What started as a throw away comment over a lunch with investment banker friends has turned Richie Hecker, entrepreneur and marketing consultant, into a passionate advocate for blood donation and creator of TakesAllTypes.org, a nascent non-profit social network intended to mobilize individuals to donate blood at the specific time of need.
Hecker had zoned out as his investment banker friends talked so much financial market blah, blah, blah. Then, one commented on the massive popularity of the Vampire application on Facebook. “We should collect blood on Facebook,” Hecker retorted. That comment lead to a few days of massive information gathering from non-profits, health care experts, and blood banks, and from there the creation of the first open social network to support emergency blood donation appeals.
The TakesAllTypes.org Facebook app launched in beta last week and has grown to a few hundred registered blood donors. “The whole thing is an accident,” he said, but an accident that has great potential. Donors their name, blood type if they knows it, frequency with which they are comfortable giving blood, and contact information. When a need arises, type- and geography-appropriate members of the network are alerted via Facebook, RSS, e-mail, and soon phone, fax, and SMS.
Hecker, a long-time blood donor himself, has learned a ton about the blood supply in just a few short months. “Most blood drives are looking for a specific type and a specific quantity. If the blood can’t be used locally, it’s really almost worthless.”
His goal: to empower people to help care about blood donation. “Because everyone thinks (blood) is a commodity, they pass the buck,” Hecker says, “and the way blood drives are promoted is so general that people don’t feel they need to donate. ”
Hecker seems to be meeting his objective. To date, he’s attracted a core group of volunteers who have built the product in about 90 days and for about $500. Next week, he’ll present to the American Blood Centers, the nation’s largest blood bank, which is interested in engaging its regional centers with the TakesAllTypes network.
And he’s passionate about the cause. “Blood donation is a non-partisan, non-profit effort that no one can say anything negative about and that helps people,” he says. Passionate enough to learn the ins and outs of the non-profit world. “I’m so over my head with this non-profit stuff that it’s not even funny. I ran an interactive agency and an outsourcing company. I work with startups in marketing and development. This is one of those spur of the moment things that we decided to do because we thought we could help people.”
TakesAllTypes.org is currently being run under the auspices of another 501-3(c) organization so that it can accept donations to support the effort. Hecker expects that as the project gains momentum, he’ll file independently for non-profit status. Still, he’s an entrepreneur at heart and recognizes that this could be the start of a compelling business. “We’re building revenue-generating components to make (the network) sustainable, and there’s definitely potential to use the same platform for other applications that can leverage an interactive communications platform.”
* Note: post was edited to correct spelling and tags.