For The First Time Managing Donations Made Easy
I think it’s going to be a game-changer in every level; transparency, instant donations, tangible giving, and coordination on a whole another level. ~ STEVE MAJOR
[TODD DEVOE] Hi, and welcome to EM Weekly. And this week, we are talking about donations management, also known as the second disaster. If you heard episode 30, with Anna Cave, from Houston. She goes really into detail on the systems that they use and the struggles that they had with managing donations and how they had to get the stuff out. So those are some pretty big issues that we have to deal with. This episode is going to really get into how we can do direct donations.
But before we get into the interview with Steve Major, one of the discussions that we’ve been having on how and when to use social media. And the discussion turned into our emergency managers seen as alarmists. I guess it is how we use social media and how often we are wrong, you know? A lot of times with the coming storms, they look really bad on the radar, and you know, we say, “Look, this area here, we need to evacuate, there’s flood areas or whatever,” and it doesn’t really come out the way we thought it was going to be. And so we do look, sometimes, like alarmists.
However, the other issue that we have too, with social media, is could we cause evacuation fatigue? Or too much information? Or the point to where people just sort of turn off we’re having pushed out with social media, and other mass communication as well. Do people just start to turn this off? And those also can cause issues because there have been times where people had evacuation fatigue, they didn’t evacuate, and it caused issues. Like their homes burned down, or they had a landslide or something like that occurs, and they just didn’t hear the warning, because maybe they just felt that we were going to be wrong again.
So, I think that if we use social media for information that’s already pushed out via the regular media, mass communications, things like these, not the first time out, just additional information, I think that might be a better way of using social media. So then instead of it being alarmist, that we already know this information has been vetted, we already pushed out alerts through our mass notification systems, and that now we are putting additional information inside there. And I think, if you look at the way CDF uses Twitter, specifically, during wildfires, I think that’s a really great use of social media. They’re pushing out the information that– I don’t want to say already known, but that it’s out there in other mediums as well.
But this is the way they can update people directly, instead of waiting for the news cycle to roll back around. The information is there on Twitter, and I think that’s used really well by CDF, California Department of Forestry, that is. I’m sorry. Cal Fire. Sorry, Cal Fire Department, sorry, Cal Fire. I completely killed your vibe there. I think that Cal Fire does a great job of using social media to give information regarding fires as well. So you know, we can use it in post-disaster as well, giving information of where people can get food and water, where they can get shelters, where they can go for resources and services. I think that’s a really good use of social media.
So that’s my take on it, but we can even use social media to get a hold of people who are making donations and tell them what their communities are really looking for and what their needs are. So, that being said, let’s talk to Steve Major about Coord and Aid.
[TODD DEVOE] Hey, welcome to EM Weekly, and today, I have with me Steve Major. And he has a really cool idea and concept for donations management. And so, I’m not going to talk too much about it, because I want Steve to tell his story. So Steve, welcome to EM Weekly.
[STEVE MAJOR] Thank you, Todd. Good morning.
[TODD DEVOE] Good morning. Tell me a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the idea of emergency management.
[STEVE MAJOR] Well, originally, I guess you could go back to the earthquake in 1999. There was an earthquake in Istanbul, Turkey. A lot of my friends, my girlfriend then, we were trying to figure out who we could donate to, to make an impact. And that process led us to the frustration of realizing that there’s not many places that you could donate to, knowing that the money will actually get there, not just going to the (inaudible) for some future, generally speaking, aid, and a lot of that money might go to overhead, and there might be a lot of corruption in high salaries, etc. And so, out of frustration, we literally went to Turkey, physically taking that money, that donation, just making sure that it would get there.
Literally, the only way, back in 1999, to physically make sure that a donation to get to the people you were trying to get it to, was to physically take it there. And so, now find it, even after hurricane Sandy and other experiences, we’re still in that same situation, largely. After hurricane Sandy, I went with Team Rubicon to my first response, and it was enough to be working with them on their first opportunity to use their system. It was a military-grade software that had never been used before, and (audio cuts off) application, and the first application was a huge step (audio cuts off). Amazing tool.
But I immediately saw that there was so much more that could be done with this, so many more layers of information. And so, I realized that there was so much more that this tool could do. It was a force multiplier, which, in that scenario of that disaster and relative chaos of the first week or two after a large-scale disaster, it’s amazing the value or the need to gain any type of efficiency you can, to maximize those forces (audio cuts off) both on the volunteer side and on the victim side. There is an absolute sense of urgency on so many levels, for so many reasons.
