Announcing: HandUp has been acquired by South Oakland Shelter!


Dear HandUp Community,

We have some big news to share: the HandUp platform has been acquired by our close partners in Detroit, South Oakland Shelter!

Starting November 1st, 2017, South Oakland Shelter (SOS) will officially take ownership of HandUp and keep our products accessible to nonprofits across the Bay Area and the country. This is an exciting milestone for HandUp and we hope you will join us in celebrating this transition.

More about SOS

SOS became HandUp’s first nonprofit partner outside of San Francisco in 2014. They were working to build their own fundraising platform when they discovered HandUp already existed.  In the words of Jenny Poma, COO at SOS, “We were excited to find that HandUp was already effectively raising critical funds around the issues of homelessness in such a personal way. We found what we were looking for – an opportunity for our clients to share their story, in their own words, and advocate for their most immediate needs.”

Three years later, SOS is one of HandUp’s most active partners and has spearheaded new initiatives using the platform. SOS secured $100,000 in grants from the McGregor Fund and The Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan to launch the HandUp Detroit Collaborative. Together, 11 housing agencies have used the platform to raise $200,000, helping 600 people experiencing homelessness in Metro Detroit.

We are humbled by SOS’s commitment to growing our technology and vision, and couldn’t be more thrilled for them to take HandUp through its next phase of impact.

What this mean for you

You might be wondering what this means for the people who use HandUp. Don’t worry, SOS will keep the platform running with the same level of service you’ve come to expect.

  • For our donors: You will still be able to use HandUp to directly support people experiencing homelessness and the nonprofits that serve them. If you have a recurring donation set up, it will continue supporting the great work of nonprofits across the country. (If not, set one up here to help SOS get off to a strong start!)
  • For our nonprofit partners: You can continue using HandUp as always. will still be your go-to, with the SOS team responding to your inquiries and supporting your fundraising initiatives. Stay tuned for more information about an upcoming webinar where you can meet the SOS team.
  • For our members: If you have a fundraising profile on HandUp, you can keep working with your sponsoring nonprofit organization to raise funds, check your point balance, and work toward achieving your goals.
  • SF Gift Card Program: While SOS will maintain HandUp’s online fundraising tools, the San Francisco-based street Gift Card program will be put on hold. The last day to buy Gift Cards is October 15th. If you’ve recently purchased Gift Cards, please give them out before the use by date. Any remaining funds will be redistributed to nonprofits on the HandUp platform after that point.  

Why we’re making this transition

This news may come as a surprise to some of you and we want to share a bit more about what led to this decision.

When we started HandUp, our goal was to use the power of the for-profit business model to make an impact on homelessness. We successfully created innovative products for human service agencies, but weren’t able to make HandUp work as a highly scalable business. While we worked hard to reach our current base of 100 nonprofit customers, the reality is we needed closer to 1,000 to be a thriving tech startup operating in San Francisco.

However, we did create a powerful philanthropic model for delivering impact. As we shared in our recent infographic, we’ve raised $2.4 million in donations on the platform, helping 25,000 people cover their basic needs. We’re so glad this impact will live on with SOS.

Thank You 

Building HandUp has truly been a community effort and we’re so thankful to you all for helping us get here. Special thanks to:

  • Our members like Rodney and Julianne who courageously said “yes” to trying something new like HandUp;
  • Our nonprofit partners like Kara Zordel at Project Homeless Connect, who use the HandUp platform every day to help their clients succeed;
  • Our corporate and philanthropic contributors like, who believe in the power of innovation to drive social change;
  • Our investors like Julie and Clara at Tumml who took a risk on a different kind of startup;
  • Our government partners like the City of San Francisco who supported us from the beginning;
  • Our HandUp team who put their talent to work making something great;
  • And, of course, our donors who act on their compassion and help dignify our homeless neighbors.

