The beginning of 2021 marked a significant period for Horizon Networks and its volunteers as major adjustments were made within the organization. Not only was 501(c)(3) status achieved, providing financial benefits and new opportunities, an app was also developed for efficient communication between volunteers and seniors. Although the founders had been looking to obtain 501(c)(3) status for many months prior, Horizon Networks only officially became a 501(c)(3) organization on January 23rd, 2021. This marked a pivotal moment for Horizon Networks, as gaining this status offered multiple advantages including tax deduction, tax exempt financing, reduced postal rates, etc. Not only did it allow the organization to process money properly, 501(c)(3) status also helped the organization gain legitimacy, making the organization more official and credible in the eyes of the public. These added benefits made it much easier for Horizon Networks to raise money towards app development and helping seniors, refugees, and homeless people.
While attaining 501(c)(3) status allowed flexibility regarding finances as well as many more funding opportunities, it also came with much more responsibility as any financial activity within the organization would be reported to the IRS. For this reason, financial positions were established in order to ensure that activities regarding funding would be professionally dealt with. These positions covered the legal aspects which came with owning a nonprofit and included people dealing with taxes, marketing, and advertising. When reviewing the resumes of applicants who were applying, Mahad Sohail, the chief executive officer primarily in charge of initiating these positions, specifically focused on the applicants’ prior experience with Horizon Networks as well as their motivations. This was done to ensure that volunteers were applying for the right reasons, and that they would be willing to put in time and energy for the sake of learning and adapting to their role. Sohail recalls that it was a learning process for everyone, especially since they were all students who had little to no prior experience. Regardless, everyone adjusted well to their positions over time.
Another significant adjustment was the development of Horizon Network’s app, Horizon Connect. The primary objective of the app was to bring the organization and its volunteers together through a database where volunteers could sign up for different opportunities posted by different organizations. A key feature included was a forum where volunteers could answer questions posted by seniors, inspired by St. Mark’s home in Texas, where many seniors had questions about tablets and electronics. While making the app, the creators prioritized user-friendliness so it would be easy for seniors to use. For this reason, cross-platform use was implemented, making the app more inclusive and adding a better overall user experience. Throughout the developing process, the app went through many rounds of user-testing, resulting in changes to the app such as improvements to the user-interface and modifications to the color scheme.
Establishing Horizon Networks as a 501(c)(3) organization allowed for many new possibilities and opportunities; the founders hope to continue expanding the organization as a general nonprofit, helping not only seniors but at-risk groups as well as other nonprofits in hopes of improving quality of life for others on a global level.