The Giving Wall Story

The Giving Wall Story

The Giving Wall was launched in 2018 to connect neighbors in need to Richmonders who would be willing to help financially. Founded by Becky Lakin with the support of the Office of Community Wealth Building, its mission is to weaken the unrelenting pull of poverty that exists for too many in the Richmond Region. This digital bulletin board is a platform that connects neighbors in need with supporters who support monetarily in times of financial crisis or concern.

According to a pre-COVID 19 report from Prosperity Now, a grassroots economic advocacy group, 40% of Americans are only one paycheck away from poverty. While a pair of work boots, a paid utility bill, or a bus pass might feel small to some, its impact can be crucial to the region’s most vulnerable.

The Giving Wall was an immediate success. Like most startups, it started with a MVP that, once proven successful, needed to shift and grow. Like most non-profits, however, The Giving Wall simply did not have the funds to embrace digital transformation like a technology based startup or other company would. The Giving Wall was running lean on a shoestring budget and yet helping so many. But there was so much more they needed the technology to do in order to make a greater impact.

The Giving Wall founders Reggie Gordon and Becky Lakin
(The Giving Wall founders Reggie Gordon and Becky Lakin)

The Giving Wall was built with shoestring and bubble gum. It was done by some really awesome VCU students and others. The MVP technology wasn’t going to allow us to iterate as we needed to to really become better and smarter and more autonomous in our operations,” says Becky Lakin, founder of The Giving Wall.

In 2019, the organization was recognized at the RVATech Gala with an Innovation in Community Award for its impact. The team at Simple Thread was impressed and ready to help in a big way.

“I saw Becky talk about The Giving Wall at the RVATech Gala and the concept really resonated with me. I had been looking for a way to use our expertise to help the community, and the idea of leveraging our digital product development skills to build an application that allows Richmonders to help each other… it was perfect. I knew Simple Thread needed to get involved.” – Justin Etheredge, Partner at Simple Thread.

The biggest challenge they faced was allowing more than one partner to post needs from their community that were managed separately within the platform. Our team spent significant time understanding the most critical needs and then rebuilt the whole system from scratch to equip each partner with their own dashboard for posting needs.

The handling of funds was also a key challenge. The Giving Wall needed money coming from supporters to pass through the Wall and route directly to the proper organization. We were able to solve this using a marketplace solution which can scale with The Giving Wall as they grow and bring on new partners.

“Prior to the Simple Thread partnership we were only able to support our founding partner, Richmond’s Office of Community Wealth Building,” says founder Becky Lakin. “With the new application, we’ve been able to expand our services to include St. Joseph’s Villa, the International Rescue Committee, and Peter Paul Development Center.”

Prior to the Simple Thread partnership we were only able to support our founding partner…with the new application, we’ve been able to expand our services.

Becky Lakin, Founder and Director of The Giving Wall

The Giving Wall is looking to the future and how they can broaden their reach. Soon, they will be welcoming Commonwealth Catholic Charities and Henrico County Public Schools. Through the wall, members of the community have supported other members of the community 527 times. There have been 527 urgent financial needs met, which equates to $112,000 from supporters invested in the community. A tremendous impact.

Technology enabling human compassion and connection is a story we’re excited to tell because it’s a narrative about technology living up to its true potential. A force for good. Our society loves to tell the tale of the startup who disrupted the industry and is “crushing it” financially. But what about social impact “crushing it”? What if every company in our industry looked for high-impact opportunities to help? Many are, but there is always more we can do.

“Working with Simple Thread has been one of the best partner experiences I’ve ever had. The demand on people who can do what Simple Thread does is high. They don’t need to give away their resources and time and talent – which they did, for a long period of time. In my experience you don’t find that in the IT world. You just do not find that,” stresses Lakin.

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