The Next Time a Disaster Strikes, We Need You and Your Smartphone

By Peter Prix, Founder and CEO of OneRelief

When disasters strike, two things decide between life and death: time and resources. In September 2017, when Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, destroyed hundreds of homes, knocked out power across the entire island, and triggered heavy flooding, resources were limited and time was running. Food and water supplies were running low, generators ran out of fuel, hospitals and schools were severely damaged, and temporary housing was in shortage.

OneRelief, a DC-based nonprofit tech startup, is developing a mobile platform that allows smartphone users to make quick, easy, and secure micro-donations to support charities that have confirmed staff in the affected areas and are quickly able to deploy help.

Focusing on micro-donations (amounts between 1 and 5 USD), OneRelief leverages the power of social media to spread fundraising campaigns in the early hours after a disaster has struck.

Donations can be made through the OneRelief web app with as few as five clicks. OneRelief leverages latest advances in payment technologies and accepts Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal and Credit Card. Donations are immediately forwarded to certified charities on the ground — and the donor receives field updates on progress of relief operations.

Why do we need platforms like OneRelief?

After Hurricane Maria, the US Government, big companies, and foundations pledged millions to help — but it took weeks and months for donations to be disbursed and help to arrive. Why? Institutional bureaucratic approval processes and under-payment or non-payment of promised aid. As of February 2018, 4 months after the hurricane has struck, 80 percent of the population still does not have electricity.

Hurricane Maria approaching Puerto Rico — Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center

Do you remember the pictures of Hurricane Maria in the news? Did you feel empathy with those affected and did you want to help? Most of us did. Yet less than 1 percent of those that saw the pictures and felt empathy made a donation. Why is that? Reasons include:

  1. We don’t know which charity to trust.
  2. Minimum donation amounts are too high.

3. Making a donation is complicated and cumbersome.

4. We likely won’t find out what happened with the donation.

5. We don’t receive any social recognition for our donation.

OneRelief is providing a platform that allows users to make small, easy, and secure donations to certified charities that can have an immediate impact on affected communities. OneRelief operates on a non-profit basis, believing in the mission to democratize philanthropy and to enable everyone to give. OneRelief is a part of cohort 3 of the Peace Tech Accelerator, based in the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington DC.

Take a look at the OneRelief app by signing up as a beta tester here.

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