And so, realizing that there were so many more levels and so many more things that this tool could do, there were so many things going on at that time with hurricane Sandy and the Rockaways and Queens, we had mold groups going on, because it was a big issue with mold, and how we were going to handle that, and trying to prepare for people’s homes that had been flooded out with dirty water, and the mold that was growing, causing some illnesses. The threat of an outbreak related to mold. So, it was a big pull on both directions to go on one side, towards the mold group and help with that mold effort, because I was really involved in that. But we had also this other team of people breaking off with educators and the industry, on first response, getting involved with disaster-data management.
And so, I took my choice between the two, where I thought I could be most effective, and I had a good friend, Peter (inaudible), that was there, volunteering as well. I gave him as many of my ideas, because I was just trying to give those ideas to volunteers. I just wanted to make that tool everything that it could be, and for it to be in everyone’s hands, which– well, long story short, I think a few weeks later, me trying to give those ideas away was a dead end. Either though those channels with those groups after hurricane Sandy or trying to contact Palantir directly. It was just a dead-end. I did get to speak to a couple of the engineers, directly within Palantir, who told me, “Hey, those ideas sound great, that sounds like something that could be a game-changer for us, but we don’t think that our structure, our team, is going to even be able to hear those ideas or think about that direction. I wish you luck, but we’re not going to be able to even propose those ideas, our hands are tied.”
So, I got that response from two different engineers. So all those times, since Hurricane Sandy, those were the obstacles, of trying to get this idea out there. Even just giving away to anybody, tweeting it, emailing it to the world, posting it. And so, finally, I came down to hurricane Patricia, in 2015. Where I’m at currently. And in the response here, I found also there was no information. Here now, at 2015. Three years after Hurricane Sandy, and theoretically, the development of these disaster data management tools. There was no tool that I could have that anyone in the community needs, where I could coordinate those needs. There was no tool available to me, even though I had been an affiliated volunteer with Team Rubicon and other groups, I still didn’t have access to any of those tools, and those tools still don’t have those extra features and layers and abilities that I saw in those first days, using Palantir after hurricane Sandy.
[TODD DEVOE] So, how can your tool, that you’re developing, help emergency managers in the management of donations?
[STEVE MAJOR] Well, one of the exciting about this tool, it’s relatively a separate aspect, but it’s completely inclusive in the way that we developed it, is the ability to facilitate direct, specific, immediate (inaudible) like they all should be, will 100% transparency of donations. So, within this tool, if people post about their needs, whether it’s the individual victim themselves posting about their own needs, or whether it’s a first responder, a disaster– any type of first response group or volunteer that enters that data for them, direct purchases can be set up.
So let’s say if they are like the group of that entire neighborhood or that entire community that was flooded out, and in that stage of recovery, disaster recovery, perhaps, the most common thing they need are dry wall and insulation, and plastic, and mold cleanup supplies, you know, the typical common rebuilding supplies in that stage. So we’ll build a setup with local suppliers, standardized purchase orders for those wish lists, basically. And the only thing that those suppliers have to do is agree to take those purchase orders pieces. So, instead of taking a $1,500 payment for a wheelchair ramp rebuilding materials at the local lumber supply store, they just agree to take it $1 increments or whatever they come in as, with the donations.
And so, when our last donation comes in, that $15,000 item is paid off. There’s already volunteer disaster groups, people waiting, needing those materials to be able to put their forces to work, helping that person with that wheelchair. Let alone, obviously, from the point of view of the victims themselves. And so, we will facilitate that with one click, anyone, from anywhere around the world, will be able to find this need, see that there’s only a $10 window left to be paid on that $1,500 of materials, and you will see also that the volunteers groups are set up, coordinated already to install those materials, and you will be able to go to that group, see a trust rating, and check out their background and their history, and you’ll be able to see this person’s, this disaster victim’s trust rating, if they have one, any kind of background.
If they had five other wheelchairs asked and they’re selling them on the side, or if there’s anything like that. This is a tool of transparency, and a tool of coordination and direct aid that I don’t think exists.
[TODD DEVOE] So this is sort of like, the Uber, if you will, for donations management?
[STEVE MAJOR] You could say that. It’s really– I think in crisis management, I think they call themselves the Craigslist.
[TODD DEVOE] Oh, okay.
