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How Can I Help Today Website

A time of need

The novel coronavirus outbreak of 2020 has created a lot of fear and anxiety - and also a feeling of helplessness. Most people in the United States aren't doctors, nurses, or first responders, and large numbers of people have been told that the part they can play is to stay at home and shelter in place in order to prevent further spread.

As a product designer, with software engineer friends and colleagues, I knew there must be something we could do to help. I had heard from friends, family, and co-workers that people wanted to do something positive but didn't know what to do or how to get involved. So my partner and I came up with the idea of a website called "How Can I Help Today?" which would give citizens some agency and allow them to help others while adhering to social distancing practices.

The website connects people with vetted international, national, or local charities that are still open and actively providing aid to vulnerable populations. Many of these organizations have closed applications for new volunteers in order to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, and instead have asked for donations of money or items to help them provide for others.

Moving fast

Set the timeline

With numbers of confirmed cases and deaths rising exponentially, we knew we wanted to create and publish the site as fast as possible. We decided on an iterative approach so that we could build the MVP in one weekend and get the information to the public faster.

Set limitations

With a very few number of exceptions, we decided that the site should only contain 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations. This allowed us to limit our pool of sources to research and list on the site.

Determining content

The most important task for this project was to determine what information people would need to see, and what actions they should be able to take, in order to find the site helpful.

Invite friends

We also invited a co-worker to help develop the site, and we invited friends to help us research and enter information about the organizations we would list.

Designing the card

I decided to use cards to display information about each charity, as this would be more visually pleasing than having a table or a list while also following patterns that most people would recognize.

Next, we determined what information should be displayed. We knew we would have both an expanded and a collapsed state, so we also had to prioritize the information into two categories: necessary and secondary.

Necessary information included: Organization name, tags (denoting populations served, aid provided, and location), and the ability to click somewhere to be taken to the charity's website.

Secondary information included: A viewable link to the website, the type of aid the organization was accepting or asking for, payment types accepted by the org, and a full list of cities, states, and/or countries served by the organization.

Putting it together

The image below is the second version of the site. Some items to note include: A top-nav search bar that auto-filters all cards based on any of the information provided, a submit button for non-profit organizations to add their info to our site, a link to our twitter account where we retweet information from the charities on the site to get them more visibility, and a mode switcher to toggle between light and dark mode.

You are also able to filter the cards by the populations they serve or the type of aid they provide, and toggle between all-cards-collapsed or all-cards-expanded modes.

While nearly every non-profit organization on the site personally vetted by one of our team using Charity Navigator before being added, we also remind users to donate wisely and avoid scams and provide a link to a government site that provides information about how to detect possibly fraudulent sites.

A screenshot of a desktop website that has cards with information about non-profit organizations.

Live site

The website was published on 3/24/2020 and will continue to be updated as long as it is needed.


— Nabil Cheikh, Member of Aquilo Collective