Hurricane Katrina may have been catastrophic on many levels, but it also drove local charities to create new ways of networking and providing services. One of these methods is a program called CharityTracker, which connects charities and helps them streamline their work.
Tina Scott, then executive director of the United Way of Northwest Alabama, put together a team including agents from the Salvation Army, 221, social services, and local churches to address the issue. These meetings culminated in the CharityTracker program. Since 2007, CharityTracker has tracked 7,808,094 assistance records—a total of $229,839,644 of assistance money for 2,926,975 cases, according to the website.
CharityTracker allows its users to track assistance histories using 256-bit SSL encryption, share information securely, create detailed reports and demographics for grant writing purposes, identify needs, encourage accountability, and prevent duplication of services.
Three case studies are available on the CharityTracker website as examples of how the program has been used. SEANtracker (Shoals Emergency Assistance Network) serves as an example of small city implementation. Representing collaboration between community organizations and local churches, SEANtracker used CharityTracker to connect 50 agencies based on existing relationships to expand on support for Hurricane Katrina victims.
“We had 330 families,” said Tina Scott, “and in a short time we were trying to accommodate large numbers of people. We learned that we weren’t getting the same information from some families; that they were getting aid from elsewhere and from us, which, in the end caused resources to dry up faster than they would have if there would have been a way to monitor who received what and the organization they received it from.”
CharityTracker allowed for that sort of monitoring, which enabled the organization to communicate with each other and help families in real time. As of 2008, there were 21,700 case records in CharityTracker, and the charities are saving time and money by sharing information. The program allows them to screen clients, keep records, and look at trends in the lives of the people they serve.
Though Hurricane Katrina was definitely an ordeal, it has led to innovations in the charity world that are sure to help deal efficiently with any future emergencies.