Rapid Response with TheyNeedUsNow.org

2008-2009

A purely personal project, I launched this website in a matter of days after feeling intense grief over the news of Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme. A number of foundations had invested a significant amount, and in some cases all, of their resources with Madoff. As a result, the myriad non-profits the foundations funded, such as the Innocence Project, ACLU, and the Brennan Center, were abruptly left without the funding they had counted on in their budgets (at no fault of their own). Coupled with the recession, it was likely that a number of the organizations would be severely impacted and possibly even shut down.

I set up a basic website with a vetted directory of affected non-profits and pointed visitors to directly to individual contribution pages. I was able to take advantage of the fact that the Madoff news broke in December, when most charitalbe giving occurs, to solicit donations for these groups.

The microsite was picked up by Fast Company, the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and well-read blogs at Change.org and Philanthropy 2173. But by far the biggest impact the site had was when MoveOn.org, a week after seeing the site promoted on common email listservs, echoed the call to their ten million members.

The website itself was simple from a technical perspective. The two biggest reasons for its success were the timing of the launch and my targeted outreach to an empathetic audience of related communities in the social sector. The site was a quick lesson in how to gain traction around a fast-moving news story, and a refreshing reminder that technology allows us to have an impact on issues we are passionate about far beyond our own financial reach.

Resources:

Screenshot of final site, with some graphic design assistance
TheyNeedUsNow.org Screenshot
A simple embedded Google Spreadsheet powered the non-profit directory and made shared updates easy
Simple Google Spreadsheet backend
Version 1 tagline and graphic. Later updated for clarity and improved aesthetics.
Version 1 tagline and graphic