Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jumo Pt. 2

One of the things Jason and I talk about often is the difference between sites created by extremely intelligent programmers versus people who work day-to-day in philanthropy.  Raising money is hard.  Inspiring people is hard.  Sites like Jumo are built to make activism as easy as possible whereas we want changemaking to be as meaningful and effective as possible.  Easy rarely works when it comes to big problems - that's why the problems exist and persist.

What is most frustrating is how much publicity and mindshare sites like Jumo receive.  I really have a hard time with a concept often repeated that I find incredibly passive and borderline bizarre - that people want to get involved but don't know how.  From the Jumo "About Us" page (bold and red added by me):

Why Jumo?

Founded in February 2010, Jumo set out to address three key challenges:
  • There are millions of people working to improve the lives of others, many of whom lack the resources to have greatest impact.
  • There are millions more who want to help, but don’t know how.
  • Despite huge advancements in connection technologies, it’s hard to find meaningful opportunities to get involved.
We believe we can do better.
I hear this refrain - "People want to help but don't know how" - often, most frequently from upper middle class, geographically mobile, highly educated people in their 30s.  I have to admit, when I hear this statement I have to remind myself - "That person I'm talking to, he can see my face.  Keep it together."  I know that, due to my career path, I have access to resources that many don't know of but we all have access to a little something called the interwebs.  In fact, that's how you got to this post!
Say you drive by a homeless woman with her children.  You think, "That's not right.  How can I help?"  You go to your computer or phone and type these words into Google: homeless women children denver.  Top five results on 12/4/2010:
1. Denver's Road Home - Homeless Resources: Act Now box in top right corner of page including events, donation options, and other mobilization opportunities.  Relatively average resource options but certainly enough "how" to start helping.
2. Sacred Heart House of Denver: In main nav bar, "Get Involved" link including how to volunteer, make a cash donation, and a current needs list with dozens of financially accessible goods from hygiene to plastic water bottles.  Absolutely you could read this page and know how to help.
3 & 4. Denver Post stories (here and here) on homeless women falling through the cracks: Both stories mention The Delores Project and The Gathering Place by name.  In turn, the websites for both of those nonprofits (Community Shares member agencies) include options for cash gifts, volunteers, and donations of goods and services.
5. Suite101 article about The Gathering Place: Includes a paragraph about donations of money and goods and services and a link to TGP's website which includes an extensive list of ways to give.
Hmm...  It seems like it is really, really easy to find out how to help.  So what's the real problem?  I would argue it's NOT not knowing how.  There is some other barrier that sites like Jumo cater to: a desire to be involved without changing the course of your day in a meaningful way.
When I have suggested this in the past in frank discussions with those who explain to me that people want to help but don't know how, I have been accused of tamping down enthusiasm.  I've been advised that people's something - regardless of outcome and effectiveness - should be applauded as better than nothing.  That just doesn't work for me - especially when valuable resources are being invested in websites, special events, happy hours, and cause marketing that does little to move the needle besides generating some wusage stats.
How to help?
Speak Up
Change Behaviors
Meaningful involvement comes from inside you, not an algorithm on a website.  There's a difference between feeling like you're helping and helping - let's invest the resources in helping.

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