Looking back over the last 10 years, it’s hard to believe how far we’ve come. After a decade of growing our network of service providers and improving our social services platform, little by little and day by day, it still seems to have gone by in the blink of an eye.
Aunt Bertha CEO Erine Gray launched the company in August of 2010, in the midst of a financial crisis. At the time, the demand for food stamps had increased so dramatically that the state didn’t have enough employees to process the applications for benefits. It wasn’t as easy back then to connect electronically as it is today.
We all love to dream of a working safety net in this country, but what do we do when the safety net is broken? What if there was an alternative? There seemed to be a clear gap that technology could fill. So, on August 31, 2010, Erine incorporated Aunt Bertha.
When Aunt Bertha started, employees worked out of a rented office in a community center in Clarksville. Departments that are now staffed with entire teams were run by one person doing the work of many. Designers doubled as product managers, and more. But the beautiful thing about this start up was that every single person was believing in the dream, and working together to make things happen.
“When I started the company, I couldn’t imagine that we would have reached more than 4 million users by now,” said founder Erine Gray. “And if you had asked me back then if we would be working with pretty much every major health care plan in the United States, I would have said no.”
Over the past 10 years Aunt Bertha has reached new milestones and benchmarks that show we’re fulfilling our mission — to connect more people with more social services in their area, with dignity and ease. We’ve grown our client base to include large health systems and health plans, government agencies, and education institutions. But through this all, we’ve been able to offer free access to Seekers and Helpers, and free support and training tools for nonprofits, helping the social safety net grow a little stronger.
Aunt Bertha has grown significantly in the last couple of years. Our staff has nearly tripled in size, and with each new all-hands meeting we host, we have to find more chairs (back when we all gathered in one office). Today the Zoom room just keeps growing larger.
But through all this growth, everyone we’ve hired comes to Aunt Bertha for the right reasons: to make help easier and more accessible to find. We’re building something as a team, and everybody is a contributor. At one point in time, many of our employees have been Seekers themselves; now that’s who they’re helping. We have the opportunity to solve hard problems, which is a beautiful and challenging position to be in.
In March, as COVID-19 swept across the nation, we got to work as quickly as we could. We added thousands of COVID-19 response programs to our platform in a matter of days, and launched findhelp.org. The new platform allowed a growing number of Seekers to connect with longstanding programs and services, while also finding new resources that emerged in the midst of the pandemic.
Moments like these are why we exist as a company. We have an incredible team of 50+ data managers who research and add resources to our site daily. When disaster strikes, we are able to pivot and work directly with regional response programs to get them listed on our site quickly, making them easy to find for Seekers.
COVID-19 has changed many things, but it has not changed our mission. As the reality of the pandemic set in, everyone at Aunt Bertha, from new hires to board members, quickly realized that what we were building for the last 10 years had been guiding us toward this moment. To connect people to the help they need during a time of crisis — this is exactly why we’re here.
So, what do the next 10 years look like for Aunt Bertha? We will continue working to accomplish our vision, but there’s more we can do to help. We’re honored to have 4 million users on our site, but there’s hundreds of millions of people in need around the country and across the world.
“We live in a country that, despite its flaws, is very, very generous. There’s millions of nonprofits that help people every single day and they want the American dream to work. I want the American dream to work. I still believe in it,” says Gray. “But we’re not done. Even though we’re ten years in, the fun stuff starts now. There’s no doubt that this is just the beginning.”
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
– Margaret Mead