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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Comments (Archived):

  1. TanyaMonteiro

    This post rocked my world, accountable volunteering! I’m blowing wind your way Rachael Chong

    1. Rachael

      Awesome Tanya! Can’t wait to get you registered in our system!

  2. Shelly Lipton

    Hi Joanne,Thanks for your post! We have reached out to Catchafire re After more than four years of success in rescuing and recycling over 50,000 gently used plastic toys for disadvantaged children, we recenty received our 501c3 status and formed a working Board of fabulous people. We have lots to do and are looking for support (namely in accounting and business development) to fulfill our vision to growth. Wondering if you might have time next month for a cup of coffee to talk about what we’re doing and any ideas or conections you may offer. It would be a thrill to meet with you after enjoying your blog for so many years.Thanks in advance!Shelly Lipton

    1. Gotham Gal

      Would love to Shelly. Send me a direct email.

  3. nakisnakis

    Hi Joanne,Thanks for profiling Catchafire! #womaninnovator, a media campaign to increase the visibility of women changemakers and mainstream their stories interviewed Rachael Chong & Jane Slusser this summer. Here’s their #womaninnovator video: love to feature you, as well!Best,natalia

  4. TanyaMonteiro

    Have you come across (greater good SA) “Everyone has something to give | Givers and causes connecting online for the greater good of South Africa”

    1. Gotham Gal

      have not seen that before.

  5. ShanaC

    And thank god for this shift, I worked in a nonprofit once upon a time, the shift is necessary.Oddly, the nonprofit that I worked for, the parent organization that it ended up joining post-Madoff, is on catchafire. Probably one of the reasons is knowing some of the internal side, the ways they want to expand is very time consuming and expensive if they had to hire.

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks rebecca.

  6. Rachael

    HI Joanne,Thanks so much for promoting the Catchafire mission. It’s so great to be supported in this way.Just wanted to mention a few points:1. While you can browse Catchafire’s open projects and pick a volunteer project that suits you that way, what makes Catchafire unique is that it matches you to volunteer projects that suit your skills and interests. We work like a where you provide us with your profile info (we used to LinkedIn API to make it easy for you) and then you receive a list of no more than five volunteer project matches that match exactly who you are and what skill(s) you’re looking to volunteer.2) We not only serve nonprofits but also social enterprises3) At this time, we charge nonprofits and social enterprises a flat fee of $200 per match. The average value of a Catchafire project is $5,000 and up to $10,000 for projects such as the Salesforce Database and Motion Graphics Video4) Ratings + reviews are coming very soon!Thanks again Joanne. Best,Rachael

  7. Andy Duddleston

    Catchafire is indeed a great organization. Nonprofits and social enterprises absolutely need volunteers who can bring their professional skills to the table (vs. tree planters for a day). We at Champion Access were lucky enough to take advantage early on to get some help in the PR department. Our volunteer brought not only her skills to the table–and she had skills–but also a fresh and much needed outside perspective to Champion Access in general. Read all about it here:

    1. Gotham Gal

      that is fantastic!