Seldom is it that you come across a paper project that actually makes you stop to ponder why that particular design medium exists in the first place. Lucky us, then, for coming cross the business cards supplied by HandUp, a for-profit public benefit corporation that facilitates donations between individual homeless people in San Francisco and the people they meet.
The system is “why didn’t I think of that” simple. Homeless people register with HandUp, and receive their own profile page on the HandUp site. Here they explain a little about themselves, how they became homeless, and outline their most pressing basic needs (e.g., jacket, shoes, dental work). Visitors choose a dollar amount to donate, with the option of making it a monthly donation. A fever chart shows how much progress has been made toward meeting that person’s financial goal.
But how do people even know to go to the site? This is the “why didn’t I think of that” idea: the homeless are given personalized business cards to give to people they meet each day, rather than merely asking for cash. People simply use their phones to text a donation to that particular homeless person’s shortcode, which is then applied to their account.
The idea, of course, is that people are more likely to donate the money to an organization that is parceling out the money for specific needs than they are to give cash directly to the homeless, not knowing if the money would be going for alcohol or drugs.
In the process, the HandUp cards remind us of why we use business cards in the first place – they legitimize us in some way, proving that an employer has vetted us, and lent us the use of its good name.