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The Other Side of Charity: After the Money is Raised, Who Does the Heavy Lifting?

The #1 Thing You Need to Know about this Post:
You can use social media to raise more awareness, more resources, and keep people better informed, but we’re still working on how to use these tools to fix the actual social problems.

A More Detailed Exploration
For anyone who doubts we have entered a new era when it comes to charity, you can return to the salt mines.  For the rest of you reading this, let’s reflect back on the last fourteen days:

  • Two weeks ago, I’m willing to wager that you (except for a select few) didn’t know about Daniela and her three kids. Heck, you might not had even known about David Armano;
  • Twelve days ago, you probably came across Daniela’s story and felt compelled to give; 
  • Ten days ago, you might have been part of the well-deserved digital ticker tape parade celebrating this outstanding show of support;
  • Seven days ago, you were in the midst of a heavy discussion about the ramifications of what has since been termed Free Lancer Fundraisers;
  • Four days ago, you found out Daniela had secured an apartment for her family and your collective generosity had made it possible; and
  • Yesterday, you read that the move-in had begun.

The speed of these events should blow your mind for many reasons, but none of it should surprise since you’re already part of this revolution. The Interconnected Age is redefining how we connect, communicate, and collaborate. While this is true for every industry and facet of life, it is of great interest to me how we can use this shift to improve solving the most social pressing issues of the day.

Whether or not you work for a non-profit organization, you have the social media tools to bring causes and people-in-need to the attention of any of the 1 billion currently using the Internet. You also have the tools to raise money and other resources from them. And, you have the tools to show how everyone’s efforts have made a difference for your cause or person-in-need.

But, What Happens Next?
When the digital ticker tape parade is over and everyone goes back to their respective daily lives, who is there to do the heavy lifting with the actual work to solve the immediate crisis and root issues? 

This question has stuck inside my head since Neal Taflinger’s comment on my first post about Daniela:

I don’t think the problem lies with Armano or social media, it lies with the difficulty humans have with nuanced cause and effect relationships…It’s much harder to break the cycle of poverty when the work it requires is intellectually and emotionally difficult, involves frequent heartbreak and let downs, and may never show a quantifiable return.

Some of you in the Chicago area have played an active role in helping the Armano family and Daniela’s family with the immediate crisis. Furniture has been donated and boxes have been moved.  But for the rest of the digital neighborhood, you have gone back to your daily lives aside from periodic updates David share via the blog and twitter.

While all this is good, the actual work of solving the problem is still underway and will continue for some time.

The Work Still to Be Done
This fact became clearer to me on Friday, when I met with David Armano at his office in Chicago. As fate would have it, I had a window of availability during my pre-planned business trip to the city and David was gracious enough to spend time with a guy who just a week prior was questioning his actions.

We discussed a wide variety of things during our visit, from the profound to the mundane. At one point, he introduced me to one of his colleagues and prefaced it by saying, “You know how I’m helping out Daniela and everything that’s going on with that…” For some reason, that statement stuck in my head.

Maybe it was because he was saying it in a face-to-face environment. Maybe it was because it sounded like what I have heard other co-workers say when they were volunteering or helping someone out. For whatever reason, I have kept thinking about how David, Belinda, and a small group of people are shouldering the heavy lifting of the immediate crisis.

Certainly, David is shouldering the responsibility of stewarding the gifts those of us who donated. He’s taking strides to keep us informed on progress. In reality, he’s taken on the unglamorous job that comes with raising money. Not only has he rallied his neighborhood, his family has become the neighborhood community center as well.

To complete this good work, it will require good old fashioned elbow grease, trench work, and sweat equity. It will take effort and persistence of those directly involved on a daily basis. 

The Questions Yet to Be Answered
I have found great insight and wisdom from the ongoing conversation and think you can help us drill into other half of charity. Given the understanding we have on how to raise support, I’d like for you to consider how we can use social media tools to help do the heavy lifting. 

Can we use these tools to solve the actual problems? If so, how?

What are your thoughts and ideas?

One stipulation – I ask you to maintain a sense of decorum and keep a civil tone during the conversation. I reserve the right to remove any comments making baseless accusations or other inappropriate statements.

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7 Responses to “The Other Side of Charity: After the Money is Raised, Who Does the Heavy Lifting?”

  1. Lisa Trosien Says:

    From my years spent working as a board member of a wonderful agency that helped the homeless, I can tell you that ‘events’ like these create a secondary problem. What happens after the ‘tap’ is shut off.

    Our agency created the community’s first ‘family shelter’; a shelter where families could be housed together. As is typical of community giving, the holidays created a huge influx of items to the families at the shelter. After the holidays, the tap ran dry. We were faced with a dilemma? Should we ask the public to *stop* giving, because we were literally overflowing with gifts? Should we stockpile the items for future families? Should we re-donate items to others? The administrators struggled with these issues.

    Having spoken communicated with the Armano family, I know they are keeping Daniela and her family level headed about the outpouring. While the tap is still running (furniture, etc) it will shut off and life will return to it’s level of normalcy for them. However, if people continue to give as the story grows (much like Craig Shergold, who asked for Christmas cards when he was faced with cancer,and still keeps getting them now that he is an adult and cancer free), the overwhelming outpouring will be more hurtful than helpful. Daniela needs to become self sufficient at some point, or all of the aid becomes a crutch rather than a springboard.

