Mystery philanthropist hides $100 bills all over this city

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Charitable donations hit record $373B in 2015

A mystery philanthropist known only as "Benny" has hidden more than 550 $100 bills in the Salem, Oregon, area over the past several years.

Capi Lynn, a columnist for the Salem-based Statesman Journal newspaper, tells the Washington Post over the weekend:

"As of today, he has given away more than $55,000, and that's only what has been reported to me. I have a feeling Benny will be at it until his identity is revealed, or he can no longer do it for some reason."

Lynn keeps track of when and where the $100 bills signed by a "Benny" are found. Her data are based on reports made through the Statesman Journal's "Find a 'Benny'?" online submission form.

Lynn has also been writing about the donations since 2013, when Cub Scouts received $900 worth of $100 bills that had been folded up and nonchalantly left on tables from which the Scouts were selling popcorn and candy.

Most recently, the Statesman Journal wrote about a Benny bill found by retired pediatric dentist Jeff Phillips, who discovered the folded $100 bill in a box of Blue Diamond Almond Nut-Thin crackers. Phillips was home recovering from surgery, and was feeling down about the mass shooting in Orlando, which had just taken place.

Then, he found the bill. He told the newspaper:

"My attitude changed immediately. Does it cure cancer and terrorism? No. However, it reminds me that there are good people in the world that want to make a difference."

Phillips wondered whether Benny purposely "ramps up" donations in the wake of tragedies.

Lynn nicknamed the mystery donor after his signature $100 bills — a denomination known in slang as "Benjamins." She notes that while Benny has helped some local residents renew their faith in humanity and provided others with a financial boost, his most valuable gift "continues to be inspiring generosity in others."

Most of the recent finders of Benny bills have paid it forward, Lynn writes, by donating the cash to local nonprofits.

What do you make of Benny? Share your thoughts below or on Facebook.

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20 unusual ways to make quick money

Dog-sitting, babysitting, or house-sitting

These jobs are always in high demand, and the best part: you can name your price and create your own schedule! Post an ad on craigslist, or use your friends' and family's connections to get your name out there. 

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Rent out your space 

List your apartment on Airbnb or another rental site, and make some easy cash by staying at a friends and renting out your place for the weekend.

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Share your space

Just as you can rent out your full apartment or house, you can also post a free room (or even just your couch!) on sites like Craigslist or Airbnb. This way you can split your living expenses -- and maybe even make a new friend!

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Sell your body parts

Now here's a weird one: Donate your hair, breast milk, or even plasma for a profit. According to Grifols, if you're healthy and weigh above 110 pounds, you can earn up to $200 a month donating your plasma to life-saving medicine. 

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Sign up to participate in medical tests and clinical trials. 

Universities constantly need volunteers to test new medicines and treatments -- and because the pool of willing participants is limited, there is typically a large compensation for being a guinea pig. 

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Participate in a focus group

Companies and organizations will pay you to join a focus group. These can be conducted in person, online, or via phone. You will most likely be reimbursed in cash or gift cards -- plus, you often get to test out fun new products! 

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Take online surveys

Similar to focus groups, you can get paid to give your time and insights on an online questionairre. Plus, you can do this from the comfort of your couch. 

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Bank on your sperm

Although we don't necessarily recommend this option, there is a very high demand for healthy sperm donors. Keep in mind some of the obvious drawbacks, but sperm donation is non-invasive and highly compensated. 

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Crowdfund your dreams

Crowdfunding allows you to raise monetary contributions from a large group of people who want to support your venture. Post your project or idea on a crowdfund site, like GoFundMe.com, and see the cash pile up.

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Become a tutor

If you're qualified, post an ad online or on a community board to tutor children on their school courses or for the upcoming SATs.

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Get a part-time job

Capitalize your free time (on the weekends or after work hours) by working a part-time job. A bartender, waiter, or Uber driver are all great options for an additional source of income -- and great tips! 

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Resell tickets

Take this suggestion at your own risk: If you're staying within legal limits, buy tickets low and sell high as an effective way to source additional money. (Just make sure to check your state and local laws first!)

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Rentafriend.com

You can sell anything on the internet these days... including your companionship! Get paid to go on a platonic outing for a few hours and enjoy your afternoon with a new friend. 

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Rent out your parking spot

Make sure to check with your landlord first, but if you have the option to park your own car further away, lend or share your parking space or driveway for the hour, day, or even month! 

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Keep a coin jar 

This one takes patience before a big pay out, but keep a spare jar or drawer for loose change that you usually toss anyway. It will keep it all in one place -- and those quarters do add up! 

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Make something to sell 

If you have a knack for arts & crafts, create jewelry or other handmade gifts to sell on sites filled with other thrifty vendors like Etsy

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Sell items online

This effective strategy requires low effort with a high return. Post photos of your used or non-used items on sites like eBay or Craigslist, and let the bidding begin! 

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Have a yard sale

Sell clutter you've been meaning to get rid of right in your front yard. This simple tactic is convenient, and guarantees a wad of cash right to your pocket.  

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Return past purchases

This tip may seem obvious, but is often overlooked: Take your recently-purchased items that are laying around back to the store for either store credit or a full refund. 

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Recycle scrap metal and cans

Collect cans and scrap metal out your own garbage, basement, and street and bring to your local recycler to exchange your findings for money.  

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