Frequently Asked Questions

Questions for donors | Even more questions

Questions for applicants


I applied for help. Where should I send my documentation?

You can text us pictures of your documentation at (313) 241-9725 or fax them to (313) 769-8168.

You can also send documentation via email to docs@humanutility.org. Please include your water company account number.


I’m applying for help. How does this program work?

Once you apply for help, we evaluate your application for need. We need info such as your lease or deed and state-issued ID. We also need proof of employment or disability.

Then, we verify what you owe your water company. We provide a decision on your application within 10 business days. If you’re approved, you will receive an email, text message, or phone call depending on how you'd like to be contacted.


What happens after I get help?

We call you with instructions on how to restore service or prevent shut-off.

We may also ask you to share with donors how their gifts help. We also may call you 2 or 3 months after you receive help to check your progress.


How long does a decision usually take?

You will receive a decision within 10 business days of applying.


How long does it take to get a payment after I’m approved?

When approved for help, we pay your water company within a week.


What happens if I need help again?

We help once in an 18-month period. However, we have helped families more than once. Help in these cases is on a case-by-case basis and is not guaranteed.


I had a leak. Am I still eligible for help?

Yes, but you must provide evidence (receipts, etc.) of fixing the leak. Sometimes, getting repairs may help reduce the amount you owe.


My landlord didn’t pay my water bill. Am I still eligible for help?

Yes, but we will pursue the landlord for payment. It may take longer for you to get help. Also, the bill may be transferred to your name.


Who is eligible for help from The Human Utility?

You are eligible for help if you live in Maryland or Michigan.


Does The Human Utility help in my state?

We currently help in Michigan and Maryland.


Do you help with other bills, like electricity bills or property taxes?

No, we do not help with electricity or gas bills.


How can I find out the status of my application?

If it has been more than 10 days since you’ve applied, send an email to status@humanutility.org. Include the name you used on your application and account number.


How does The Human Utility handle applicant privacy?

The Human Utility cares for your privacy. We only ask for info needed to verify need. Do not send Social Security numbers. We share your account number with water companies to know what you owe.

We will remove your info from our system if you ask. Send an email to privacy@humanutility.org. Please include your account number.


I am applying on behalf of someone else. How would that work?

If you are applying on behalf of someone else, please use all of their information. In the space on the application for providing details, indicate that you are applying on behalf of someone else.






Questions for Donors


Is my donation tax deductible?

Yes.


Is there a minimum donation amount?

Yes. Please give at least $5.


Can I give more than once?

Sure! Be sure to check out our monthly giving program to ensure families have running water all-year-round.


Can I contribute even though I live outside the United States?

Yes!


Do you accept checks?

Yes! Send all checks with a note mentioning the The Human Utility to the Social Good Fund, our 501c3 fiscal sponsor:

SocialGood
PO Box 5473
Richmond, CA 94805

If you'd like us to send you one of our pretty thank you cards, please include a return mailing address. We won't send anything other than a thank you card. We promise.


Who created the The Human Utility?

This project came from a discussion on Twitter between @tiffani and @KristyT who wanted to find a way to help people in Detroit with their water issues. From there, we're beginning to expand to other cities.

Dignity is a human right.


What was the main influence for starting this initiative?

We wanted to provide immediate relief to Detroit residents. Many groups and crowdfunding campaigns existed, but we wanted to help faster than those.

Generally, crowdfunders must raise the entire goal before receiving funds, which isn't good for providing immediate relief. We also ensured donations went directly to the water company. Other campaigns couldn't guarantee this.


Can you help me with information I need to get my donation matched by my employer?

Yes, if you need extra information to get your donation matched by your employer, please send an email to donations@humanutility.org.


What happens if someone needs help with their water bill again?

We don’t help more than once in most cases. We have helped families with a significant or terminal illness more than once, however.


How does my donation reach people in need?

When you donate, our system finds people who need help. We then pay the water company on their behalf with your donation.


How much assistance does the average recipient receive?

For the month of August 2017, the average amount provided was $465.65. The median amount provided was $450.


What is the most common amount donated?

The most common amount donated online is $50. The average online donation for August 2017 was $43.52.


Do you accept stock as a donation?

Yes! If you’re interested in donating stock, send an email to donations@humanutility.org.


Can I make a donation anonymously?

Yes! You can anonymously donate by leaving all the personal information fields blank on our online donation form. You can also send a check anonymously to:

SocialGood
PO Box 5473
Richmond, CA 94805


Is The Human Utility a 501c3 not-for-profit organization?

The Human Utility is an IRS 501c3 through its fiscal sponsor Social Good Fund, Inc. (IRS #46-1323531).


Does The Human Utility plan to become financially self-sustaining?

Yes. Our goal is to be 100% self-sustaining through revenue generated from tips included with donations.


How do I know my credit card information is protected?

Stripe handles our online donations. Stripe has been audited by a PCI-certified auditor and is certified to PCI Service Provider Level 1. This is the most stringent level of certification available in the payments industry. On our end, only one person on our direct staff and up to 3 people at our fiscal sponsor have access to our Stripe account.


Can I donate in honor of someone?

Yes! Just indicate that you’re doing so in your explanation for why you’re giving.


How can I cancel my monthly donation?

Send an email to donations@humanutility.org. Please include the email address you used to create your monthly donation subscription.


How do I change my monthly donation amount?

Send an email to donations@humanutility.org. Please include the email address you used to create your monthly donation subscription.


Are there transaction fees for donations?

Yes. Stripe charges the nonprofit transaction fee of 2.2% + 30c for each online donation.


Can I choose which city my donations support?

Yes, you can indicate with your donation which city you would like to support. Keep in mind, however, that we cannot guarantee monies will be earmarked for any particular individual as this is unlawful.






Even more questions


What is your mailing address?

You can send us mail with this address:

SocialGood
PO Box 5473
Richmond, CA 94805

Be sure to note that whatever you're sending is for The Human Utility.


How can I volunteer to help?

Volunteers can help at The Human Utility in many ways, with varying time commitments. Some examples include:

  • Helping with customer service by returning and making phone calls to applicants.
  • Helping applicants complete their applications in person.
  • Writing stories of people who’ve received help and people who’ve donated.
  • Contributing to the site by making a pull request on GitHub.
  • Helping build our backend by volunteering to write code.

If you want to volunteer, send an email to volunteers@humanutility.org or fill out this form. Include your qualifications and things like links to your LinkedIn profile, GitHub profile (if you’re a programmer), writing samples (if you’re looking to write for us), Dribbble profile (if you're a designer), and how much time you can commit and how often.


Does The Human Utility partner with companies?

Yes! Partnerships can take the form of corporate donations or something more creative. Reach out with what you're thinking to partners@humanutility.org.


Do you offer internships?

We will for Summer 2019. Stay tuned.


Does The Human Utility partner with other not-for-profit organizations and community groups?

Absolutely! Some of our community partners refer families to us that need help, but that's not all. If you'd like to work with us in some way, send us an email at partners@humanutility.org.


We are a community organization referring people for help. Do we still need to use the online application?

Yes. In the referral field, include your organization's name.


I'd like to interview someone at The Human Utility (or someone The Human Utility helped). How can I get in touch?

Send an email to press@humanutility.org and we’ll be in touch.


I would like someone to speak at my event. How can I get in touch?

If you’re interested in having someone from The Human Utility speak at your event, send an email to speaking@humanutility.org.