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Sunday, January 20, 2013

We Come by Mule Carts, in Old Trucks, by Facebook and Twitter

In 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King had expanded his focus and activism to include the legions of impoverished Americans, creating what he would call the “Poor People’s Campaign.” Dr. King believed that change would be effected through the dramatization of the reality of “joblessness and deprivation.” His intention was to bring the realities of poor people’s lives to light through a march on Washington, D.C. He said:
“We ought to come in mule carts, in old trucks, any kind of transportation people can get their hands on. People ought to come to Washington…and say ‘We are here, we are poor…’”

Today, we build on inspiration from Dr. King and we don’t have to resort to a one-time march or press opportunity to get a message across. Today we come by Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and mobile uploads, and we come in droves. Together we’re engaged in showing one another the “content of our character” as Dr. King might have put it, every day – across boundaries of race, distance, culture, and whatever else separates us. Today, we want to act on the content of our character to step in and help when helping is the right thing to do.

At Benevolent, we are inspired and amazed at how many of you have been converging on our site (www.benevolent.net) to take action and help someone. So many in recent weeks, in fact, that the site nearly crashed twice, and three times now we’ve out of needs to post. Some have sent us messages asking why there aren’t more people’s needs posted to our site. Others are asking how they can tell their stories and seek help.

Here’s the situation. Benevolent is just beginning. We hope one day soon to be working with nonprofits in every state to help them meet the needs of their clients and community members, but we’re intent on doing it right.

One of the reasons Benevolent makes so much sense is that each person whose story and video appear on the site has come to Benevolent through a local nonprofit in her or his community that knows her/him, the circumstances and the local resources and programs available.

This week, we met a need that had been posted by Life Initiatives, a nonprofit in South Dakota whose work is to support Native Americans “by addressing physical, emotional, spiritual and relational needs.” When we send the funds along to Life Initiatives, they will use that grant to help their client. He is getting the funds that he urgently needs -- and he didn’t have to ride in a mule cart to make his need known. You heard him.

To get this right, to spread Benevolent everywhere, we need to find and work with local nonprofits all over, to show them how to use the Benevolent platform to get the help their clients need when there are no resources in the local community to meet them.

So today as we celebrate the life and work of Dr. King and as we’re all inspired to act, we ask for your help, this time in reaching as many excellent local nonprofits as we can. Think about the social service agencies, workforce development programs, churches, and schools in your community. Take action to help introduce them to Benevolent and bring this critical help to their work.

Here’s a link to the pagewe’ve developed for nonprofits. It’s aimed at helping nonprofit professionals understand how they can work with us. Use what you learn there and reach out to a local nonprofit. Offer to help them engage with us. This way we can continue to expand organically. You can help.

Meanwhile we’re here behind the scenes, working to make it as easy as possible for nonprofits to work with us, seeking grants to expand into new communities, and using those grants to hire people to introduce Benevolent to local nonprofits in those areas. So far we’re hiring in Detroit, Charlotte, and the Bay Area.

Thanks for being inspired along with us and being on board with us at these early stages of growth. We’re doing something together that couldn’t have been done in Dr. King’s day and we’d like to think he would have been gratified that we are bringing to light the lives of people living in poverty, and we keep his words close to our hearts as we shape our work: "We need to be concerned that the potential of the individual is not wasted."

 - megan kashner, founder & ceo