When I think about how technology allows us to amplify our impact on the world, I think about LeVar Burton.

Is that weird?

Think about it. First, he used a television show, Reading Rainbow, to encourage an entire generation to read. Then, years later, he was able to leverage social media and Kickstarter to fund a revamp.

Now, LeVar will be able to impact a whole new generation of readers thanks to new technology. But the reason behind LeVar’s success is not the technology itself, but how he used it to connect with the right people: fans of his work, fans of Reading Rainbow, and fans of innovation in education.

Our needs in the affordable housing industry are different, but technology can provide us with similar benefits. In this blog post, I want to look at ways we can leverage new tools to connect with the right people, while also addressing needs for security and compliance.


Ask yourself, who could benefit from connecting with you?

One of Kickstarter’s strengths is that each backer usually receives a small token of appreciation. In LeVar’s case, he offered signed posters, Skype phone calls, and even day-long adventures with his supporters.

So while we know your agency would benefit from a streamlined portal tool, who would benefit from connecting with you through it? How about developers, property managers, and even tenants?

Think how much easier their lives would be if there was a single location where they could find forms, applications, and any applicable guidelines you had in place for different programs. A portal could be a place for outside users to submit questions and get answers, submit documents and reports, and allow them to see the status of any ongoing approval process or program.

That portal would obviously streamline processes for you, as well. Your staff wouldn’t need to respond to individual requests for paperwork, and submissions and communication could be separated by entity to make everything easy to find and track.

Security & Compliance

There are benefits to connecting with your partner organizations, but anytime you collaborate outside your firewall you must be wise. Finding the right tool is more important than ever—email is arguably the least safe way to transfer sensitive information.

So how do you find the right technology? When LeVar was looking for a fundraising channel to use for his campaign, he went with one that had a track record and good reputation. Your agency should do the same. Find out what tools are out there, and who is offering each one. Learn what others have to say about their experiences with both.

But you need to do your own investigation, too. First, look at the basics of security: what does the website say about security protocols? Do they meet or exceed current standards? What happens if the system is hacked—will your information be safe?

Second, you need to know if the tool is structured in a secure and compliant way. While you certainly want to connect with developers, property managers, and tenants, you don’t necessarily want to connect everyone to one another. Can you separate work spaces, and control who can access each one? Compliance is vital, so ask if the solution is set up in a way that you can easily maintain it.

We should be inspired by the way LeVar is using new technology to promote reading and education, but let’s not forget that the mission of affordable housing is just as vital to the future of our children. Other than the local school districts, your agency is the one that works most closely with kids in need. Online portal technology allows your agency to connect with the right partners and families to amplify your work and impact on the world.