy with what we’ve got. We made  a difference, and that’s what counts.

"We're always very cautious when somebody starts a fundraiser through a HONY photo, but it's nice to know that sometimes they work out."

“We’re always very cautious when somebody starts a fundraiser through a HONY photo, but it’s nice to know that sometimes they work out.”

And That’s A Wrap!


Photo by Jonathan Rios of JR Photography

Well, now I can officially say it: WE DID IT! WE HANDED THE BAGPIPES OVER TO MALCOLM!

RECAP – A quick summary of how this project got started and what we accomplished

GoFundMe Page – The  outpouring of support that made it possible 

PHOTOSAll Photocredit to Jonathan Rios or JR Photography

VIDEO – All Video credit to Nekoro Bunsie of Bananaz Productions222

For those of you visiting this page for the first time, here is a quick recap of the story so you don’t have to read through the entire blog.

For the loyal followers (you guys are the source of my inspiration,) here’s how the story wrapped up. I reached out to Olivia, Brandon’s (HONY) manager once more to update her on our continuing success, and then figured that since Brandon is overseas doing amazing work with the UN, we better find another photographer. Fortunately, a very talented man I know, Jonathan Rios or JR Photography, does amazing work and was available on short notice. He suggested that he bring a videographer with us – Nekoro Bunsie of Bananaz Productions222, and the result was incredible.

It was, as usual, a little hard to track Malcolm down, but Michael was indispensable as always, and we set our time for 3PM on Saturday. I was a little worried Malcolm might not show, and anxious to jump into the process. Although the project had never been about me, I was nervous I’d somehow muck it up. Brandon, after all, has talked to thousands of people on the streets of New York. Although I’m not shy, I’ve never had such amazing practice. But, there was nothing left to do but show up, so I did. Having Jonathan and Nekoro by my side, professional and ready, was definitely very encouraging. Moreover, Angela, one of our donors, came to support us!


Photo by Jonathan Rios of JR Photography

Malcolm was overjoyed. I can’t say much more to that extent, only that you should see the photos and watch the video. His level of professionalism was wonderful, and we had a good long conversation about his background, his passion for piping, and his life. I encourage you to watch the video.

I handed over the remaining $7.14 in an envelope. Every last cent you donated has gone to Malcolm.

And here we are! We’ve come from a desire to help to giving Malcolm “the best set of pipes” he’s ever used (his words!) Here is what I learned:

  1. Given the right motivation, people do incredible, wonderful things for each other in kind and generous ways. Donating as you did was extraordinary. We gave a musician the gift of a lifetime on a very tight timeline. What you may not realize is how much of a difference all your comments – here, on Facebook, and through the GoFundMe page – made to me. They inspired me to do my best for us every day.
  2. Fundraising is complex. The amount of responsibility I felt for the funds donated was immense. I wanted to make sure, as I keep saying, that I stayed transparent and accountable every step of the way. The individual steps weren’t complex. I made phone calls, tried to respond to emails promptly, researched tax code, tracked down Malcolm and Michael, etc. However, put together, it was quite a project to juggle. On that note, if you’re fundraising, watch out for fundraising fees, and check out what taxes you might have to pay! We ended up giving up almost 11% in fees.
  3. You have to be careful on the internet. The thing that amazed me the most this whole time is how trusting you were to a stranger on the internet. On of the first comments, when I first set up the GoFundMe, was – “wait for the official word from HONY! This could be a scam.” And honestly, I felt a little put off, because I knew I wasn’t scamming anyone. However, through the project, this made much more sense. Surely, when you donated $5, $10 – though some of you $50 and $100, you realized there was some inherent risk. However, watching the money go through my personal bank account, I was amazed by just how close I was to the funds. As I mentioned above, I compensated by trying to be 100% transparent. However, I understand that not everyone is. I can’t thank you enough for trusting me – but please, be careful.
  4. With a bit of effort, we can move mountains. Well, to be fair, we didn’t move a mountain. But we got a man a custom-made set of a rare instrument from one of the finest makers in the world. We tracked down said maker in Bulgaria. We had the pipes shipped across the Atlantic. Guys – we rock! If you want to make something happen, go out and do it.

