App recommends opportunities based on news you read
Olivier Kamanda remembers when the New York Times ran a five-part series by Andrea Elliott. It was called "Invisible Child" and was about Dasani, a 12-year-old homeless girl and her family who lived in Brooklyn. It made the rounds on social media and prompted an outpouring of support for homeless children and families.
Kamanda, the former speechwriter and senior advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, was working at a law firm in Washington, D.C. and volunteering at Miriam's Kitchen, which provides meals and social services to the homeless just one mile west of the White House. The organization was about to launch its "The Way Home Campaign," to lobby the DC Council for more permanent supportive housing.
"I realized that if everyone who was moved by the New York Times piece knew about the Way Home Campaign, we'd be able to direct some of that energy towards tackling chronic homelessness in our city," says Kamanda.
He launched a crowdfunding campaign earlier this year and raised nearly $20,000 to build a mobile app called Ideal Impact. The app is powered by an algorithm that determines the key social issues discussed in any news story you might read and suggests organizations that support those causes. So, when you read a powerful story and think, "How can I help?" Ideal Impact answers, with opportunities to volunteer, work and donate money.
In the following interview, Kamada provides some background and inspiration:
What problem are you trying to fix?
When people read the news, there is a human urge to do something with that information. Stories that touch on social issues, like homelessness, climate change or supporting veterans, prompt us to want to get involved, but we dont often know how.
Meanwhile, the 1.6 million non-profits that are addressing these social issues are constantly looking for volunteers, donors and community supporters to survive. Nearly 73 percent of charitable giving comes from individual donors. And on average, it takes non-profits 23 hours to recruit each volunteer.
But without a pipeline to connect people who want to help with these organizations that need support, we lose out on 90 million people who would otherwise volunteer, donate or advocate for these issues. Their potential support in terms of community service and donations amounts to nearly $207 billion in lost economic activity.
So, what exactly is Ideal Impact?
Ideal Impact is a civic-tech company that solves this problem by connecting people who care with places to volunteer, donate, advocate and apply for jobs based on the news stories they read. Our mobile, web and digital media tools make real-time recommendations to support the issues you are reading about.
How will the app work exactly?
With the Ideal Impact app installed, either on mobile or on desktop as a browser plugin, you can read news from whichever site or source you want. If you come across a story that moves you, all you have to do is click the Ideal Impact button that will appear in the main menu of the app or browser youre using. This will load the app, which will present you with opportunities to work with and support non-profits and social enterprises that have been vetted by third-parties like Charity Navigator and GuideStar and reviewed by members of your community. In less than three clicks, weve taken you from moment of inspiration to a meaningful opportunity.
As you see it, what is the potential impact the app could have on volunteerism and financial giving?
We are re-imagining civic engagement. Our app bridges the gap between people who are inspired to make a difference and organizations that need support. As a result, we help lower the cost to non-profits of finding supporters and make it easier for people to contribute their time, talent and energy to their community.
But more importantly, we think the app has the potential to show the true value of service and social impact work. Ideal Impact speaks to hallmarks of the human experience: the need to be part of a community, the desire for purpose-driven work and the satisfaction of using your skills to help others. These experiences define who we are and what matters to us. We hope to expand the universe of people who see community service, not as an afterthought, but as a true reflection of our personal values.
Were working on launching our pilot in Washington, D.C., which will feature a test group of organizations that come highly recommended from our supporters. Well use the data we gather from the pilot to refine our algorithm, build additional features and then open our platform up to more non-profit organizations and social enterprises.
After that, we will expand our offerings to media companies that want to turn their news into actionable content. We can provide them with an embeddable Ideal Impact badge that integrates our matching-algorithm directly into their websites. We think this will help more news organizations and media companies measure the emotional impact of their articles while building stronger relationships with their readers.
Critical thinking challenge: What non-profit and issue-oriented organizations would you recommend that we feature on our platform?