catchafire.org

Logo  I fundamentally believe we are in the midst of a cultural shift when it comes to the nonprofit world.  After meeting with Rachael Chong at Catchafire, I am convinced.

Rachael grew up around the world exposed to poverty.  She has always wanted to help the underserved. Her career lead her to BRAC where she was hired to start BRAC USA.  She was able to grow the organization in New York and raise millions of dolllars by leveraging her friends to do projects for her cause based on their skill set.  Having those friends allowed Rachael to spend her time raising awareness and money.  Volunteers were the key to her success.  Through that the idea of Catch a Fire was hatched.  It became apparent that skill based volunteers was the best way to leverage people and fit their skills sets in directly with a non-profit that needed their help.  A win win for everyone. 

Here is how it works.  You want to volunteer your time in some meaningful way.  You go online to catchafire and find an organization that interests you and see what possible proejcts they have available. Design a logo, create a marketing plan, etc.  Catchafire matches the skills of a volunteer with an organization.  Allowing people to identify short term or long term projects that work for them to incorporate in their already busy days.  They also estimate a value to each project. Brilliant idea.

I also like that they charge the nonprofits for this.  The cost is much much less than they would normally pay for the professional services.  Yet when these organizations pay for a service, it means more.  I am a big believer in that even if they only pay $250, they pay $250.  This almost insures that the volunteers will be managed with a different hand. 

The site is easy to navigate.  Think Kickstarter for volunteers with the concept of Donors Choose without giving money (and giving back to a broader field). 

One extra bonus which I really like.  Each volunteer will fill out a form after their experience rating the organization.  Think about college students and how they rate their professors.  Students can look up the information posted and think about each professor and if it is the right class or teacher for them.  Makes everyone accountable.  In the world of nonprofit there are so many organizations where money is going down a big black hole, where there is such control that nothing gets done, where there is duplication with other organizations in the same city, where they are branded well but can't figure their way out of a paperbag.  If we are going to give money and time to organizations doing good, let's make sure they are functioning financially and organizationally.  Smart volunteers can help assess that.

Catchafire just launched in the New York City area to start but hope to roll this out across the country if not across the world.  This defines Social Entrepreneurship.  Good will that is crowd sourcing volunteers and making money and impact at the same time.  That my friends is the future of the nonprofit world and I for one am thrilled about it.

 

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