Inspiration

When we heard what Matthew's Crossing was doing in the community, and what they needed to help achieve that goal, not only did we find it a worthy cause, but we knew that their problems were ones we could solve effectively and quickly. Matthew's Crossing not only wanted a solution, but they had a well-defined idea of what their problem was. The limited scope and high impact of bringing their donation tracking system into the 21st century piqued our interest, as we saw that we could use our efforts most effectively to provide Matthew's Crossing, and the community it serves, with a complete solution that everyone can benefit from.

What It Does

Our solution, Matthew's Crossing Data Manager (MCDM), works in conjunction with their main system, Food Bank Manager. It drastically reduces the number of steps needed for volunteers to track incoming donations and act on that data. MCDM eliminates much of the antiquated paperwork still involved in getting donation information from pickup points to a computer. By bringing what was previously paper-based reporting to a flexible and easy-to-use web platform, less volunteer hours are spent on tracking donations. In addition to the logistical side, MCDM has the capability to automate the process of e-mailing thank-yous and news to donors, which currently requires manual intervention. We were unable to access Matthew's Crossing's email system, but we created a sample system that can be implemented at their choice. Finally, we are able to offer Matthew's Crossing direct financial savings, by integrating with PayPal to offer them all the functionality of their current donation system with significantly lower fees.

(Red shows monetary donation information flow, black otherwise)

Old data flow

Old Path

(Red shows monetary donation information flow, black otherwise)

Data Flow with Matthews Crossing Data Manager

New Path

Looking at these two flowcharts, you can see the difference MCDM makes in streamlining the process of getting information where it needs to be. We eliminate almost all of the human interaction points in the data's path, reducing errors and allowing the limited staff to dedicate more of their valuable time to what matters most: helping the 623,300 people in Maricopa County who don't always know where their next meal is going to come from.

How We Built It

The backend of Matthew's Crossing Data Manager is built from mostly in PHP, with components built in Python; the frontend is built from fairly standard web technologies: HTML, CSS3, and JavaScript. We were also able to leverage an existing open-source web framework to cut down on development time while providing better functionality. The work was distributed into 4 major components:

  • The Interface with Food Bank Manager
  • The Monetary Donation Chain
  • The Bulk Donation Chain (Including food donations)
  • The Email and Mail Merge Chain

These components were developed separately and simultaneously, and integrated at multiple points during development.

Challenges We Ran Into

The lack of long-term technical skill limited the technical complexity of the solution we could put in place. An additional with finding the right scope and extracting the real core problems not their perceived solutions on the art of our nonprofit.

Accomplishments That I'm Proud Of

Mark: The length of this hackathon was much shorter than the ones I am used to, forcing some tough choices in regards to feature sets. I'm proud to have produced the solution that we did on the shortened timescale we had.

James: I faced a good bit of challenge in transforming our ideas into reality in such a short amount of time, so I'm very happy to have held to my standard of quality in creating MCDM. I feel that's it's really something that people in the community can see a benefit from, especially those volunteering at Matthew's Crossing. I feel my biggest accomplishment was seamlessly integrating two-factor authentication with the authentication framework we used.

Jisung: This is the first time I attended a hackathon. As a freshman who is new to programming, I thought a hackathon would be difficult and, and that it's not for students who are new to programming. However, thanks to my team, I was able to learn HTML and apply the concepts I taught myself to the software we were making. Although the page that I created looks unappealing, I am proud that I've managed to create a page using HTML without knowing a lot of information about it. I am also proud to have joined this team, because as a person who is new to programming, I wouldn't have learned anything in this event if the team I joined wasn't encouraging me to participate. However, my team was very encouraging, answered all the questions I had, and gave me an opportunity to participate.

What I Learned

The original AWS Elastic Beanstalk/Lambda powered solution we came up with, while a great solution from a technical standpoint, was not really a sustainable solution for a small nonprofit with low technical skill. So, we changed to a more traditional setup with a basic standalone server, which we believe will be a much easier environment to maintain in the long run for them. We also experienced many challenges in implementing our two-factor authentication system, primarily disagreeing algorithms, but in the end we were able to bring it together in a functional and pleasant solution.

What's Next for Matthew's Crossing Data Manager

Going forward, we will be working with Matthew's Crossing to more fully integrate with their systems and migrate the software to their servers. We will also be ensuring that they are satisfied with our solution, and that it does in fact solve their problem.

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