A local social impact technology startup has stepped up to help match organizations in need of volunteers with people wanting to be part of an organized response.
McKinney-based VOMO, founded in 2017, uses technology to amplify the impact of volunteering. With the coronavirus pandemic spreading across the country, there’s no better time to make its volunteer management platform, “Be a Neighbor,” accessible and free to all.
Food banks and pantries, soup kitchens, and blood banks are already experiencing critical shortages of volunteers. VOMO’s goal is to mobilize volunteers, allowing anyone yearning to help the chance to do so—and it works in any organization and community across the globe.
But it’s also part of VOMO’s effort to battle the worldwide pandemic that has hit hard in its hometown, too.
As of Friday morning, Dallas County has recorded 55 cases of COVID-19 and its first death. Tarrant County has 19 cases and one death, while Collin County has 19 total cases, according to The Dallas Morning News.
“This crisis is inspiring people to take care of one another, and there is an explosion of grassroots efforts to organize willing helpers on email, listservs and social media,” VOMO Founder and CEO Rob Peabody said in a statement. “We’ve spent the last three years building and perfecting the very thing communities, organizations and neighborhoods need to mobilize volunteers efficiently and appropriately around critical needs.”
The “Be a Neighbor” platform was created last year in partnership with Sony Pictures and its “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” film. Starring Tom Hanks as famed television personality Fred Rogers (more famously, Mister Rogers), the film follows his story of empathy, kindness, and decency.
The “Be a Neighbor” campaign encourages Americans to live out the legacy of Mr. Rogers by being being a neighbor through volunteerism.
Interested organizations can visit the campaign’s website, create an account, and connect on the platform to start organizing volunteers. There’s also a way to create new projects—both virtually and in-person—for individuals to sign up for.
It’s not the original plan of the “Be my Neighbor” campaign, but VOMO decided to redirect its team, resources, and platform in response to COVID-19.
The move is supported by Builders + Backers, a national network of entrepreneurs, investors, and donors that promotes serving and solving in communities nationwide. The National Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation is serving as a fiscal sponsor so that VOMO can also distribute philanthropic support to front line efforts.
To each participating organization, lacking a way for multiple government agencies, healthcare providers, nonprofits, churches, schools, and other frontline organizations to coordinate volunteer efforts at scale, will result in critical needs not being met.
“It’s crystal clear from my conversations with city and county officials and healthcare leaders that we are going to need to mobilize an enormous number of volunteers to weather this crisis,” said investor Donna Harris, a general partner of 1776 Ventures and founder of Builders + Backers. “We need grassroots efforts to gather a national bank of ready volunteers. And we need the means to take direction from front line organizations trained on appropriate responses in the face of a pandemic.”
VOMO is also partnering with The Dallas Morning News through a new cause marketing initiative, FWD DFW. You can read more about that—and get involved—here. And you can watch a Facebook Live on how to responsibly volunteer here.
Alex Edwards contributed to this report.
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