In a matter of days, we saw buildings under water, houses contaminated by overflowing sewers, ground floors that needed to be sterilized, heaters that needed to be replaced, people without power and temperatures that were dropping. It wasn’t just on the news. We were hearing stories from our friends, family, and co-workers. Martin, Tom, Dara and others had no power for 10 days, no internet, and no heat. Fortunately, none of them had been injured.
For me, New York had been my home for many years, and TIBCO, the company I worked for, had a long history in New York, starting on Wall Street. It seemed appropriate that we needed to do something to help with the hurricane Sandy relief effort.
I created a subject called “Operation Sandy” on our company’s private social network, and posted a message asking for donations to aid the Sandy relief effort. Employees started following the subject and asking how they could contribute. Once the campaign took off, donations started to stream in and within about five days, we had raised approximately $8,000, on top of the $5,000 TIBCO had already authorized for me to spend on supplies.
A few days later, with two vans fully loaded with supplies—sleeping bags, flashlights, batteries, small stoves, shovels, buckets, gloves, brooms, bleach, hats, scarves—we headed with a team of volunteers for two of the hardest hit locations: Staten Island and Far Rockaway.
Everyone who received supplies expressed gratitude for everything we had brought in. One lady in Staten Island teared up at all the kindness they had been shown from total strangers. Another lady was rubbing her hands because she had lost all her gloves in the flood waters. When we produced a new pair of gloves from our supplies, she was over the moon. Other volunteer groups had come in from all over the country and were sleeping in cars, trucks and tents. They were delighted to receive the Coleman Sleeping bags of which we had donated 70 across two locations.
tibbr, our private social network, proved to be invaluable for leading a company-wide effort. We used it to let employees know exactly what was being purchased with the money and why; acknowledge donors who had contributed; organize volunteer efforts to deliver supplies; and share geo-based location updates so employees could see where we were targeting our efforts.
tibbr suited a fast-evolving communication need, especially when employees were mostly using their smartphones. Employees posted information and pictures, making it easier to update each other from heart of the relief locations and bring observers closer to the experience of being in a disaster zone.
Volunteers and donors contributed from all over the TIBCO ecosystem, with donations even coming in from other regions, like the UK and Australia. And, after seeing the generosity streaming from our employees, TIBCO donated another $25,000 directly to the Red Cross.