One Percent

No folks, this is not about the “one percent” that Bernie Sanders complains about on a regular basis – I am not touching that one with a ten-foot pole.  I am arguably crazy, but not quite that crazy.

No, this is about the effect that only one percent could have.

To give credit where credit is due, this was partially inspired by a book my Aunt gave me called “The Four Signs of a Dynamic Catholic”.  The sub-title is “How Engaging 1% of Catholics Could Change the World.”

Great book actually – Catholic or not, the premises in that book could be applied in many, many places.

Hence, the inspiration for this writing.

On the surface, one percent is a very small amount.  One percent of a dollar is one penny, for example.  One percent on your test score will rarely make the difference between grade levels.  One percent longer on the massage table is probably not going to make you relax much more.

But in those examples, we are not applying something very important – what I refer to as the “Scale Factor”.  (I am not laying claim to this term, for the record – it’s just something I use when working with businesses)

What the (*#&$@!! do I mean by that?  Good question…glad you asked.

One percent of what only you do, may not seem like a lot, but add the two most important “scale factors”, time and quantity, and then it’s a different story.

This is not intended to be a math lesson, so don’t worry. Noodle this a bit.

Picture a (city, state, county, etc) where:

  • One percent more people did charitable work
  • The people that already volunteer gave one percent more of their time
  • One percent of all their debt was retired
  • They all saved one percent more towards retirement
  • Everyone lost one percent of their body weight
  • All people donated one percent more of their income
  • There was a one percent increase in productivity
  • People were one percent happier

You get the point. Sounds pretty good with all those people right?

Now, add time to the equation!  So all of those things that improved by one percent – now they happen for X months/years.


Since I like data and numbers (I am a nerd that way), let me cite a couple very specific examples, using some real data, just for fun.  I will pick on the great (or not) State of Illinois, and use some national averages.  Here we go:

Example 1 – Volunteer Time

  • Illinois population is approximately 12,815,607 (per worldpopulationreview.com)
  • On average, 25.3% of people volunteer. They average 32.1 hours per person per year.

One Percent Difference

  • 128,156 more people are volunteering
  • 4,113,807 more volunteer hours from them
  • 1,040,793 more hours from the 25.3% that already volunteer
  • For a GRAND TOTAL of 5,154,600 volunteer hours – ANNUALLY

I’m sorry, but can you imagine what could happen with over 5 MILLION volunteer hours annually!?  I work with a lot of non-profits, and they pray every day for one percent more volunteer time!


Example 2 – Charitable Giving

  • Again, using Illinois, as of 2013 the amount of itemized charitable deductions was $7,817,776,000 (using urban.org site for this data)
  • One percent more of that is a cool $78,177,780

Not too shabby – an extra $78M to charitable organizations.  Lots of good can be done there.


OK, you are smart folks, I am not going to create 15 different examples here.  I think you get it.

BOTTOM LINE here folks, do not discount the difference that one percent can make.  Keep the “scale factor” in mind (I’ll make up some t-shirts for you, or a clever meme).  Here’s the formula:




Make it happen folks!!

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