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 VolunteerMatch, Idealist/Action Without Borders, HandsOn Network, Volunteer Solutions and All for Good/United We Serve/usaservice.org (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!