Company Providing Charity Tracking Software
Charities in northwest Alabama had a problem after Hurricane Katrina blasted the northern Gulf Coast in 2005: They didn’t know how to keep track of thousands of people who were suddenly on the move and seeking help far from their homes in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.
A collaboration between community workers and computer programmers resulted in a system that is now being used to keep track of thousands of charity recipients in about 680 cities nationwide this Christmas season.
Developed by Simon Solutions Inc. in Florence, CharityTracker is one of about 30 software tools used by U.S. homeless shelters, services agencies, soup kitchens, faith-based groups and community organizations to keep up with the thousands of needy people who seek assistance every day. An agency can sign up and use the Web-based system for as little as $15 a month.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development requires agencies to share information electronically if they receive government funding, and other software systems have wider use in certain areas than CharityTracker. But Cathy Easley, a United Way administrator in Charleston, S.C., said CharityTracker is simple enough that even occasional users can work it and robust enough to let agencies share detailed information that helps people.
For example, she said, someone might ask for utility assistance at an agency that doesn’t pay for power bills. Once a client signs a release allowing information to be shared, the agency can upload a copy of the power bill, which can then be seen by another organization that can help out, Easley said.
"It has really transformed how our community, agencies and churches work together and how we are better able to serve clients by using it," said Easley, director of integrated community systems for Trident Unite Way. About 90,000 names are in the Charleston-area database, which is used about 200 organizations, she said.
Simon Solutions President Mike Simon said his company tries to differentiate its system from others with good customer service and a user interface that’s so simple that an elderly church volunteer could pick up the basics in a few minutes of training.
"It is very, very volunteer friendly," he said.
Part of the reason goes back to the way the system was born in the months after Katrina.