10/28/2014 09:00 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

A Simple Online Tool That Helps Builds Homes And Futures

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Tom, Betsy and their three children will be spending Thanksgiving together in their new home in Missouri.

"Because of this house..."

Over the past few months, I've been reflecting on this phrase and what it truly means. In many ways it goes to the root of all the work we do at Habitat for Humanity. It symbolizes that a house is more than just the physical materials used to construct a foundation, walls and roof. We hear from Habitat partner families that "because of this house," they can fulfill their hopes and dreams of safety and stability, of determination and self-confidence. Perhaps this is why first-time homeowners show such emotion when talking about that moment when they first get the keys to the home they purchased and helped build.

While I am a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity, I'm also keenly aware of what a house -- or perhaps more pointedly, the loss of a house -- can mean to a family. During this last recession, my own family had a scare in which we thought we might lose our home. I spent several sleepless nights and anxious days wondering what would happen if my wife, two daughters and I did find ourselves without the permanence and security of a home. Fortunately for us, it was just a scare and things came together. We were able to keep the "roof over our heads."

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Tom and Betsy's family lost it all when their home burned to the ground.

However, so many others are not as fortunate. A Missouri family recently partnered with Habitat to rebuild after they lost their house, cherished possessions and 40 years of photos and memories to a fire. Tom and Betsy told us that when they lost their home, they also felt as if they'd lost their way and purpose. Other partner homeowners simply had never had access to decent, affordable housing, and they managed to live with all that came without it: dangerous neighborhoods, poor sanitation, unstable structures, embarrassment of living conditions and uncertainty of the future.

What I've come to understand is that the meaning of home is very personal. And because it's personal and filled with emotions we all share, each person can empathize with someone else who doesn't have a home.

This is an important reason why I was excited to lead the development of personal fundraising tools that allow anyone to raise money to benefit Habitat's mission. We're a networked and connected culture, thanks to the Web and social media, and we know there is power in peer-to-peer fundraising. We're seeing more and more committed and passionate individuals seek out ways to improve their communities and lend a hand up to families around them. This peer-to-peer fundraising technology makes it easy and quick to do good.

While raising funds and doing good can occur any time, we know the impulse is stronger around occasions like anniversaries, weddings, and birthdays. It's also an impulse that resonates with not just adults, but children, as well. Habitat World magazine recently highlighted the big hearts of young people who turned their birthdays into opportunities to give back in inspiring ways. With this passion to help, we wanted to create a platform that makes it simple to raise funds around significant events or to honor someone special.

Yet, while the technology behind personal fundraising is important, it is just the tool to achieve our shared goals. What really matters is the heart and compassion that motivates all of us to use that tool to work toward giving others hope and possibility. As one of our partner homeowners says, "This is not just a home. It's a future."

If you're up to the challenge, visit the Habitat Heroes Campaign Center to start your own personal fundraising campaign. Your work will help Habitat for Humanity achieve its vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live, and helping each Habitat partner family build a better future "because of this house."

Habitat For Humanity is a partner of Cisco CSR. Cisco sponsors The Huffington Post's ImpactX section.