ALittleHelp

ALittleHelp.com team members pose in their Urbana office. From left are Geoff Gentilucci, Nicole Orders, Jon Molk, Brooke Vemuri, Kate Schell and Troy Thompson.

When Troy Thompson and Nicole Orders sat down to talk about a name for a new digital initiative, they wrote a sentence that stuck out.

“Everyone deserves a little help,” it read.

Legal and General America’s newest initiative had a name and ALittleHelp.com was born.

A Frederick-based life insurance company, Legal and General America officially launched last week ALittleHelp.com, its new crowdfunding website dedicated solely to memorial funds.

The website, a nine-month project, had been in the beta stage since Oct. 28. Friends and family used it before it officially launched.

Nearly half of all Americans would struggle to cover an unexpected $400 expense without borrowing from someone or selling something, according to a Federal Reserve report in 2015.

This challenge for many citizens, plus the fact that 40 percent of Americans don’t have life insurance, led executives at Legal & General America to see a need for the product.

“We recognize that not everyone has gone through financial planning,” Thompson said.

“So, for us, we wanted a way to connect with families. We deal with families every day that have gone through the planning. We just wanted a way to be there for those who haven’t.

“We saw this as an opportunity to do that on a more careful basis, and, frankly, a more generous basis [than other crowdfunding sites].”

ALittleHelp.com is different from most crowdfunding websites in one major way: Legal & General America will not keep any of the money raised. Crowdfunding giant Gofundme.com, which has raised more than $3 billion since 2010, keeps 5 percent of any funds raised.

Thompson said the company doesn’t need to take any percentage of the money raised, because the website is not particularly costly to run. The company uses PayPal as its transaction partner. PayPal charges a transaction fee.

Because some families aren’t as tech savvy as others, friends can set up a memorial fund on behalf of a family member. This will initiate an email to link the family’s PayPal account to the fund. The person who is receiving the funds is disclosed on the website, so donors know who they are paying and that person can receive the money.

“Saving 5 percent from every family that puts money into this could be millions of dollars over time that could be put back into the community,” Thompson said. “Compared to development costs, this was very worthwhile.”

Starting from scratch when the market is saturated with companies like Gofundme, Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which spent years building a brand, has made finding its spot in the market a tall hill to climb for ALittleHelp.com. But its policy of being solely dedicated to memorial funds and not taking any percentage, Thompson said, could be enough to allow the company to differentiate itself.

Nicole Orders, director of digital media at Legal & General America, said the site will have a blog and a resource center to help people dealing with grief and loss. That’s in an effort to build a community within the niche, which should help the website grow, Orders said.

The company will use online contributors to create content for the blog and build a following, as well as find digital influencers on social media to help push the campaign. Digital influencers are people who have built a loyal following on a certain online platform.

The company gives guidelines for what someone starting a fund should ask for and why. Orders said the average fund has been between $3,000 and $5,000 — which is about $2,000 less than the average funeral cost — but there are no boundaries for what a family can seek.

Thompson’s office overlooks the Villages of Urbana. Often, he takes a break and looks at the neighborhood, knowing at some point, with that many houses, sooner or later, someone is going to be in a crisis.

“That’s usually around the time I turn around and get back to work,” Thompson said. “Because we feel very passionate about helping families navigate that crisis, financially, at least, and more and more emotionally through [ALittleHelp.com].”

Follow Allen Etzler on Twitter: @AllenWEtzler.

(1) comment

gary4books

"Think Different." And I do. I think differently. Why people hate the adverb so much is a mystery, but Apple computer started the trend. Where will it all go?

Wikipedia writes: "The grammaticality of "Think different" is disputed. Some say it is not correct in standard English: being a verb, "think" needs to be modified by an adverb, which would be "differently". On the other hand, standard English has many flat adverbs such as "hard" which lack the characteristic -ly ending of most adverbs (and think hardly means almost the opposite of think hard...). There are also non-standard varieties of English in which "different" would be the normal, adverbial form.
According to Jobs's official biography, "Jobs insisted that he wanted 'different' to be used as a noun, as in 'think victory' or 'think beauty.'" Jobs also specifically said that "think differently" wouldn't have the same meaning to him. Also, Jobs wanted to make it sound colloquial, like the phrase "think big." "

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