Monthly Archives: March 2016

Using GoFundMe to support your Community Engagement Strategies is a simple, convenient, and efficient way to engage a large number of people and garner financial support to further a particular cause or event. GoFundMe is a web-based fundraising tool that was launched in 2010 which has helped raised over $1 billion in donations for its users. Individuals and nonprofit organizations use GoFundMe to create their own campaigns to raise money. There are four simple steps to launching a campaign: (1) describe the need/basis for the campaign; (2) use the built-in connections to Facebook, Twitter, and email to publicize the campaign; (3) receive donations via check, credit card, or bank transfer; and (4) monitor the campaign or send thank-you notes.

Generally speaking, GoFundMe can be used to raise money for any legally permissible endeavor although the site does not guarantee the authenticity of each campaign that is launched. It is free to create an account and start a campaign. However, GoFundMe deducts a 5% fee in addition to a 3% processing fee from each donation received. GoFundMe maintains a list of 501(c)(3) organizations with their applicable tax ID numbers for organizers to easily raise money for a particular charity.

The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is an example of how GoFundMe is able to engage a diverse group of people to rally behind a particular cause. The water crisis has received a lot of attention and triggered many campaigns to raise money for research studies and bottled water for residents. So far, 92 campaigns have been created. Almost 8,000 donors have responded to the campaigns raising $327,246.


Durham Police Online Survey


This is a link to a news story about an online survey the City of Durham used in their recent search for a new Police Chief.  I referenced this in my proposal as a successful use of a survey in community engagement in the recent past.  The link is in the story and still appears to be live so you can take a look at what the developers put together.




Automation in Community Engagement?

The future of community engagement is a fun little thought experiment, and the answers we can come up with are probably just as accurate as Star Trek was in predicting our near(ish) future. Let’s give it a shot… I think the future is full of automation.

Did you know there’s a good chance in the past year you’ve talked, typed, or emailed with a computer and didn’t realize it was a computer. 

Insert spooky music here.

The fact is faux-artificial intelligence, predictive computing, and automation are quickly becoming a part of every day life (for the sake of this blog I won’t even broach the potential impact of real AI). So what does that mean for community engagement?

Perhaps I’m totally wrong and we’ll all be embracing computer interaction in the next decade, but I have a sneaking suspicion for the time-being citizens would be wildly uncomfortable if their engagement with local government turned out to be a talking computer. Are there some interactions between communities and populations we hold too dear for automation? If you called your congressional representative and thought you were talking to a staffer that turned out to be a computer, would you be offended? What if that computer actually did a better job at serving your needs? And let’s be honest, it probably would do a better job than that unpaid intern looking for some resume fodder. Imagine if Data from Star Trek handled all your complaints.


It’s an interesting idea. Automation in community engagement. Perhaps in 10, 20, or 30 years it’ll be like the youtuber CGP Grey coined, “Human’s need not apply.”

If you got a spare 15 minutes check out CGP Grey’s thoughts on automation and give this little video a whirl: CGP Grey – Humans Need Not Apply

Turning Technologies

Today we turning_technologieshad a meeting with a representative for Turning Technologies. They are a private contractor that sells software which can make PowerPoint presentations, as well as other platforms, dynamic by allowing the user to add polling questions to their presentations. This allows the participants to actively engage in the presentation and can lead to increased information retention by participants. It also allows the user to collect data from the people attending their presentation and perform analytics which allow the user to refine their presentation as well as determine the needs of the group. It can also be used to steer a presentation in the direction the audience would like it to go, check for comprehension immediately, and alert the presenter to areas that need further emphasis.

One of the cool things about Turning is that you can either use a “clicker” provided by the company, or you can log on to their website at and enter the presentation ID and answer the questions directly from your mobile device. The package comes with 20 “seats” and can be expanded in 20 seat increments for an additional cost. We didn’t discuss the overall cost of the package, but it is a one time cost with no need for ongoing maintenance.

