If you know me in the offline world, you've probably heard me talk about Carepages - an ingenious little social system that helps hospital patients manage communications with loved ones. It's a lot like a super simple blog that lets patients say how they're doing, what the prognosis is, etc., in one dedicated spot (vs. sharing that same information on phone call after phone call when they really should be getting a little of that doctor-prescribed rest.)
I say it's ingenious because it uses technology to meet real human needs. Needs like compassion and access and impatience and sleep.
Lotsa Helping Hands does it one better. It's a private, web-based community that organizes family, friends, and neighbors during times of need. They can easily coordinate activities and manage volunteers through a group calendar + get updates, pictures, etc. Need a week of meals prepared? Open seven slots and get seven volunteers.
I love this for what it is - a way to give people something meaningful and useful to do in a crisis. And, for two of the fundamental changes shaping nonprofit digital strategy that is illustrates:
- People want to help. They'll give, sure, but you own them once they act. There is no single trend that will change the development office of nonprofits more than this in the coming years. Emerging generations of donors want to do more than write a check. A donation is a one-time thing; not the demonstration of an ongoing commitment to a cause. They want to be where the action is. Asked to help - not just pay - in meaningful ways, at various levels of commitment. They want their association with that nonprofit to be part of their identity, not just part of their tax deduction. Colored ribbons were just the beginning.
Think about that Lotsa Helping Hands program with a charity at its center - a local foodbank able to send out calls for packers or canned goods; a hospice able to better mobilize volunteers or letter writers against peaks in need; even Meals on Wheels getting extra drivers during flu season.
- Online is quickly becoming the most personal thing we do. There's a great moment in this NPR story when Melissa Block asks if it's less personal to give online. And, Omar Gallaga says he finds just the opposite is true - instead, he feels more connected giving online. Gallaga cites a specific example of giving money to DonorsChoose.org,
a company that connects students and teachers to people who would like
to donate. Gallaga said he got an e-mail from a teacher thanking him
and telling him that the money was being used to buy AV equipment at a
low-income school in Wisconsin. He was able to see the real people helped.
Interesting twist on "impact." No more is it the volumes of people helped, but the real lives changed. It's connecting givers to receivers in incredibly personal ways.
Want to do something little or big? Check out Bethlehem on Broad - a multi-church holiday effort that feeds 1200 families in my city and includes a big Christmas-day feast and a free call home for anyone who needs it. They need money, food, time and pass along. Do whatever feels right.