[STEVE MAJOR] Approach, or the Craigslist tool of disaster management. And I always had that kind of mentality, too. This is just a tool of simple filtering of information, being able to have a place to enter data, to be able to control that data with privacy filters, and to be able to have backgrounds on those profiles, background profiles so we can see, with credentials or any reports, or suspected reports of fraud or anything like that. All of that on the table, in a transparent way, that everyone can use. That’s one of the biggest frustrations, like I said, even after hurricane Patricia, even as a former affiliated disaster volunteer, I don’t have access to some of those tools, because they’re only available to certain entities. Only affiliated volunteer groups, and only certain of those.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[STEVE MAJOR] So in the big picture of a disaster, not just short-term, but long-term, because disaster recovery takes years, many years. Much more than two years. We’re talking about long-term. So, this tool is for that full cycle, from the immediate to the long-term, and it puts everybody in coordination, it gets everybody on board, because some of the big keys of disaster coordination– I mean, they say the four C’s of disaster are communication, cooperation, coordination, and collaboration.
And the way I look at it, if you’re only dealing, out of that entire community, of let’s say, a million people. A city of a million that has 100,000 people displaced in a large-scale disaster, relatively speaking. If you only have a handful of people with such a powerful game-changing tool, like volunteers, or the crisis cleanup, or all the other tools that are currently available to people. If they’re only available to 175 affiliated groups around the world, and perhaps only 10 or 12 affiliated groups on that particular city, in that particular moment, and there’s only maybe 5 people in each one of those groups, you’re taking a million people off the table!
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[STEVE MAJOR] Not to mention the rest of the planet could be able to (inaudible). It’s a game-changer, because the whole planet now can go and see someone’s need, and fill that bridge, those gaps. So, if I can jump into an example.
[TODD DEVOE] Sure.
[STEVE MAJOR] Hurricane Maria. I spent 11 years in Puerto Rico. And this was, again, just showing how we still don’t have a tool that’s filling this need. I have a friend of mine who’s an attorney. I lived in Puerto Rico, like I said, for 11 years. An attorney that I worked with on a couple of cases on a professional level, that posted on Facebook that her mother– this was a couple of weeks after hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Her mother, she posted, had a medical need, a rather extraordinary, serious need. A medical need. I don’t know what nature that need was, but it was serious.
And two weeks after the hurricane, that generator went out, and it was unrepairable. And so, their backup plan, they thought they had a backup plan, they had a backup generator, they’re solid, they’re in good shape, right? But really, if you have a medical need for a generator and you live in a place that could be hit by a big disaster that could put you out of power for weeks, if not months, in Puerto Rico, some people could be out of power for a year before they get power back. It’s already been five months.
So they really need to have a backup generator for what is now their permanent power, which is their backup generator. It becomes their main power supply. And they really need to have a backup for that. But to get back to the story, my friend posted about this need for a generator going out on Facebook. I responses to it, I used to be in Team Rubicon, I can reach out to those guys and see if they’ve got any contacts, see what they have going on in Puerto Rico, see what they know, if they’ve got other tools available to them, like Palantir and these crisis cleanups that I don’t have available to me. So I’ll reach out to them.
And while I did that, while I reached out to them, she reached back to me and said, “Oh, my boyfriend is actually with Team Rubicon, he’s here right next to me. He’s one of the three people with Team Rubicon that are here in Puerto Rico.” And so, they didn’t have any information about this either. So they were turning to Facebook.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[STEVE MAJOR] Which is still going. I mean, that’s a current thing. Here in Mexico, the earthquakes, people are turning to Facebook, social media, to ask for life-saving or serious means, and they’re just turning to Facebook. And so, it’s a slap in the face, honestly, how bad we need–
[TODD DEVOE] Right, right, I agree with you.
[STEVE MAJOR] And again, one of the game-changers– I think it’s a massive game-changer to handle direct donations. I mean, we can talk about that for a long time, because it’s a massive game-changer, on so many levels. But bringing everybody, putting this tool, making it free and available to all, this is a purely altruistic tool. I call it a tool of buying for the people. It’s that simple. And so, I think we’re going to be able to raise more funds than we need to create the tool. I think we’re going to be able to raise more ad revenue from the app than it will cost to maintain it. This is just going to be a tool that’s going to have access to give on so many levels.
But when we bring everybody in the planet in on something like this, so I want to get back to my example on Puerto Rico. My friend had that need posted on Facebook, nobody had it, Team Rubicon, there was no source, they’re struggling with C8. They could put that post, that need. They could also post that they’ve got Team Rubicon connections and their (inaudible) rating gets fold into that, so people around the world could see there’s a need.
There could be a local generator supplier that was also hit by the hurricane, because remember, stores were cleaned of generators before the hurricane, and that’s two weeks after the hurricane. And there’s chaos, of even getting water on to the island, at that stage. And so, really– getting your hands on a generator with little communication available to you and few people, or little access to transportation, it’s an extraordinary need. A local supplied might say, “I lost my delivery truck and I don’t have any money to give because I was also hit by the storm, but I do have one generator that I could give to you at wholesale.”
