Rose and Bobby – Photo Credit: https://handup.org/
On Martin Luther King Day, January 20th, 2014, the federal government organized its volunteers for the National Point in Time Count of People Experiencing Homelessness. With an estimated 1,750,000 people with no place to live as of June of 2013, this is a momentous and difficult task. How do you count someone who has no place to go for resources, shelter, or food on a regular basis? According to the Web site Statistic Brain, homeless people have an income averaging $345 a month, 44 percent were working, 28 percent did not have enough to eat on a daily basis, 30 percent were homeless for two years, and 38 percent were families with children. How can these folks be helped when there are so many?
People do want to help. There’s just so much fear involved when passing a homeless person on the street. If you give money, is that going to drugs or alcohol? If you do give them cash will they try to follow you home, hurt you, or stalk you? There is such a stigma of safety involved plus effort, time, and bother it will cause that people just give up.
One day in winter, Rose Broome was walking past a homeless woman lying on the street. Her heart went out to the woman. Wanting to do something, she helplessly looked at her phone and wondered why there wasn’t someone she could call to give this woman shelter or some warmth. She went back home and brainstormed with her friend Zac Witte, a tech guru, about what they could do about it.
Together they formed HandUp—a safe online environment where people who do want to help and make a difference can. … On the site, each person is profiled with style and dignity in a short bio and picture with a short list of what they need to make their life better. Sometimes this need is as simple as a coat, food, or money for transportation to get to the doctor’s. Others need assistance with medical, dental or glasses. The donor can scroll through all the pictures on the front page or members’ section to decide whom they want to help. Click on their picture, there’s a section which shows donations plus any updates in their situation from the contributions they’ve received. HandUp works directly with local community action organizations, which provides the items requested from the donations on the HandUp site. Cash is never given directly to the individuals.
This system works because it is safe, you can see who is in need, the giving is transparent, the results are posted through updates, and the person helping gets the gratification of knowing that the money donated really did produce positive results. Donations range from $5 to $1,000 or more. Recently, they have added Bitcoins to the options for donating.
With 100 percent of the donations going to the members, I asked Sammie Rayner, in business development at Handup, how are they staying in business and how are they going to expand? Her answer:
We’re committed to having 100% of donations go directly to HandUp members, so we don’t take a cut. Our nonprofit partners also can use the service free of charge. So there are no subscription fees or charges to the member, nonprofit partner, or donor.
But we offer donors the option to tip to cover HandUp’s operations costs, and about 90% of our donors do so. This results in about 8% of all incoming donations going to the company. For funds coming from our corporate partnerships, 10% is automatically designated for support. And since we are a tech platform with a partnership model, we are in a unique position to have and continue to maintain very low overhead and operational costs as we scale.
Profiled in Forbes, CNN, NPR, and other major media sites, this company is going places. Education is a strong point when running a business. Broome’s solid educational background helped in getting this social entrepreneurship model off the ground. She previously worked at Stanford State University as a grad-student teacher, and in research as assistant to a department head at Stanford. Witte’s tech background was essential in the professional, clean design and functioning of the site. Starting this venture, HandUp joined Tumml—a seed-company accelerator—to get them off the ground. It’s their dream that the company expands to help people in need all across the country.
NOTE: Congratulations, HandUp! In 2015 they reached $1 million in donations!