Frequently Asked Questions
Are you a Nonprofit?
We’re a social entrepreneurship. We’re structured as a Delaware-C corp but we only take 1% of in-app purchases for software maintenance. We’re dedicated to offering a high-quality free app to the public and we consider impact metrics on equal footing with profit metrics when we report to our investors.
How does the homeless person get my money?
Well most people who are homeless have trouble keeping a bank account, a cell phone, or identification so its hard to give them anything but cash.
People can be homeless for lots of reasons so giving cash isn’t always a bad idea, but on average nonprofits and police departments request that we give funds to organizations instead.
When you give on Empulse, the person who sparked your empathy will not receive your donation directly, but the shelters, food banks, medical clinics, and addiction treatment centers nearby that offer free services to them will.
We believe that opening doors for people in the community will sustainably reduce homelessness, but we always encourage direct expressions of aid and
Empulse is meant to help you give when you don’t have the time, don’t know the person, and don’t know the neighborhood but still want to help out.
What Kind of Data Do You Collect?
Empulse started as a way to measure homelessness without hurting people who were already suffering.
People who are homeless often don’t have identification, a fixed address, a bank account, or a digital identity. Even worse, artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms are often used to allocate services to the poor but built with data that may not include homeless people.
When uninformed algorithms are used in criminal justice they can make bad decisions because they don’t truly represent the people they used to measure. This can also happen when policymakers, city planners, and nonprofits make decisions about services because homeless people may not be counted in the census or other public datasets.
We wanted to give people who are digitally silent a voice in the city they live in. However we had to respect that not everyone wants to be identified, and many people struggle with trauma and even psychosis about being tracked and labeled.
We decided to build Empulse to show when and where people were giving to panhandlers. We think these small, empathic donations will mirror the more structured research on homelessness such as the biannual Point in Time Estimate. If we can see where people who have cell phones are giving small amounts of cash, thats a pretty good clue that they are encountering people in need. If we make it easy for someone who doesn’t carry cash to give to a nonprofit, then we might even help by gathering more nonprofit funding.
Our donation map is live right now, see if you agree with us that the Empulse donations are a good dashboard for your community’s need!
Where did you get the idea for Empulse?
Our founder is an MD who was late for a dinner meeting after a long hospital shift. She saw a homeless man who asked for money to buy food. She wanted to give him the money, but after a long day treating people who were suffering the effects of addiction she didn’t feel comfortable putting more money out on the street. She had just bought a song using Shazam with ApplePay and thought “Why can’t it be that simple to buy service from a nonprofit?”
Empulse was born! We intentionally designed it to be the simplest possible interaction people could use to improve poverty in their community. Sometimes even the best of us don’t feel up to a personal interaction or helping someone directly. The good news is that there are people in every community who feel called to these personal interactions but might not feel up to fundraising efforts.
Empulse is designed to buy service from community members who are skilled at helping the homeless population so they can do what they do best.
How can I Get My Nonprofit Added to Your App?
Eventually we’ll have a nonprofit portal so organizations can maintain their own account and receive perks and you can sign up for the presale here.
We donate funds annually. Donations are via your organizations preferred method (if we had our druthers it would be credit card webforms or PayPal).
Participation can be completely passive. Nonprofits don't need to do anything other than give permission via email to be listed in the app, maintain nonprofit certification, and keep providing services in their town.
Funds allocation is based on an algorithm. Donations in the free app are collective. Donations in the paid app can be direct to your organization.
We’re open to creative collaborations. We work with commuters, city government, downtown businesses, hospitals, and police departments to redirect cash donations to structured solutions, contact us if you have a feature or program you think we should add.
Please tell us if your services change. You can receive funds in any of the following categories: basic needs (food, clothing, shelter), medical/legal dental, psych/addictions, life-skills/daycare, and nonpartisan advocacy.
What About Animals?
We will be adding nonprofits that serve animals to our app this year for three reasons:
Many homeless people won’t go to shelters if they have to leave their pets behind.
Animals can be great therapy because they are nonjudgmental; however, people who are homeless sometimes have less resources to take care of their pets.
We think treating animals better is as important as treating humans better. We’d love to acknowledge nonprofits that have a mission toward animals.
You can preorder Empulse Pets now with release planned for Spring of 2020.
How do you help Police departments?
Police departments often find themselves in the costly position of penalizing the homeless for social or medical conditions. This is an inefficient use of police resources.
More importantly it gets our officers down.
Many police departments have run anti-panhandling campaigns in an attempt to reduce the cash going toward addictions on urban streets.
We offer participating police departments a sustainable long running anti-panhandling campaign in their city with a positive alternative - partner with local nonprofits, hospitals, and foot-traffic to reduce homelessness!
What do you do for downtown businesses?
Actually quite a lot. Most downtown businesses have divided feelings about the homeless community. No matter how empathic a business owner is, they must prioritize customer satisfaction to stay in business and customers are often unaware of the complex ecosystem of urban streets.
We offer downtown businesses an easy solution, add a round-up function at the till and encourage customers to give on Empulse instead of giving cash on the street. In return businesses receive public endorsements for their civic engagement from Empulse and support from local nonprofits, police departments, and city government to reduce homelessness and improve business.