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1 minute read Is Making Donations More Efficient

"I'm From The Government..."And despite the classic Reagan joke, these innovators actually are here to help. But it isn't always easy. Is Making Donations More Efficient

Caitria O’Neill and Alvin Liang


Their web-based service helps cities track emergency information, donations, and volunteers after natural disasters. So far, 24 communities and more than 500,000 people have used the software.

The Connectors

O'NEILL: There are huge discrepancies between what people think they should donate and what’s actually needed. After Sandy, about 45% of people who signed up on our site wanted to give clothing—which, if your home is destroyed, you have no place to put. The biggest need was delivery of nonperishable food, but only about 14% of people in our database offered that. All of this information helps us make the response smarter for the next disaster.

LIANG: It’s a matter of listening and then building a tool that, instead of creating more work, organizes the work that’s already going on. The hard part is hiding the technical complexity. For one, there’s no standard for the way that people store volunteer information. Our goal is to become that standard.

O'NEILL: We’re now moving to smaller emergencies, like apartment fires, to make more useful day to day. The city of San Francisco is helping us plug into its network so we can work with them to see what systems they’re using and how we can make the process more efficient.

[Photo by Winni Wintermeyer]

Fast Talk: "I'm From The Government..."

A version of this article appeared in the September 2013 issue of Fast Company magazine.