When it comes to social good, we often think we have to do something world-changing. In his book All the Trouble in the World, P. J. O'Rourke said
“Everybody wants to save the earth; nobody wants to help Mom do the dishes.”
If you think about it, that’s human nature. We love the grand gesture, the transformational speech or the disruptive technology. In the meantime, we pass homeless people on the street and we wonder what to do.
I understand this feeling well. I’ve often been torn while thinking about how best to serve: do I give a homeless person cash, perhaps enabling them to practice alcoholism? Or, do I walk by without making eye contact? Well, HandUp has a different approach.
Sammie Rayner is one of the cofounders of HandUp. You could say that the universe conspired to set her up for just this type of work. Her parents were business owners. As a young person, Sammie cared for her grandfather as he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. These two early influences seemed to set her on a journey to discover business models that do social good.
As a college student, she heard Dr. Muhammad Yunus speak at her university. She also read his book Banker To The Poor. This sent Sammie on a journey of discovery. She dug into the concept of social enterprises and microfinance. In her research, she found that, despite the success of microfinance around the world, less than 5 percent of microfinance borrowers lived in Sub Saharan Africa. And of that small percentage, less than half of the loan resources were available to people in rural areas.
This discovery led to the establishment of a microfinance non-profit, Lumana Credit, in 2009. Lumana was acquired by Sinapi Aba Trust (SAT) in April, 2013. By October of that same year, Sammie joined HandUp as a cofounder, joining Rose Broome and Zac Witte.
HandUp is a platform for giving directly to people experiencing homelessness. They partner with more than 20 agencies who screen the campaigns. HandUp provides donors with a simple way to impact the lives of homeless neighbors.
How big is this problem? According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, In January 2015, 564,708 people were homeless on a given night in the United States. Of that number, 206,286 were people in families. In just over two years, donors have helped over 1,500 people reach more than 4,000 goals and raise more than $1 million.
That homeless person we were talking about at the beginning of this conversation? You can help them with a particular project. If you’re in San Francisco, you can even give them a safe gift card.
And here's the thing. When we aggregate all of these small acts of social good, we really do change the world.
Social Entrepreneurship Quotes from Sammie Rayner:
“These two influences seemed to always come up in my life of loving business, but also wanting to find a way to incorporate social change.”
“Something I think really struck me. I’ve been working across the globe, and there’s this huge problem right here in the states.”
“What I’ve learned from both ventures is the importance of starting really small.”
“Incorporate the people you want to help as soon as possible.”
“Get to know your homeless neighbors.”
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