Too many volunteer matching web sites?

Here is a phrase I think I could live the rest of my life without reading or hearing again:

A new web site has been launched to match volunteers with non-profit organizations/NGOs.

I think I’ve read or heard this phrase 20 times in the last 20 years.

In the USA alone, we’re swimming in volunteer-matching web sites. Nationally, we’ve got  VolunteerMatchIdealist/Action Without Borders, HandsOn Network, Volunteer Solutions and All for Good/United We Serve/ (and more, but those are the most well-known – and there are even more that have come and gone!). Many USA cities have their own volunteer-matching web sites as well. Plus, online social networking sites allow organizations to recruit volunteers as well.

Why is that a bad thing, to have so many platforms trying to serve the same organizations and volunteers? Because the vast majority of volunteer-involving organizations don’t have time to put their volunteering opportunities into each of those services, but a volunteer may use just one or two of those services and, therefore, will miss out volunteering opportunities posted to platforms he or she didn’t use. The result: less volunteer matching, not more.

I like hearing about new sites launched in other countries where such web sites don’t already exist and serve a region specifically, that are in the local language, or sites focused on a particular type of volunteering: financial management and fundraising, communications and marketing, web site development, language translation, web site development, micro volunteering, etc. Those are needed! And I really like when existing volunteer matching web sites announce that they will allow volunteering opportunities to be tagged as virtual or online, and allow their databases of opportunities to be searchable regarding such.

Before you develop yet another volunteer-matching web site:

  • Make sure there isn’t one already in existence that well serves the communities you are targeting. That means visiting existing volunteer matching sites and assessing what audience you think the site is not serving, or what service the site is not offering, but is very much needed.
  • Ask volunteer-involving organizations you want to use your service if they would use your service, instead of or in addition to what they are already using online. Ask them what they need from your service. Build your site based on their needs – not on what you think they need.
  • Get agreements with a core-group of volunteer-involving organizations, committing them to use your newly-launched service. Their involvement will add credibility to your effort. Representatives from at least some of this core group should serve on your advisory committee for this volunteer matching service.
  • Don’t create a roster of available volunteers. It never works – volunteers won’t keep their information up-to-date. A roster of volunteering opportunities, where volunteer choose tasks to be involved in, always works better than a roster of volunteers that organizations search through looking for available experts.
  • Be ready to say how this service is different from what is already out there – to the press, to donors, and to the organizations that already provide similar services.

Why not pursue the development of an online resource the volunteer-involving sector really needs! For instance:

  • a site that lists all of these volunteer-matching sites, and allows users to comment about each, rate the effectiveness and usefulness of each, etc. The site could also offer advice to both organizations and to potential volunteers on how to use volunteer-matching databases, to get the most out of them.
  • a site with a database of organizations, where each can update their information to talk about the impact volunteers have for their organizations and clients. The information would never be out-of-date, and the information could help other organizations get ideas on new ways to involve volunteers.
  • a site that offers a searchable database allowing organizations to share their volunteer policies, forms and other materials as models for other organizations. Organizations would be thrilled to use such a database to find sample volunteer orientations, volunteer applications, and other policy documents.
  • a site that offers legal and professional commentaries about state and national laws that could (and do) affect the involvement of volunteers.

I would use all of those sites!

Also see:

Using Third Party Web Sites Like VolunteerMatch to Recruit Volunteers

5 thoughts on “Too many volunteer matching web sites?

  1. Jonathan

    Hi Jayne:

    First, you have a great blog. The information and opinions you’re sharing has been useful as we are set to release a volunteer-centric mobile app. This article and the recent citizen reporting article in particular were great for our purposes.

    Here you suggest differentiating yourself from the other apps out there, which we believe is right on the money. The amendment I have is that instead of focusing only on developing technologies for the volunteer-involving organizations, what about technologies that empowers the volunteer. Much like your praise for the citizen reporters, what about the citizen “doers” who take the initiative to create, recruit, and manage their own smaller projects? What if organizational missions could be achieved through the cooperation of many engaged citizens? I know it disrupts the system…but so has mobile technology. Mobilizing technology has changed the behaviors and expectations of volunteers.

    Just some thoughts.


    1. jcravens Post author

      “what about the citizen ‘doers’ who take the initiative to create, recruit, and manage their own smaller projects?”

      Who screens the citizen “doers” to make sure they are appropriate to work with other people – including children? Who supervises them to make sure they engage in appropriate activities – that their “disruptive” activities don’t include discrimination, harassment, mismanagement of funds, endangerment of others, etc.? Who ensures they keep certain information confidential, per the policies of the organization? Who ensures these independent volunteer’s own, smaller projects are actually wanted by the community or nonprofit they want to support, aren’t a duplication of efforts, etc.? Who evaluates the volunteers and the overall project? If someone is harmed during the activity by such a volunteer, who pays the medical fees?

  2. Nyamu

    Hi Jayne,
    Your blog is really great, so much useful information. I came across it as I was doing research for volunteer platforms. I like your sentiments on creating volunteer match sites for other regions, I am from Kenya, and there is no volunteer organization specifically for Africans, most organizations love to send volunteers to Africa, I think the mentality is that we are either too poor or broke to do something for ourselves, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Volunteering is not a alien concept in African culture, in the old days harvesting was done purely by volunteers, the whole village would show up on one farm and harvest and move on to the next. And the truth is there are so many young Africans willing to volunteer, but they lack the platform to access opportunities and information, and that why I am so passionate and keen on developing a platform, that will link African volunteer with organizations, working in their communities. Wish me all the best.
    Keep up the good work.

  3. jcravens Post author

    “I think the mentality is that we are either too poor or broke to do something for ourselves, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth.” It’s so true! I try to explain this to people that want to go abroad to volunteer, doing things that I know local people would love to do for themselves, and often get blank stares. What?! Africans volunteer?! Sigh… And a lot of people in the USA and other Westerners don’t realize how prevalent cell phone and smart phone use is in Africa!

    Please write me at and tell me more about your idea to develop a platform for Africans to find local volunteering. I don’t just want to wish you the best – I want to offer what advice I can!

    1. Ashul

      Ha! nicely said Jayne – loving your writing and this particular comment by Nyamu is very close to my heart.. Habari Nyamu – I am of Kenyan decent behind – we have a very unique situation in Australia where we have a matching service that has been a collaboration of sorts by the volunteer sector, government and the private sector to create a truly national system that works beyond the voluntourisim and volunteering for social enterprise profit – it is something built for the sector to evolve and improve.

      Nyamu – my background many many years ago was working for Centre African Family Studies as an IT person with the sole task of using IT to make the NGO self-sustaining and this is what I took with me when I migrated to Australia.

      Long story short perhaps our Aussie platform is replicable enough!


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