So he posts that response on that post of need with CA. Somebody else might say, “Hey, I don’t have any money to give, and I don’t have a generator to give either, but I’ve got a truck. I can make that delivery.” So they post that, and that coordination right there in that post of need. That coordination is starting to take place, it would be the missing factor of that wholesale cost to be paid for.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[STEVE MAJOR] And people around the world see there’s a major crisis in Puerto Rico, “How can I help?” I’m not putting down the Red Cross or any of these other groups, they don’t have to go to one of those groups and donate to something they’re never going to have any idea where that money went, when it got there, how much of it actually got spent on aid. And so, there’s no tangible feeling of giving. When we do, we give partly because it makes us feel good. Helping others, that’s the beauty of giving.
[TODD DEVOE] Right.
[STEVE MAJOR] But when we give in a scenario that we don’t get any kind of tangible feeling, and if anything, we know that somebody is making a $600,000 salary. And you know, the abuses, it doesn’t feed that process. And so now, we’re changing the game and allowing people from around the world to surf around and find out, “How can I give?” CA. Go to CA, open it up, what do I have to offer? I can give money. How much money can you put in a window of more or less what you’re looking to offer? If you wanted to only search for the last payment on an item, let’s say, for example, even if it’s a little item like a mosquito net for $25, but there was still $5 left to be paid for it, for a specific person. They can search for just those last $5 items, so they can just close out items and just be the person that closes out a few items.
But they would literally be paying, just going in and clicking, finding that specific need, actual specific need, clicking on it, making a direct payment, just like they would to any other online purchase. There is no intermediary, it would be a direct purchase with that supplier or local– whatever that need is that you’re filling. And so, (inaudible) terms and fixes everything else, but you’re going to close out that last item and be the person that actually makes that physically happen.
And again, usually, those items are waiting to be picked up. There’s a great need, offered in the volunteer side, and obviously, in the victim side.
[TODD DEVOE] So, what are some of the challenges that you’re facing getting this app up?
[STEVE MAJOR] Well, like I said, getting the word out, and I was just trying to give it away all this time, to either existing companies, like (inaudible) or Crisis (inaudible) with no feedback. Nobody listens, they’re on their own path. Partly, it might be relative to the altruistic nature of C8, and how it’s going to maintain its purity. That could be part of it, I don’t know. But that’s one of the obstacles. The other obstacle is just, as a disaster volunteer, I don’t have the funds necessary to be out and doing all these things. Being a disaster volunteer has put me into the financial situation of not having the ability to invest and create some of these tools.
So that’s one of the things that are drawn aback or held aback during this time. And now, what I’m doing is, especially, like I said, with hurricane Maria, not to mention Irma, Harvey, and the earthquakes. There’s been such a rush of disasters, relatively speaking, lately, with continued– from my perspective, on social media, you can follow it yourself, if you haven’t. There’s amazing need, it still exists. Because people are extraordinarily frustrated with the lack of coordination, or the lack of ability to coordinate in disasters, short and long-term. Not to mention the friction, and abuses, and the lack of transparency, and the ability to fight that as well.
[TODD DEVOE] So if somebody wanted to get a hold of you, how would they get a hold of you?
[STEVE MAJOR] Well, we’ve got a Facebook page open up for C8 Coordinate, you’ll be able to find us there. And we’re gearing up. Our plan is to gear up, and to get some momentum, and this interview with you, hopefully, is part of that. Getting the word out to the world, not just the first responder, disaster aid, and volunteers, but also just to the population in general, that have already suffered through disasters and realize how valuable such a tool would be, and how it could have helped their needs, or helped them in filling someone else’s need.
I think getting the word out is going to be big. And then when we go to the Kickstarter campaign, I think that this project is such a no-brainer. I think it’s going to be a whirlwind, one of those projects that really funds itself well if I can do it right, and that’s just explaining the tool and getting some momentum support from people like Emergency Management Weekly, and all the people that follow all these types of issues and tools. So it’s a matter of realizing the need for such a tool, and then seeing how this tool could fill that need. That’s all I have– my job is– it’s been my job since hurricane Sandy, and I failed. But it’s unstoppable.
I’ve talked to a few different software developers, and they even confirmed with me, this is a simple software. This is really just entering data, filtration, direct communication, and mapping. It’s all straightforward stuff. And being able to set up direct purchase, the transparency and history profiles. There’s only a few pages of it and it’s really simple. So, one way or another, I’ll fund it myself, I’ll just focus on work and fund it myself. But I don’t think that will be the case, I think we’re going to get some attention, some momentum, and some support from the bigger groups. Even from the Red Crosses and Team Rubicons of the world.
