How It Works
What problems does Lotsa Helping Hands address?
Most of us have experienced the crisis of a friend or loved one suddenly unable to function as they had for their family or themselves. Perhaps it's a debilitating illness, or post-surgery rehabilitation necessitating weeks or months of bed rest.
Maybe it's a complicated pregnancy or a cancer diagnosis requiring frequent chemotherapy appointments. In many instances of acute medical crisis or long-term family caregiving, those affected must also cope with quickly finding support for meal preparation, grocery shopping, transportation for themselves and their dependent family members.
But it is often difficult for patients and family caregivers to ask for help. And if help is offered, managing that help can be a significant part-time job: coordinating family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, and church or synagogue members who do not all know each other can be complex and time-consuming, with endless phone tag, too much food delivered, and forgotten commitments.
In addition, keeping these various ‘circles of community’ up-to-date on medical progress or family activity, or securely sharing vital medical, legal, or financial information with designated family members is often another source of anxiety and stress for the patient and family caregiver. Let your Lotsa Helping Hands community help build emotional and spiritual support as you face the many issues surrounding everyday caregiving.
What does Lotsa Helping Hands provide?
In literally minutes, a Coordinator can create, free-of-charge, a private and secure Lotsa Helping Hands web community, define volunteer activities using the supplied templates, and begin inviting members to the community. Through an intuitive interface that requires no training, volunteers can then easily view and sign up for any number of available tasks, review their current commitments, and be confident they won’t forget any assignments as the system automatically sends out email reminders of upcoming obligations.
Community members also have access to the community’s private message boards, photo galleries, resource sections for sharing relevant web links and documents, and even a Well Wishes wall. Any number of custom community sections can be created by the Coordinators to enrich the flow and sharing of information within the community, keeping all members, near and far ‘in the loop’.
Who should sign up and create the web site? What's a "Coordinator"?
The Coordinator is what we call the person who first takes the initiative to create the free-of-charge Lotsa Helping Hands community. This lead Coordinator then adds the initial members (and may even designate other members as additional Coordinators), helps define the volunteer activities, and has a few other privileges for customizing the community web site.
Anyone can be a Coordinator, but it's usually a close friend or family member of someone undergoing medical treatment or of someone requiring respite from long-term family caregiving responsibilities. Or perhaps the Coordinators are the adult children of aging parents, or a close friend of someone experiencing some other life crisis, or even someone who has the responsibility for coordinating the activities of some other type of volunteer group (Schools, Clubs, etc). Coordinators can maintain membership information for other members, post new needs on the calendar, and receive auto-generated confirmation emails when someone volunteers for a task.
Coordinators can also easily create new custom sections within the community to address the specific needs and make-up of the community, including journals and blogs, photo albums, message boards, recipe sections, and listings of members’ skills. The community-building capabilities are only limited by the imagination.
In short, Coordinators are the people who would otherwise be arranging these same activities by hand, enduring a lot of email and phone tag.
I would love to help out. How do I volunteer?
Each Lotsa Helping Hands web site community maintains its own private membership list. To volunteer in a Lotsa Helping Hands web site community in which you know a member, get in touch with that person and ask them to send you a ‘tell-a-friend’ link which will allow you to request membership into the community. For privacy and security reasons, there's currently no way to volunteer at a web site in which you don't know anyone.
How do I add members to the web site?
Coordinators can add members to the community by entering their names and email addresses - the system will automatically send out welcome notification emails with instructions for signing in. Alternatively, the community’s web address can be shared with would-be members when existing members click on the ‘tell-a-friend’ link to notify other people they know who might be interested in joining the community. Following the link allows these prospective members to send relevant contact information to the community coordinators who can then easily approve or deny membership to the pending member, without having any additional data entry burden.
The simplicity of Lotsa Helping Hands makes it easy for Coordinators to add volunteers from the various social circles that often make up caregiving or volunteer communities, creating a single web site community that can support the person, family, or organization in need.
How does a family let its needs be known?
Once the community web site is set up, the Lotsa Helping Hands system quickly and easily guides Coordinators through the creation of new activities using on-screen pre-defined template forms. For example, the request to receive weekday dinners would specify the desired days and times, dietary restrictions, and delivery instructions. Or if a family requires transportation, they can easily specify pick-up and drop-off times, locations with direct links to Google Maps for directions, and appointment durations.
Lotsa Helping Hands relieves the awkwardness of personally asking for help in each instance of need. And once a member signs up for a task, the community web site shows that task as assigned, thereby avoiding overlap of efforts, wasted meals, and confusion.
How do volunteers know what is needed?
Once a member has been added to the community, he or she can sign in and view the community Calendar where tasks have been posted by the Coordinators. The color-coded Calendar allows members to determine at-a-glance on which days tasks still require volunteers, which days all needs have been met, and which days the member has commitments. The web site shows activities based on type of need (meals, rides, babysitting, grocery shopping) and calendar days. The web site will also indicate any new postings to any community sections (such as announcements, photos, journal entries) since the member last signed in.
Volunteers can sign up for any number of tasks with the assurance that emails will automatically be sent, to inform both the family in need and the Coordinators. Lotsa Helping Hands also automatically sends the volunteer email reminders one month, one week, and one day prior to any commitment that they have made. In addition signing up for tasks, community members can also have the option of contributing a post to any of the community bulletin boards, resource sections, or to the Well Wishes wall.
How will a family know what is being provided, and by whom?
The community Calendar displays the names of the members who have signed up for any specific task. Coordinators, however, can set this feature to ‘private’, such that only Coordinators see the actual names of the members who have signed up. Everyone else would just see that the task has been filled. Of course, whenever a member signs up for a task, an email is automatically sent to that member as well as to designated Coordinators confirming the assignment.
What if I need to change my commitment?
If a community member needs to change a commitment, they can contact a Coordinator via Lotsa Helping Hands. The system is designed to let a Coordinator easily cancel or reassign a task, freeing it up for another volunteer to fill.
I share an email address with my family members. Can I still participate?
Even if you share an email address with others, you can still volunteer. You just need to make sure your "address buddies" know what you're up to, as you do with all your other email. (We don't recommend that Coordinators share email addresses, because of the greater potential for confusion if an email is missed.) It is also possible to sign in as a member of a Lotsa Helping Hands community even if you don’t have an email address. In this case, a Coordinator still needs to enter your name into the community, but another member must be designated as the ‘responsible’ member who will receive email reminders for you and contact you directly.
What's the catch? How can this service be free?
Our Sponsors make it possible for us to offer this service free of charge to everyone. In addition, our Sponsors understand that we won't use such annoyances as pop-up or animated advertisements on Lotsa Helping Hands web sites, nor will Lotsa Helping Hands ever provide membership information such as names, addresses, telephone numbers, or email addresses to any such parties.
What is a "Lotsa Helping Hands Partner"? Are they your Sponsors?
Sponsors help pay for this service (see the previous question). Partners, however, are organizations that have contracted with Lotsa Helping Hands to offer a co-branded version of the service to their audience.
You can create or sign in to a Lotsa Helping Hands web site community either from our main web site, or from a Partner co-branded site. As far as usage and functionality is concerned, it makes no difference.
Looking for more information?
If you'd like additional information, or you have questions that aren't answered on this page, please contact us by sending email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What to do next