    I suggest that if people continue to want to donate, the monies be placed in a ‘general charity’ or to a fund for battered women, or some other such group.

    Don’t get me wrong; I fully support the Armanos and what they did. But this needs to be channeled and directed appropriately now as the initial crisis has been averted and the job of ‘living life’ is taking over.

  2. slayerboy Says:

    I completely agree with Lisa on this. While this is an amazing event that took place, there are lots of problems that could come out of this event for Daniella.

    It’s the same problems that a majority of welfare recipients come across. Yes, some of them will take welfare, take the time to build themselves up again and eventually come off welfare. Most do not. They stay on the government “payroll” because it’s the easy thing to do and less responsible but less stressful.

    Also, there’s the problem with emotional well-being with events like this, similar to winning the lotto. The bar is set so high with how happy and amazing you feel when all this is happening, then reality sets in and can cause a high level of depression. The human body doesn’t like to be out of balance, the same can be said for the brain/emotions. The less higher highs and lower lows we experience in our lives, the better we are. The higher the highs are, the lower the lows get.

    I wish Daniella and her family luck, but I’m also fearful that she is being setup for failure by all of this if emotions and thoughts aren’t kept in check to prevent getting overly excited. Depression is a nasty emotion, sometimes not within our control.

    I’m more concerned about the family emotionally rather than financially right now, although the money does need to be controlled safely to avoid any problems IMHO.

  3. Kate Richardson Says:

    Hi Scott, you make some important points in an eloquent post.

    Social media tools are an amazing way to quickly, easily and effectively galvanise support for an issue.

    And while sharing personal stories helps our understanding, these tools can also distance us from the reality of a situation. And make it easy for us to dip in and dip out.

    I don’t know what the answer is. I think it’s about mindfulness.

  4. Tre Says:

    Hey Scott. Very good questions. I’ve been writing up a similar post…’how do we stay it for the long haul?” what’s that look like. how do we use the tools we have to do the heavy lifting left.

    i’m excited because i really think if we answer this well, we may well see less and less need for social services..not more and more.

    the problems mentioned above are exclusive in ways.
    i don’t want to comment right now on the above comments though I want to answer what you’ve asked.

    for minimal starters, the blog David set up is fabulous and a must. In it Daniela herself can keep all aware of her settling in and whatever other needs have arrived…but like a tweeted to @armano today, and it’s no braniac, but short term and immediate they need a list of her immediate needs so that would be donors don’t double give. okay that is so microfocused tho on the now and only on this one example

    2. ongoing…keep the story and it’s development in people’s face. too ofter after hurricane andrew, rebuilding needs faded out of mainstream media. most don’t know that miami/homestead took 3+ years to rebuild. and no one should think katrina aftermath is anywhere close to being done.
    social media tools can help us keep the story infront of people….no one can predict ongoing needs. but the story infront of view can communicate it.

    3. hurricanes happen every year. people are hungry and homeless every day. violence and horrific situations happen daily. do you know about twestivals? something similar could develop in each city for the purpose of being some kind of social media hotline…but it would have to temporarily require existing social services to tap into the social media. but if you were in need of x, you tweet that somehow. of course this would require 24/7 public venue w/ computers accessible or somehow mobile phone centers available and free 24/7.

    I’m obviously thinking out loud here

    but where i’m going, we’re good at crisis responding. but the needs are ongoing.
    every city needs a crises response unit on twitter. it is just so basic common sense good thinking to me to have this. but it would require all services be on social media as well. OR …and this is another possibility, it would require a team within the community volunteers itself as those crisis interventionists….

    that’s clearly what david and his family were.
    but there could be a list of 100 families willing to take people in; another 100 willing to pick someone up if they’ve run away from abuse; another 100 ready to serve a meal anytime of day.
    i know i know. security issues, how do you know the need it legit. i have no answers that way. i’m simply exploring online.
    but perhaps i should cut it now. refuel my thoughts and come back to post when i can wrap my arms around this more.
    great question. i’m obviously chewing on possibilities.
    and again, i can’t help but promote beth kanter’s model: she’s found a non profit (The Sharing Foundation) which established itself exclusively to help Cambodian children. so they’ve learned from the get go what the community needs and how to implement resolutions for those needs. ( offers all her insights, her wiki offers in particular info re: the Sharing Foundation)…
    Her model is a fabulous place to start…but it would require for example setting up some non profits or finding existing ones willing to rethink their service model…how many wanna be on call 24/7. maybe all. maybe we just have to ask.
    landing plane now. thanks much for the question.
    peace and be well. Tre

  5. The Other Side of Charity: After the Money is Raised, Who Does the Heavy Lifting? « Rally the Cause Says:

    [...] The Other Side of Charity: After the Money is Raised, Who Does the Heavy Lifting? 2009 July 5 by scottyhendo This post was originally posted on on 1/13/2009. Comments can be viewed here. [...]

  6. I Gave $10 to David Armano to Help Daniela and Now I Regret It « Rally the Cause Says:

    [...] Posts: Helping Our Neighbors: Further Thoughts on the Armano Family’s Act of Charity The Other Side of Charity: After the Money is Raised, Who Does the Heavy Lifting? Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Social Conservative, Heal Thy [...]

  7. Authentic Advocacy | Tyler Says:

    [...] web, created a community, and ignited a fire that has helped them to prevail through tough times. @Armano and #Daniella – follow the link to read a blog post about this from [...]

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