This is a tool that me, the people, are putting in the hands of everyone. And I think it’s going to be a game-changer on every level. Transparency, instant donations, and tangible giving, coordination on a whole another level, of including everybody. Which, again, how could you even attempt to have four seas without including everyone? I think we’re going to change the game, and so I think it’s going to be a no-brainer, and we’ll just need that momentum, that knowledge of what we have with this tool.
[TODD DEVOE] When do you start your Kickstarter campaign?
[STEVE MAJOR] As soon as I can get some momentum. So, we’ve got a few people now that are getting involved, a couple of code writers, nothing is actually written yet, the architecture of it isn’t established yet. But I do have the functionality of it developed, and some of these people are talking about getting more involved, even on donating the time level, let alone being repaid by Kickstarter or other crowd funders.
So we do have some momentum and growth plans, and my goal is to hire somebody to write that code for just the demo, a working demo. So, ideally, we’ll have the tool with C8– we’ll be able to go in and at least enter data, create a profile, and create a post. And so, even if those posts aren’t going to automatically go into the mapping, and go into the filtration, the searches, we can manually enter that and update the demo.
And so, I think for a small amount– within a couple of weeks, I hope to be able to put together some code writers, who will be able to create this demo, and will be a partially functioning demo, that people can actually enter their needs, and once we’ve updated that demo, which we can do frequently, it could actually begin to coordinate aid even when it’s nothing but a demo. But it could actually begin to be, to some extent, useful. And at least show its usefulness, future usefulness as well.
[TODD DEVOE] What’s your timeline on this, do you think?
[STEVE MAJOR] Like I said, if I can– hopefully, in the next two or three weeks have a functioning demo that we can give away to the world, then if we get a little bit of momentum with a couple of interviews, and then we’ll go to a 30-day Kickstarter campaign and see what happens. And I’ll spend whatever I’ve got on advertising it, which isn’t a lot, but I’ll spend what I can. Everything– kind of all I’ve got on advertising it, and I’ll see how it goes. This is a transparent, absolutely transparent project, and so, to me, this is an international tool that is going to, potentially, have fundraising abilities around the world, and ongoing forever. It’s goign to be an open-source tool for everyone.
So I’m hoping that fundraising won’t just be an initial boom, but well, I guess after that point, everyone will have access at that point, so we, the people, will be able to decide how to use those funds– we’ll be able to actually, with those excess funds, fill some of those needs that are in the posts of C8 themselves. (audio cuts off) the ability to fill some of those needs.
[TODD DEVOE] I think this is a really good idea. I’m happy to have you on the show, and to talk about this, and I’d love to hear more about it once you get your Kickstarter going, and maybe you could come back on and kind of do a demo for us as well.
Before I let you go, big question for the day. What book or publication do you recommend to people that are interested in emergency management, and specifically, in donation management-type stuff?
[STEVE MAJOR] Well, I’d say The Sphere Handbook, it’s considered the most widely known and recognized set of common principles and universal minimum standards at humanitarian response. And so, I would go with The Sphere Project, and The Sphere Project Handbook, as it relates.
[TODD DEVOE] Cool. That’s awesome, that’s kind of cool. Is there anything else that you’d like to say to the emergency management world before we let you go?
[STEVE MAJOR] The only thing I can say is, like I said, I think that we all share the same frustrations. I think that we all realize that we can do better, whether it’s food going to spoil on the docks in Puerto Rico, or that person who can’t get their hands on a generator because they can’t communicate that need to anyone, or whether it’s abuses in donations and the lack of transparency. I think, on every level, I think we all know that we can do much better, and I think that once we put this tool– this tool right now, C8, is only what I’ve been able to create it to be, which I think is a game-changer. But it’s an open-source tool. Once everybody gets involved in this, it’s only goign to be an even better tool. I’m excited beyond how I can explain, even if we were just talking about the direct donations part of it.
[TODD DEVOE] Steve, thank you so much for being on, and when you get the demo up and ready to run, I’d love to have you on, so we can demonstrate to everybody, and I look forward to hopefully seeing your Kickstarted campaign appear soon, and we’ll help promote that as well.
[STEVE MAJOR] Fantastic. I really appreciate your help, Todd, and thanks to everybody at the Emergency Management Weekly.
[TODD DEVOE] Alright.
[STEVE MAJOR] Thank you.
Links and Information
EM Weekly Information
EM Weekly www.emweekly.com
Titan HST https://www.titanhst.com/
The Blue Cell http://www.thebluecell.com/
The Emergency Managers Leaders Conference http://emlc.us/