Frequently Asked Questions

Questions from donors | Even more questions

Questions from 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) 724-3774.

You can also send documentation via email to 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 15 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 15 business days of applying. Note: At times of high demand, a decision may take longer.

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.

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 or property taxes.

How can I find out the status of my application?

Send an email to 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 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 from Donors

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.

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.

Is my donation tax deductible?


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?


Do you accept checks?

Yes! Send all checks with a note mentioning the The Human Utility to:

The Human Utility
PO Box 441130 #89193
Detroit, MI 48244-1130 US

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.

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

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.

What is the most common amount donated?

The most common amount donated online is $50. The average online donation for December 2019 was $46.

Do you accept stock as a donation?

Yes! If you’re interested in donating stock, send an email to

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:

The Human Utility
PO Box 441130 #89193
Detroit, MI 48244-1130 US

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

The Human Utility is an IRS 501c3. Our EIN is #47-2717067.

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 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 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:

The Human Utility
PO Box 441130 #89193
Detroit, MI 48244-1130 US

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

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

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 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