A businessman who anonymously handed out $10,000 in crisp $100 bills last December is planning an encore in Portland.

This time, the “Secret Santa” plans to double the handout, to $20,000, and add three locations across the state.

The donor has announced through a public relations firm in New Jersey that he intends to distribute the money Dec. 20-25. He did not disclose the locations, and said he first wants to gather ideas from Mainers about where to make the handouts.

Last year, he gave out cash at the Goodwill store on Forest Avenue in Portland.

“Times are still tough, and not getting better at a very fast clip,” said the businessman in an e-mail Monday.

The Secret Santa, a Portland resident, has requested that he remain anonymous. Last year, his son, dressed as Santa Claus, gave out cash in envelopes at the entrance to the Goodwill store while he watched. The money was gone within minutes.

The donor said he was inspired by Kansas City’s Secret Santa, Larry Stewart, who spent years handing out $100 bills, totaling more than $1.3 million.

Portland’s Secret Santa said that while there are many good causes, he wants to do something to capture the public imagination and spark similar acts of giving. He also wants to hear from people who received money last year, and learn what they did with it. His e-mail address is: SecretSanta [email protected]

“I can’t believe we don’t know who it is,” said Janet Henry, president of the Maine Philanthropy Center.

A recent survey by the Chronicle of Philanthropy showed that anonymous giving has grown since the recession began, as donors have sought to avoid solicitations and maintain privacy.

There is a case to be made for both public and anonymous forms of giving, which is a perennial subject of discussion in philanthropy circles, said Henry.

Donors who make their gifts public can inspire others to make similar gestures, she said, while others fall on the side of Maimonides, a medieval Jewish philosopher who said one of the true unselfish ways of giving is to do it anonymously with no expectations.

In any case, said Henry, it is obvious that Portland’s Secret Santa enjoys having an immediate impact. “He must get great pleasure out of seeing what happens,” she said.

The Secret Santa isn’t the only Mainer who is giving out money. Video producer Nora McCormack created a video this year for the band Guster’s song “Bad, Bad World” by handing out $10 bills to four Portland residents with orders to change someone’s life. She then filmed the results.

“The response was amazing,” said McCormack.

The “Bad, Bad World” video may be viewed online at http://vimeo.com/15772788.


Staff Writer Beth Quimby can be contacted at 791-6363 or at: [email protected]