So, what’s next?

  • Stop by Michael’s Union Square bookstand to buy a book – they’re dirt cheap – or just to talk to Michael! If you want to donate books, comment/email me.
  • If you’d like to hear Malcolm play, or book him for your gig, let me know! I’d be happy to put you in touch.
  • Any othe comments/feedback/suggestions are welcome!

I think this would be a good time to thank some people without whom this wouldn’t have been possible:

First, thank you to Brandon Stanton of Humans of New York. His keen eye found Malcolm amongst the faces on the streets of New York. Brandon brought this story to us, and made a true difference. While we worked independently, Brandon’s manager Olivia patiently communicated with me through the process.

Second, thank YOU  for stepping up and supporting this campaign, and supporting me through this campaign.

Third, thank you to Michael, Malcolm’s bookstand partner, for helping put us in touch and facilitating everything. We would have never succeeded without his guidance.

Fourth, thank you to my friends who guided and listened to me through this project – the lovely Jenn Levy, Manar Alherech, James Mayr, and Felicia Scalzetti – who was the very first person to learn about this fundraiser. She found the time to listen to me – even in the midst of her birthday.

Hold Your Applause…

WE DID IT! We handed over the pipes to Malcolm today, and it was a wonderful success. I can’t tell you how proud I am of us! It’ll take me a day or two to sort out the photos and video, but I’ll get it up in the final update as soon as possible.

As they say in music – please hold your applause (comments) until I get that content up. Then we can celebrate!



Okay, okay, here’s just a little preview

Let’s Talk About Michael

We met at 2:55 PM on August 23rd, 2014, in front of the Union Square Barnes and Noble to hand over the pipes and we gave them to Malcolm then and there.

Hey guys! What a crazy and unexpected road it has been over the past few months. Thank you so much for following along! We went from excitement over a HONY photo to raising a significant amount of money – and now I have a pair of hand-crafted bagpipes custom-built by a Scottish master in my apartment. It’s incredible to see the desire for goodwill brought to life.

There have been a number of twists and turns in this story, and tracking down Malcom – mainly through Michael – has always been a challenge. Even after we knew who he was, and after I had met him, finding Malcolm hasn’t always been easy. He’s a unique, quirky individual, and no doubt a very talented musician. I’m sure that’s what Brandon saw in him when he approached him. Anyway, we’re at the finish line, and if all goes well, we will be handing over the pipes at 3PM tomorrow! There’ll be lots of pictures, video, and maybe even a little bit of media coverage (shhh!) I cannot WAIT to see the look on Malcolm’s face, and maybe even hear him play the brand new pipes!

I’ll be sending out an email shortly for those of you who want to join us.

This next part is a little lengthy, but I hope you see where I’m coming from as you read.

There is another twist to this story I want to share with you, though, and it’s one where I could really use your input. From the beginning of this campaign, I’ve been learning about the process of fundraising and charity “on the job.” Fortunately, with your support and constant stream of good wishes – I read every single one! – we are now about to wrap up this campaign. I’ve mentioned Michael a number of times through the posts, because I’ve spent the majority of my time with him over the past few months, and not Malcolm.Michael is very well spoken and fairly well put together. My understanding is that he has been on the streets for around half a year, and was working and living somewhere before that. My plan is to get his story to pass on to you guys in the next few days, once we hand over the pipes.

A number of you have suggested donating books and money to Michael, and I’ve been hesitant on starting another campaign. I’ve been on edge about it for a few weeks, so I want to share with you where we stand at the moment to see what you think. As you know, accountability and transparency have been my top priorities since day one. The thing that amazed me the most about this campaign was how trusting you guys have been to a stranger on the internet. I’ve been determined to show you where every cent of your money has gone, and the end result is very physically concrete – there’s a set of bagpipes in my room.

