What is Footbridge for Families?
Footbridge directs community donations to families facing a short-term financial crisis through third-party payment. We are a 501(c)3 organization that won BNY Mellon’s Social Innovation UpPrize Challenge in which over 200 organizations competed for the top tech solutions to today’s social challenges.
Footbridge harnesses the desire of those who seek to give and directs it, as efficiently as possible, to the most time-sensitive financial needs that families face. The organization fills a crucial gap in our society’s prevention landscape by acknowledging that a short-term financial crisis can lead to exponentially worse circumstances and offers a solution to the financial challenges that families face. This model diverges from today’s dominant paradigm in which tax-dollars and donations meant for families in need is filtered through several levels of intermediaries and directed toward services that professionals have deemed worthwhile rather than directly to families in crisis.
How does it work?
Front-line professionals who have registered as a “Referring Partner” to this service will be able to use the system on behalf of their clients. Partners of Footbridge will serve to ensure that only requests that cannot be met by other social service means are posted, as well as establish the legitimacy of the request made. Referring Partners will likely include, but are not limited to, pediatricians, child welfare workers, school counselors, child care staff, and home visitors.
Front-line professionals from organizations that have a contract with Footbridge may request for a Footbridge Case Manager to contact the family to resolve the crisis and provide referral support. All other front-line professionals will be given a pre-paid debit card to use to resolve the crisis for the family themselves. In all instances, funds are distributed to third-party vendors rather than directly to families.
Donations will be dispersed to the needs shared on the site on a first come first serve basis with the exception of caregivers who have already had a need satisfied via the platform in the past 12 months.
How is the Footbridge model unique or different from GoFundMe?
Footbridge fills an unmet need in society by providing front-line professionals, who understand the needs of families, with the means to support families through a short-term financial crisis.
Footbridge does this by taking the traditional crowdfunding model to version 2.0. The traditional model typically works whereby those in need publicly post their request, and donors contribute to individuals whose story resonates with them over time. This process has several drawbacks for families facing a short-term financial crisis: a) experience has shown that when individuals can post a need directly, fraud can occur; b) the typical crowdfunding time-frame is much too long to avoid the impacts of a short-term financial crisis; c) fundraising success is often a function of how well individuals can tell their story, which is a process that is inherently biased; d) these platforms typically require public individual identification, which is often a major privacy barrier for someone needing help; and e) fundraising is normally limited by the scope of an individual’s social network.
Footbridge solves these problems by a) relying on front-line workers, like home visitors, to validate the need and initiate the application; b) distributing funds almost immediately to match the short-term nature of the crisis; c) distribution of funds is tied to an individual’s validated need rather than their ‘story’; d) complete public anonymity throughout the process; and e) using a platform that enables the community at large to donate to a fund that they can trust will be used to help their neighbors in a crisis.
How will Footbridge help my community?
Footbridge helps both individuals and society-at-large in seven key ways:
1. It will give families an easy-to-use platform to anonymously share their precise needs and have their needs met without having to worry about “marketing” their story so it catches people’s attention.
2. It will meet financial obligations that families face during a short-term financial crisis at the time they need the help.
3. It will reduce the burden on the overall social welfare system by preventing people from needing to rely on more costly safety net programs.
4. It will collect and provide accurate data on the real needs that families face, which will help enable social welfare providers to develop better solutions.
5. It will give frontline professionals a currently lacking tool to help families which will strengthen the potential helping nature of the relationships that they have with families.
6. It will give community members an opportunity to support their neighbors, directly meeting their most pressing needs, which ultimately will help build stronger communities.
7. It will address an important need among community members who would like to feel a sense of agency in today’s society by truly helping others. Unfortunately, the magnitude of need that families face has given rise to a difficult-to-navigate market of non-profits. Families, who are meant to benefit from these services, sometimes do and sometimes don’t. Most importantly, the actual needs they face—the ones that could be met that would enable them the most dignity —are not prioritized in today’s non-profit sector. Footbridge cuts through the noise of founder-driven missions by giving primacy to families’ stated needs.
If I donate, what will my money go toward?
The Footbridge team has done extensive research on the need for this platform and expects requests comparable to these needs voiced during market research:
“My job hours have been cut, so resources are tight. I don’t have enough bus money to get to work or doctor’s appointments.”
“I am unemployed and as of last month I am no longer eligible for unemployment compensation. I have no funds to keep the water on or pay the electricity bill.”
“I have four boys and no medical insurance. I was unable to pay our last light bill because I had to use any money I have to pay the medical bills.”
“I just had open heart surgery and cannot work for about 6 months and cannot pay my mortgage.”
“I haven’t had water for 5 months. My wife died 3 years ago and I have been unable to keep up with the bills.”
“I need help getting my son get vision therapy that is not covered by health insurance. Vision issues are impacting school.”
“My goal in life is to be a great parent to my child. I need help to get my truck back on the
road so that I can go and buy milk or diapers for my child and not have to worry about how I can
get to the store.”
“I lost my son and cannot afford to pay for his funeral.”
“I just got my rent raised and I need help adjusting.”
“I started a new job and my last pay check from my old job was over a month ago. All bills are
behind, and I need my car for my job.”
“I was in a women’s shelter, and I am trying to get back on my own feet in my own house.”
*some of these statements have been paraphrased in order to clearly state the needs that exist in our community
Will I know what needs I’ve met?
One of our core missions is to build a stronger sense of community for individuals and to that end, we want you to know about families for whom your contributions have made an impact. Each contribution, whether it is once or on a monthly basis, will be followed up with a thank you from our organization informing you of some of the anonymized needs that you have met.
Can I submit a need?
Yes, if you are working with one of our referring partners. Please visit our listing of referring partners on our site to see if someone with whom you are already working is enrolled in our program. If you do not see a name or organization that is familiar to you, let those with whom your family interacts know about Footbridge. Non-profits, government agencies, pediatric and/or family medicine physicians, school-based professionals and religiously affiliated organizations are all welcome to become Referring Partners to Footbridge.
How can I know that I’m eligible for aid?
You can review our eligibility guidelines here and use it as a checklist to see if you would be able to receive aid from Footbridge for Families.