Got the inclination to volunteer your time and talent but no idea how to connect with the right nonprofit? You need Vollie.
Spruiking the catchy tagline: “Change the world. Your way.”
Vollie launched in late 2016 with an ambitious agenda to shake up the way volunteers find and connect with the thousands of Australian nonprofit organisations needing skilled help.
Vollie projects are 100 per cent online, meaning talented but time-poor volunteers can donate their skills and experience when and where it suits them.
This National Volunteer Week, Vollie co-founder, Matthew Boyd, shared his vision for volunteering with Generosity editor, Nicole Richards.
NR: Why Vollie? What’s the backstory?
MB: Volunteering has had a really positive impact on the lives of both Tanya [Dontas] and I as founders, but we’ve always found the process of getting involved challenging, and we know we’re not alone. As someone who volunteers regularly, I’d be the first person to tell you that when you’re shovelling chicken poo for the fourth weekend in a row, you start wondering, “Is there more I could be doing here?”
A lot of people don’t know where to start when it comes to volunteering their time. They can be overwhelmed by the fact that there are 300,000 plus nonprofits in this country as well as struggling to find the time to support the causes they care about.
At the beginning of 2016 we started to develop Vollie because the rate of volunteering among young Australians (25-35) is much lower than other age groups, and we wanted to change that.
Vollie unlocks a new style of skills-based remote volunteering. Our projects are exclusively online, meaning that volunteers can donate their skills and experience from anywhere in the world, at any time.
Users are able to find projects aligned with their skills and passions within a matter of seconds and the application process is as simple as logging in via LinkedIn.
What kind of structure does Vollie use?
We’re a social enterprise, though some people have now suggested we call ourselves an impact enterprise.
Can you explain what an ‘impact enterprise’ is?
The term ‘impact enterprise’ came up in a conversation we had with an impact investor recently. Beyond being a social enterprise, it relates more to profit, turnover and growth serving as a means to get sufficient capital from investors and to sustain the positive impact of the company. The objective of an impact enterprise is to create maximum positive impact for their customers, employees, business partners and the public at large, as well as for the environment.
These days a lot of people recognise that philanthropy can be more than just giving money and instead about giving ‘time, treasure or talent’. Do you think that rings true for younger people? Are there generational differences in volunteering preferences/behaviours in Australia?
We carried out a lot of primary research with millennials to understand what they want from a volunteering opportunity and a volunteering platform, and Vollie is the result of considering these needs along with the needs of charities and businesses.
Millennials still want to change the world, but they want to do it in a way that affirms their sense of purpose. They want to feel like they are directly making a difference.
I speak with dozens of nonprofits and volunteers every week and it’s no secret that there is scepticism in this country about donations and a perceived lack of transparency around where people’s money goes. This rings true with millennials more than most.
Somebody can give $50, $100 or $200 and get a kick from doing good, but we believe that by facilitating an opportunity for someone to use their unique skill set worth thousands of dollars to support a cause they care about is far more valuable to a nonprofit.
The feel-good factor for the volunteer, not to mention the experience they gain for their career, will be something they’ll be talking to their friends about for years to come.
How important is the ‘exclusively online’ anywhere, anyplace, anytime aspect?
Vollie is in the market to offer people a new way to give back. Our platform is a one-of-a-kind to Australia, which means that the opportunities on Vollie can’t be found anywhere else.
We’ve raised some great awareness in our first six months of operation and the unique nature of our offering has generated a lot of support from millennials looking to give back, charities looking for volunteers and businesses looking to step up their CSR game.
We’re walking a path in the nonprofit space that hasn’t been attempted before and we’re starting to get noticed for it.
We’ve always said that Vollie’s all about the results and the success we can provide to our charity partners. The stories we want to tell are the successful projects we support on Vollie and the impact we make.
We get really excited about the fact that we’ve reached the 100-project milestone already and we’ve seen almost 2,000 volunteer hours go up on the platform which have generated over $90,000 dollars for our nonprofit partners.
What kind of response have you had from volunteers and participating charities to date?
Fifty-five per cent of our primary users are 25-34 year old volunteers which means we’re getting it right. We have thousands of volunteers signed up and applying for projects they are passionate about. We speak with our audience every day and the positivity and interest is very high.
We’re re also getting a lot of interest from charities which is good to see, and our team spends time developing these conversations and explaining the value that we can offer.
How do would-be volunteers and charities get started with Vollie?
Volunteers can sign-up on our website and start browsing for opportunities in a matter of minutes.
Charities can jump onto our website and send an enquiry from the home screen which will then allow us to get in touch and discuss how Vollie can support their operations.
What advice would you give to other entrepreneurs looking to launch in the social change space?
You have to start with a strong idea and then go on to research the market extensively (essentially trying to prove your idea wrong).
You have to be your business’s biggest critic, because by highlighting any potential flaws or risks, you’ll make your operation significantly stronger.
You also have to be passionate about what you’re doing; that’s what will get you through the long weeks and many challenges.
Also, as your business grows, learn to trust your judgement, don’t rush decisions (especially the big ones!), and know when to take breaks to maintain your mental health.
When all’s said and done, what sort of impact do you want Vollie to achieve?
We want to ensure Vollie is a major success in Australia over the next 1-2 years and then take it to new markets and connect with new charities and social enterprises.
Vollie as a platform has the scalability to connect any cause to any passionate individual anywhere in the world for the purpose of online skilled volunteering, and that’s what we’re striving for.
We’re closing in on the $100k value mark for our charity partners and will push this into the millions as soon as we can.
Vollie will also continue to roll out our business offering and work with some of Australia’s biggest organisations on the work they do in the community as we continue to offer an alternative to traditional corporate volunteering.
Want to know more? Contact Matthew and the team at Vollie via the website or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.