If we start another campaign for Michael, however, we run into a number of issues:

1) We’re donating money, not a musical instrument. I’ll be handing over a check.

2) Although I’ve spent time around Michael and he’s been nothing but helpful and nice, I don’t know him well. I have no idea how he’ll actually spend the money. I can’t bear any responsibility for it.

3) We would use a different service – YouCaring.com – which only charges the processing fee from WePay (2.9%,) to deliver more of your money. GoFundMe charges at additional 7% in its own fees. YouCaring is a trustworthy and proven service (many of my friends have used it,) but not as well known as GoFundMe.

As you can tell, I’m pretty hesitant about the campaign, because I value your trust above all. I want you to understand what you’re getting into. Moreover, as I said, I’m not looking to start a string of campaigns for personal charity. I was in the right place at the right time to help you change Malcolm’s life, and I was very fortunate to help with the campaign. If we start another one for Michael, it’ll likely be my last for the time being.

There are two other ways you can help.

One, which I very much prefer, is that you just stop by the bookstand (if you’re in the NYC area,) and donate to Michael directly. Several of you have asked about that. That’d be much easier, and you’d see exactly where the money is going.

Two is to donate books, as a few of you have offered! That’s actually not a problem at all. I spoke to Michael about that yesterday, and he loves the idea. You can send the boxes to my house (message me or comment with your email for my mailing address.) His only guidelines are – the books should be in decent/good condition, with dust covers on the hardcovers, and no more than two or three decades old. I’d be happy to facilitate the donations and physically bring him he boxes.

So, with that in mind, what do you think? Would you donate? Or can you think of a better way to help?

The Pipes Are Here!

Well, it turns out that Doug never sent me the tracking number. Instead, he sent me something better – the bagpipes!


The box was surprisingly light, but it seems that everything is in there – including the reeds, the carrying case, etc. I unpacked to take a quick look, but of course didn’t open any of the parts. From here on, we’re onto the finish line. Brandon, the HONY founder and photographer, is on a 2-month trip with the UN, so I don’t think we’ll be able to get him to join in, but I am going to check in with Olivia, his manager, to see if she wants to partake in the ceremony in any way. Next, I want to arrange for a decent photographer (if we can’t have Brandon, we’ll just have to get ourselves a temp replacement :D) and figure out a date. I’m going to shoot everyone an email with this update, and to see if people want to write Malcolm a nice note to go with the bagpipes.

One last thing before you get to the pictures below! Michael, Malcolm’s indispensable bookstand partner, has been absolutely crucial to our campaign – I’ve mentioned him in our very first blog post. I’ve spent a number of hours with him talking about Malcolm, his career, etc. Malcolm, whom I’ve met several times, is very nice, but a little more quirky, so Michael has often served as a go-between, managing Malcolm’s expectations, helping put us in touch, and helping prepare him for the surprise. Maybe you guys can think of some way we can help Michael – whether through book donations, or even just by stopping by his NYC Union Square bookstand (right by the Barnes and Noble entrance) and thanking him.  Unlike HONY, I’m not in the full-time business of changing lives, and I’ve never worked with the homeless before, so I’m not trying to start another campaign; I just want to give credit where credit is due. This campaign couldn’t have happened without Michael.

Finally, here are the photos!




…And Waiting…

It’s been a little over a week since I’ve updated, so I wanted to check in. Unfortunately, I don’t have any news! I’ll check in with Doug on Monday to see if our bagpipes are in the mail. I don’t know about  you, but I’m buzzing with anticipation!

Also, have you guys been following HONY over the past few weeks? Brandon is on a two-month trip, currently in the Middle East, taking incredible photos, and sharing amazing stories. I think he’s truly at his best.

We’re on track

Hey guys! Another update from Doug MacPherson today! I can’t screenshot it right now, so here it is for your pleasure:

Hi Maxim,

Just a wee update on today’s work, all going well for posting at the end of the week.
All the best,
And another photo: