The Software Agents - Episode 7: Connecting Donors to Doers

Written by: Christina Noren

4 min read

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The Software Agents is a new podcast series sponsored by CloudBees. Each week, we bring you a leader reinventing a different field through software for the new world now being born. Listen to this weeks episode here.

Our guest this week is Tess Gadwa, a well known UX and front-end development expert and company founder. We talk to Tess about her latest venture, GivingMap.org, formed specifically to streamline the response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

GivingMap.org hosts an interactive map of COVID case data in the U.S. It allows anyone interested in helping areas with the greatest need find highly-rated nonprofits where their donation might make the most difference. 

The interactive hotspot map is based on the COVID-19 data feed from Johns Hopkins, recognized as the highest quality. The map then links through to Charity Navigator’s site, filtered to the selected location, with major categories of nonprofits related to the COVID-19 crisis, from healthcare to food security. Donors can pick one and make a donation on the spot. Charity Navigator, recognized as the largest and most reliable index and evaluator of nonprofits, will process the donation and ensure the money gets to those doing the work.

Charity Navigator is a great site - I’ve used it - but it lacks data on where the need is greatest right now in this fast-moving pandemic. Johns Hopkins’ data lacks a user-friendly way to navigate it. Tess had the vision and skill to quickly bring all of these elements together. To me, that’s the essence of a Software Agent. Many software experts are recognizing some new need in the current crisis. They realize that the skills and technology they built for another purpose can make a big difference. And they know that especially now, nothing is in their way. They have the power and mandate to make it happen.

This was a unique episode in a meaningful way: Anyone reading this blog post or listening to the audio can make a personal difference right now by clicking to GivingMap.org to make even a small donation. For many local nonprofits in hard-hit underserved communities, even a $5 donation can bring relief to someone in need.

To encourage our listeners and readers to take action, Tess gave us a real time narrated “demo” within the recording. Our show already asks each week’s guest to pick a nonprofit to which CloudBees will donate $500 on their behalf. Tess, instead of picking one she already knew, used GivingMap.org herself during our recording on August 12 to find a hotspot.

Tess found that Mississippi County, Arkansas, was one of the week’s hardest hit areas. She knew from experience that food security is a persistent problem in impoverished rural areas. Tess located the Arkansas Food Bank, a nonprofit with a high rating on Charity Navigator. After further navigating to the food bank’s own site, she concluded it was a good choice. We at CloudBees followed her footsteps and gave Arkansas Food Bank $500 in her name. Tess took a few screenshots for us below.

Easy, right? This was a bigger donation, but really, if you skip eating out or splurging on delivery a bit, you can probably make it a weekly ritual to give $5, $10, or even $50 to a worthwhile charity wherever things are most dire at the moment. City-dwelling professionals might be surprised at what a nonprofit in Arkansas can do with fifty bucks.

As with all our guests, we got the story on how Tess became a Software Agent. She told us about her two previous companies, Yes.exactly, a tech platform which still serves creatives, and Lotus.fm, a music discovery service that birthed much of the interactive visualization that now powers GivingMap.org. 

We also trace Tess’ journey from English major and journalist to very technical UX designer. Listeners learn how she committed herself to becoming a highly skilled front-end developer to make her novel ideas for exploring information visually a reality.

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