Meet the founders
In this brief Q&A, we ask founder Stacey Shortall and Sarah Paterson where the idea for HelpTank came from, why it matters and what is her vision for the platform and for New Zealand.
What inspired you the most to create HelpTank?
Stacey - The idea around whodidyouhelptoday is to seek to inspire everyone in New Zealand to help one other person each day - in small or larger ways. Off the back of asking "whodidyouhelptoday" publicly, people came to me saying they wanted to help in a meaningful way, that used their skills, but did not know how to do so. I knew that part of the Kiwi DNA is to want to give back. And I knew that a growing number of corporates were giving staff at least one paid skilled volunteering day each year. Yet I also knew that staff were not taking that day. In talking over the years with my good friend Sarah Paterson, we had often discussed our view that there seemed to be a gap between capability and need in the NZ community sector. All the wonderful enthusiasm and drive was there. But financial and other resource restraints appeared to constrain not-for-profits from accessing some skilled advice that we thought could really help them. Having been involved with a broad range of not-for-profit community projects offshore, I personally knew the difference some free expert advice could make. So the idea of HelpTank was simply to bridge the gap between capability and need using technology; making (seeking or offering) help easy, positive and effective. So I guess the inspiration for HelpTank really started with people asking who they could help today, so that they might answer the question who did they help today?
Sarah - I think that it can be hard when you have a big job and family commitments to be be part of what is happening in your wider community. We thought - what if we could make it easier to bring together the passion and ideas of people and organisations working in the community, with the sort of skills and commitment we saw in the business sector? Its a simple case of mutual benefit, and where understanding and connections grow then exciting things really start to happen!
How did you get HelpTank off the ground?
Stacey - In early 2016, I set up whodidyouhelptoday as a charitable trust and got two great trustees to join me. As I mentioned, Sarah and I had talked about creating a marketplace for capability and need to connect. So with some momentum around the whodidyouhelptoday concept, it seemed timely to really seek to drive that idea forward. Rachelle Sutton very generously got involved in Auckland. I also spoke to contacts in Wellington, including at Z Energy, where the wonderful Christine Langdon quickly joined a project team and spearheaded introductions to others. People were incredible in giving their time. For example, an amazing team at Heyday volunteered their time to conduct market research and drive our concept development. So many people in the community and corporate space gave up time to participate in our research phase. Fantastic people at Assignment also provided us with help around our brand and name on a pro bono basis. Inspirational people in the community sector, including at the Comms Collective and Volunteer Wellington, also freely gave of their time to help us workshop the concept and further refine our idea. As Sarah (who is an absolute star) and I worked on efforts in Wellington, Rachelle introduced me to Q and that led to the involvement of the fantastic Borderless, plus Brilliant Software and Gravity. Lots of people there too gave their time on a pro bono basis to really seek to move things forward. I just cannot thank everyone enough for all their tireless efforts and enthusiasm. In many ways getting HelpTank off the ground has been an example of how HelpTank works. Whodidyouhelptoday has had the need and skilled volunteers have provided the capability to develop HelpTank.
Sarah – We’ve had amazing people share their experiences with us and contribute their skills, time and energy. There has been huge support because people quickly saw the opportunity and wanted to be part of it.
What is your absolute dream for the future of HelpTank?
Stacey - That HelpTank reconnects people in New Zealand in a way that enables community projects to have an even greater impact because they can draw on free skilled volunteer time. And that HelpTank becomes the “go to” place for skilled volunteers who want to give back and for not-for-profits who need skilled help. And that HelpTank makes it easier for us all to answer the simple question – “who did you help today?”
Sarah - That lives are changed for the better because of connections made through HelpTank, no matter how small or large that change might be.
What inspires you the most to do what you do when you wake up?
Stacey - Knowing that children are the future of our country, believing that all children have the potential for great things, and trusting that people in New Zealand want to support community initiatives that help, among others, our children.
Sarah - The thought that there might be a conversation today that will open up another whole world of possibilities for making a difference that we haven’t even thought of yet. When you are around Stacey, that happens quite a lot!
Who have you helped today?
Stacey - I helped an incarcerated mother by making some calls to CYFs in an effort to better connect her to her children. I also helped a harassed driver on The Terrace in Wellington who appeared unable to parallel park quick enough for the traffic behind. So, I waited patiently giving him the room (much to the chagrin of traffic behind me) for the parking exercise to be completed without sounding the horn!
Sarah - Today I talked with members of a group who’d like some help with ideas for how they might strengthen their leadership and effectiveness. And I gave my mate and her son a lift to work and school.