The needs of economically disadvantaged students or their families on the Ahwatukee campuses of Kyrene School District almost equal those on its Tempe and Chandler campuses combined.
That’s why district officials hope that in a season of giving, people will remember to sign up for the mobile app Purposity, which matches specific immediate needs for needy kids or their families in the district with local donors who signed up at purposity.com to meet them.
The district texts Purposity users once a week seeking items costing no more than $250 for a student in need. The item is purchased through Amazon and shipped directly to Kyrene’s district headquarters, where a staffer gets the item to the student.
Despite a strong response by residents a year ago when Kyrene became the first school district in the state to adopt Purposity, signups and responses to calls for action have fallen off lately.
“While we don’t know the exact reason for the decline in donations, we do know that after our record registrations, needs were being filled within hours, if not minutes, of the weekly text messages,” district spokeswoman Erin Helm said.
Because at times “users reported attempting to fill needs only to find they had all been filled,” Helm said, “it is possible some users stopped trying.”
“Kyrene set records with the speed and volume of Purposity registrations when we launched last year,” Helm said. “However, over the course of the year, donations declined even as needs increased. As a result, Purposity is seeing a backlog of unfilled Kyrene needs.”
Currently, Helm said, there are 146 needs among students and families connected with Kyrene’s Ahwatukee schools, compared to 82 on its Chandler campuses and 92 in its Tempe schools.
The numbers reflect individual items needed, not necessarily individual students or families, Helm said, explaining, “A family that lost everything to a fire, for example, might have many needs.”
Purposity was created by Georgia entrepreneur Blake Canterbury, and it has been adopted in districts across the country. Canterbury wanted to use storytelling and the digital world to help people, so he and other volunteers began crafting small stories around each need to make each text a heartfelt message rather than an impersonal list.
In Kyrene, school staff share specific student needs with users who are then texted to the phones of people who have signed up as prospective donors. They can then choose to fill that need.
All donations and contributions go directly to the student or family.
“Last year, thanks to our community’s incredible generosity, Kyrene helped 123 families, including students from every single Kyrene school,” Helm said.
Donors can just enter their number and ZIP code at purposity.com or in the Apple store or Google Play. They will then receive a single weekly text alert for needs than can involve simple things, like an alarm clock, or vital needs, like shoes.
Purposity also can be used if a family were to experience a large loss due to a life event, such as a fire.
Once the need is fulfilled, the donor receives a text that says, “Right about now you’re making someone’s day. The Purposity need you met has arrived, and we just wanted to say thanks for making a difference.”
Last year, Kyrene Superintendent Jan Vesely had a new pair of sneakers in her office that was destined for a needy student.
They had been purchased by a Purposity donor who answered this request:
“This student and her family have been through a lot of transitions lately. They migrated to Arizona and have been working hard for a hopeful future. Unfortunately, medical issues have led to this student’s mom being forced to return to her home country to receive treatment. This student’s single dad is doing all that he can to help soothe this transition, but times have been tough and he could use some support. Give this student and her siblings a sense of hope by sending them a few basics, starting with these shoes.”
Canterbury explained, “Purposity isn’t just a tool. It’s a vision. It’s a vision of seeing the world as it should be. It’s the quest to connect neighbors and communities around purpose. It’s you helping those around you.
“As a group of social entrepreneurs, from the very beginning we wanted to make something that mattered,” he added.
“The solution we envisioned needed to be user-friendly enough that anyone could navigate it but sophisticated enough to solve complex social issues. To bring this to you, we had to ask ourselves, ‘Is it possible to create a legacy that connects organizations and individuals in a meaningful way, unifying us all under the common quest for purpose?’ Turns out, the answer is ‘yes.’”