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How One Chicago Non-Profit Makes Smart Use of Everyday Technology

Wednesday, October 5, 2016 by

The Well of Mercy Chicago

We hear a lot about technology’s ability to change lives—usually when a company launches a new app or device. The Well of Mercy founder Mary Zeien’s experience shows that the smart use of simpler technology can help people change their lives, too. Her Chicago-based non-profit provides group housing, childcare, counseling, and job resources to homeless single mothers and their children. The Well of Mercy is funded by grants and donations, without any government money. To generate community donations and make the case for grants, The Well of Mercy relies on a simple website and a handful of social media accounts.


Non-Profit Websites and Social Media Raise Awareness and Donations

“It is absolutely a necessity to have a website for a non-profit business in order to increase awareness of our mission,” Zeien said. Zeien’s background was in social work studies so she relied on family to help her set up The Well of Mercy’s website. “My techie son-in-law chose HostGator web hosting for easy access and reliability. Another non-profit group in Chicago, EPIC, adopted our business and redesigned our logo, website, and Facebook page and took us to a whole new level.”

It is absolutely a necessity to have a website for a #nonprofit in order to increase awareness. Click To Tweet

Today, Zeien said, The Well of Mercy’s social media accounts and website are its two best sources of new visitors and supporters. “The website helps us acquire grants. It not only showcases the success of the women and children who live at The Well, it also brings awareness to the plight of the homeless and demonstrates that if we think ‘outside the box’ with program support, people can get out of the cycle of poverty.”

“The most difficult part about entering care for homeless, abused women was to convince people that offering surrogate family life with built-in accountability would change generations to come,” she added. The Well of Mercy website and its social media accounts create a sense of community among volunteers, donors, and residents and offer proof of success. Snapshots show kids who live at The Well taking pre-K classes, going on field trips, and simply enjoying playtime in the yard. Other posts celebrate their mothers’ accomplishments as they move through the program. The Well invites community involvement with open houses and thank-you posts to give volunteers credit for their hard work.

In the five years since Zeien founded The Well of Mercy and launched its website, her group has served 150 families. In addition to on-site housing for up to 15 families at a time, weekly counseling sessions, and childcare for participants while they work or attend classes, The Well of Mercy covers the cost of basic living expenses such as diapers, groceries, bus fare, and more. The group is now in the middle of a capital campaign to raise $400,000 to buy the building they call home, with support coming in from community groups and local churches.

Rather than make technology the centerpiece of her group’s mission, Zeien has leveraged reliable, easy to use technology and the design skills of volunteers to support her goal – giving mothers without homes a stable, live-in support network to help them launch new lives and get their kids out of the poverty cycle. “My advice to entrepreneurs is to not be afraid to reach out and get help from professionals who can make a huge difference in your business.” That difference, as The Well of Mercy shows, can have an impact far beyond one website.

Raise awareness with your own non-profit website.

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