Bike & Build: Leveraging the Web’s Power for Good
Today we were excited to hear from Brendan Newman, Bike & Build’s Program Director and an alumnus of the cycling program that raises money for affordable housing. Bike & Build, along with 4 other .ORG community members, was a finalist for the 2009 .ORG Ambassador Award we presented this year at the NTC hosted by NTEN. For more information on Bike & Build, check out their World Voice case study on our website at GlobalWorldVoices.org.
On some levels, it’s easy to quantify Bike & Build’s impact. Over the past 7 summers we’ve had 1,000 participants ride an aggregated total of 3 million miles and spend more than 40,000 hours building and volunteering with different organizations. Once we finalize the numbers and begin cutting checks for the 2009 season we will have, over the years, donated a total of more than $2.2 million to different affordable housing organizations. These numbers, while impressive in their own right, are especially powerful when you consider that our organization was started in 2002 by one person in his parent’s apartment, and we now currently work with a full time staff of only 3 people. We are a proud .ORG that has gained recognition and support through our online presence to continue to do good for others.
Our team has just come to the end of another amazing journey and has been together for almost two and a half months, cycling across the country to raise money and awareness for affordable housing. After coming together in Charleston, SC in mid-May these young adults, many who never met before the trip, quickly formed a bond that is hard for many people outside of the group to understand. Though they come from a diverse range of backgrounds and geographic areas, there are commonalities that bring them together: they’ve all worked hard to raise a minimum of $4,000 prior to the trip; spent time working on build sites with different affordable housing organizations; and trained for months so as to be prepared for this epic undertaking.
They’ve biked nearly 4,200 miles, many of them doing more than that when you count wrong turns and detours. They’ve spent 14 days on build sites all over the country, and even spent 8 days building an entire house in Colorado Springs. They made presentations to local communities, they listened to presentations from a multitude of different organizations, and they held in-group discussions about the cause they were biking for. By the time they jump into the Pacific Ocean, they will have brought the affordable housing crisis in this country to the attention of hundreds, if not thousands of people. They’ll have donated more than $70,000 to the cause. More importantly, they’ll have inspired other people to get involved.
Over the years we’ve been able to leverage our technical knowledge to create and implement a functional web presence and suite of custom tools that rival that of larger organizations. Participants hear about our program through word of mouth or simply from stumbling across the site; they apply online; we process their application electronically; we coordinate hosts and routes with our backend system; we manage our donations online and make use of free Google Checkout for non-profits as well as a custom checkout integration to take no-fee credit card donations (www.bikeandbuild.org/donate … just saying). Riders make use of our Facebook application to connect with others on their trip prior to the start, as well as upload photos directly to our website once they are on the road. Friends, families and other supporters can follow riders and trips through our site with frequent blog postings and pictures on an interactive map. Our daily media watch e-mails us with news articles which go straight up on our Facebook page, which sees its number of fans increasing exponentially. There are countless different tools and applications we’ve made use of both online and in-house to make ourselves more efficient, so much so that we are certainly able to provide more than many other similarly sized organizations may be able to.
Our hope is that in the future we’re going to be able integrate applications that will make it easier for our alumni and partner organizations to check in and give updates regarding Bike & Build’s impact. We aim to make interactive trackers to visualize the geographic and donation data for organizations we’ve supported, as well as where our past riders have gotten off to. Grant applications can be done entirely online, and our Facebook application can expand to keep better tabs on what our riders do when they leave our program. There are countless ways we’re looking to expand our .ORG’s presence in the future as we feel it is directly correlated to the strength of our organization. We’ve been able to do a lot with only one volunteer and a non-existent web budget, but there is so much more we’d love to take on. If anyone is interested in helping out Bike & Build please send me an e-mail (brendan.newman<at>bikeandbuild.org).