Digital Technology is Reaching Out to the Hand Difference Community
Wednesday, 27th September 2017 at 5:11 pm
Connecting Up, a not-for-profit organisation that connects other not-for-profit organisations with critical software, digital technology, advice and training, is helping the Aussie Hand Foundation reach out to more children and adults than ever before.
When Elizabeth Serpell’s son David had to undergo hand surgery at just ten months of age because of a little known condition called ‘symbrachydactyly’, she was inspired to help people in similar situations find help more easily in the confusing, jargon-heavy world of hand differences.
Back in 2000, she could never have imagined that a set of Google online tools available through the Google for Nonprofits program would become one of her most powerful tools.
Fast forward to 2017, and thanks to digital tools including Google Drive, Google Ad Grants and YouTube for Nonprofits, Serpell’s Aussie Hands Foundation is reaching out to more children and adults with hand differences than ever before.
Adwords campaigns and other outreach opportunities through Google’s online tools – facilitated by Australian not-for-profit technology provider Connecting Up – are now a key part of the Victorian not-for-profit organisation’s toolkit for supporting children and adults born with a hand difference, or those with an acquired hand injury.
“When my son David was four months old we met with a hand surgeon who told us that his condition was called ‘symbrachydactyly’ and would require surgery,” Serpell said.
“We don’t know exactly what causes hand differences and we don’t know how to prevent it. There are children being born every year with a hand difference, and it’s not genetic, so it’s a mystery.
“David had a hand operation when he was just 10 months, which involved a bone being taken out of his right middle toe and fused into his thumb, where a lower bone was missing.
“Because it’s such a niche field, and not life threatening, hand differences don’t really tend to pull at the heart strings compared with other life-threatening diseases, so it can be very challenging to raise awareness – even though we all use our hands.
“To try to help people through the kinds of experiences David had experienced, in 2000 I founded one of the first Australian support groups for people with hand differences. Our website went live in 2005, and since then our membership has been increasing around Australia.
“Thanks to Google for Nonprofits, and a $10,000 Google Ad Grants account to run several Google Adwords campaigns, we’ve recently been increasing traffic to our website and the Aussie Hands social media based membership group.
“This is having an incredible impact in helping us promote our various support services and ever growing range of events, as we bring new families together to share their inspirational stories.”
Thanks to online training by Connecting Up, the Aussie Hands Foundation’s passionate two-staff team of founder Serpell and executive officer Julie McNally have been running their own Adwords campaigns after attending Google for Nonprofits and Google AdWords Express training courses.
“This has helped us to grow our Facebook group, which is important for us as we like to have members registered online so that we are able to provide analytics to the incorporated body in Victoria that demonstrate our growth,” Serpell said.
“Since implementing Google Adwords, we’ve altered our website accordingly and created some new landing pages, to maximize effectiveness of campaigns.
“We’re also using Google Analytics, which is really insightful and helpful in informing awareness and providing data around our marketing campaigns.”
Serpell said she and her team were even considering running their own webinars to connect with more members.
“First, we want to gauge interest from members and get ideas for webinar content through a survey of our members, which we’re constructing using Google docs,” she said.
“Webinar ideas include guest speakers and ‘join the conversation’ sessions. It’s all really exciting.”
For more information on hand differences and the Aussie Hands Foundation click here.
Previously, a hand condition would have been described as a congenital hand anomaly, and there are many words to describe hand differences. The Aussie Hand Foundation lists 17 – all of which have long medical names.
The most common condition is symbrachydactyly, which means ‘with hand deficiency’.
The ratio of birth hand conditions versus acquired hand conditions is not known because the necessary information is not captured as birth, making it hard for organisations like The Aussie Hands Foundation to apply for funding.
The foundation has partnered with the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne to develop the first Australian Hand Difference Registrar, which will capture information on children being consulted – or operated on across Australia. This will not provide a true record because it does not capture those born with hand differences, but is a crucial first step in advocating the importance of recording hand differences at birth in each state of Australia.
The Australian Hand Foundation currently has more than 220 households on its membership database.
About Connecting Up:
Connecting Up is a not-for-profit organisation that connects other not-for-profit organisations with critical software, digital technology, advice and training that many would otherwise not be able to access.
Our services are available in Australia and New Zealand. We also help to develop relationships with business, community and government sectors for the development of the not-for-profit sector.