Closing message

With this strong base of support, SOS is ready to carry forward the vision of HandUp as a philanthropic initiative with great social impact. From Ryan Hertz, SOS CEO, “HandUp’s mission is to use the power of technology and human relationships to fight poverty, and these tools have empowered us in recent years to better fulfill our own mission: building communities that end homelessness. We are proud to inherit and continue HandUp’s legacy as we extend our work into building digital communities.”

Many people have asked us what’s next for the HandUp team. We’re focused on this transition for now, but are excited to say part of the team will join We (Rose & Sammie) will both stay on as advisors to HandUp and continue doing everything we can to help it succeed.

We invite you all to stay with us through this transition. This isn’t the end. It’s a new beginning.


Rose & Sammie

The HandUp Team:  Barney, Katrina, Rose, Sammie, Patricia

The HandUp Team: Barney, Katrina, Rose, Sammie, Patricia

To Solve Homelessness: Understand, Dignify, Do

The world is before you, and you need not take it or leave it as you came in.
— James Baldwin
Photo Credit:  Jessica Sabogal

Photo Credit: Jessica Sabogal

As I sit at my desk in the HandUp office, I look out the window and down onto an all too familiar scene. It’s 5 pm and two people are lying on the ground, seeking sleep on the cold, hard sidewalk, where James Baldwin’s poignant quote is painted on the brick wall above them. A bag stuffed with clothes is their shared pillow, their items are gathered at their feet. This bustling alley between Mission and Market, like many public spaces in the Bay Area, is a momentary resting place for the weary, a claiming of some tiny moment of peace in a painful struggle. On the surface it seems San Francisco has become all too comfortable with alleys like this across the city.

Symptoms of the systemic failure that is homelessness, like this alley, are found at every turn: discarded needles and empty bottles, tent communities under every highway overpass, shelter lists over 1,000 people deep every single night, thousands of lives broken. As these symptoms overwhelm our city , the story most of us form is that San Francisco’s homelessness issue is uncontrollable. My colleagues and I at HandUp, however, feel there’s a different story to tell, a crucial reframe that shows you that tangible change is happening right now, and that you can be a part of it. This is not an intractable crisis, it is a fixable challenge with proven solutions. It is a narrative we can all find our place for impact in as fellow citizens of San Francisco. We must see through the crisis to the heart of homelessness.

Photo Credit:  Rachel Heydemann

Photo Credit: Rachel Heydemann

Since June 2015 I’ve dedicated myself to the work of unraveling the issue that is homelessness, when I first entered this space as a volunteer upon quitting my job at Google. Working at Google was a huge privilege, and I am proud of both my time there and the company itself, but like many tech employees, my relationship to the city became one of leisure. My identities as engaged citizen or active community member were slowly eroded. There simply wasn’t time. For the last 2 years I’ve had the opportunity to partner with incredible organizations that have taught me the depth and breadth of this issue. I’ve become a full-time independent nonprofit consultant committed to affordability and homelessness.  I’m not an expert but working toward a more equitable world is my path and advocating for this issue, alongside my partners at HandUp, is important.

HandUp Outreach 2015-186.jpg

The Bay attracts brilliant minds, explosive wealth, and deep empathy, and we can leverage this to solve one of the messiest, most complicated systemic issues of our time. What I’ve found in my 2 years of investment in this issue is that most of us simply don’t know what to do. Despite an obvious desire for resolution we find ourselves caught between apathy to overwhelm. This is why we must shift the story, and unpack the complexity. Change is happening right now and we have the power to magnify it. Our region has a rich history of progressive values and fearless innovation, and we are being called upon to uphold our heritage.

Photo Credit:  Rachel Heydemann

Photo Credit: Rachel Heydemann

We won’t explain this perfectly or answer every question, but over the next month we aim to break down the complex pieces of this intersectional problem. In our series we’ll feature organizations tackling this issue, share resources from experts, highlight proven solutions, and show you how you can make a personal impact right now in a way that’s clear, and empowering. This is our work to do, as a community. Together, we can end homelessness.

Starting today, follow our #UnderstandDignifyDo Series @HandUp on Twitter and Facebook, and follow me @heyrachelb to stay tuned, share questions, learn more, and take action.