It works with all versions of PP, including the latest 2016 version. We did find, however, that there was an issue with using some Android browsers. All in all, it seemed to be a great way of turning what the presenter called “death by PowerPoint” into a dynamic, fun way to engage an audience in a presentation or for training employees, volunteers, etc in a way that feels like you are playing a game.

Modria Resolution Center

My technology and community engagement example is a product that we have begun to use this year in the Durham County Tax Office. The platform allows residents to appeal the real property value online and communicate directly with real property appraisers about their particular appeal. Previously, residents had to come to our office, fill out a paper form and provide copies of any supporting documentation for their appeal. They would then have to wait up to several months for their appeal to be assessed and then receive a letter in the mail letting them know if their value had been reduced or not. If they did not agree with the outcome, they would have to file another written appeal to the county board of equalization and review. In the meantime we would get many calls to our call center with questions about how the process worked, what stage of the process their appeal was at, and if the documentation they submitted was appropriate for their appeal. This made the process take quite a while and caused taxpayers to have to go through many channels to get information. Modria provides a platform to do all of this online in one place. They can submit their appeal directly online. The system also allows them to submit their supporting documentation as well. they also have access to comparable property values that can help them determine if they should appeal in the first place. It also provides a direct contact via email between the taxpayer and the appraiser working on the appeal. That way if additional documentation is needed, or if either party has a question during the process, they have direct contact with one another. Our first year using this platform has been a major success so far. Link below-you do have to register to enter the platform.







Symplicity is a Career Service Management portal that I am currently implementing for my team at Girls Who Code. We run a Summer Immersion Program that teaches high school girls how to code. These programs are in multiple cities across the country and are sponsored by several major tech companies. As a way for the girls to get internships from these tech companies we are creating an alumni portal through Simplicity. The site will integrate directly into our current website. Students will be able to create resumes with a resume builder, create their student profile, and publish portfolios of the work. They will also be able to look at job boards for internship and job opportunities. Companies that have access to the portal will be able to recruit students, view resumes, and interact with our alumni on a whole new level. The system even allows you to schedule interviews, manage career fairs, and evaluate candidates.


imgres is an online event management tool. The stated mission of Eventbrite is “to bring the world together through live experiences.” This tool allows organizations to
  • create and customize and event page
  • let attendees sign up and pay online
  • allow organizations and attendees to share the event on social platforms
  • track as attendees visit, sign-up, and pay
  • manage all these moving pieces
  • PLUS 24 hour customer support
Eventbrite is FREE for free events which is very appealing to non-profit and government organizations. There is a small fee charged when payments are collected, but this price can be worked into the fee as its collected from the attendees.
Salem Chapel – an 1,000 person non-denominational church – used Eventbrite to advertise and organize a week-long Community Service Project. The church worked with 8 community organizations such as Second Harvest Food Bank, the local school system, Pregnancy Support Center, Rescue Mission (supporting the homeless), Crisis Control (paying bills for those in times of crisis), and the Shepherds Center (supporting the elderly) to run a variety of projects at different times and on different days. Salem Chapel needed to organize over 1,000 volunteers as they signed-up to serve and then distribute appropriate information. Information for each volunteer was different depending on where they chose to serve, how often they chose to serve, and their age.
Eventbrite allowed us, the event organizers, to create an online platform that facilitated:
  • the church to advertise
  • the volunteers to see information about all opportunities
  • the volunteers to sign-up in as many ways as possible (while keeping volunteers under 18 to only projects for them)
  • the church to organize those volunteers
  • the church to communicate appropriately with each category of volunteer
  • the volunteers to donate as needed
The event “Crash the Dash” was a huge undertaking for a small church staff, but we knew that if we could keep the processes streamlined and organized; the volunteers and organizations could have a positive experience.
Eventbrite is innovative because it made running a complex event, involving many different moving pieces, efficient. The site can be set up in minutes and can be run through an organization’s already existing website. Additionally, to appeal more to non-profits, there is a 501(c)3 discount. Eventbrite provides easy to use resources to understaffed, underpaid organizations and makes them look good.