Tech Talk: Make Me a Match Web technology helps nonprofits spur volunteerism
Nonprofit organizations are turning to the Web for more than just donation collection. Many are connecting with volunteers through virtual-placement agencies such as VolunteerMatch.org, the Web service of San Francisco-basednonprofit VolunteerMatch, which uses the Internet to link interested people with volunteer opportunities.
Launched in 1998, the core service is free for both 501(c)(3) organizations and individuals interested in volunteering.
The way it works: A nonprofit organization creates an account and its own content page, where current and ongoing opportunities are listed. Individual users sign on, enter their ZIP code and area(s) of interest (e.g., human rights and advocacy, animals or arts and culture) and receive a list of available opportunities within a selected radius of their homes.
Each listing specifies a requisite skill set, as well as a date range in which volunteer service is needed. Users can click on a button that says, “I like this opportunity” and be ushered to a registration page, or a button that says, “E-mail this to a friend.”
Since its inception, VolunteerMatch has logged more than 1.7 million referrals, or official “matches,” and currently oversees 30,000 nonprofit administrators using the service. In 2003, the Web service recorded more than 400,000 volunteer referrals and hopes this year to reach the 600,000 mark.
According to a user study conducted by Peter D. Hart Research late last year, 61 percent of volunteers continue to work with nonprofits found through VolunteerMatch on an ongoing basis.
“What we want to do is simply make it easier for volunteers and organizations to connect,” says Jason Willett, a spokesman for VolunteerMatch. “The costs are prohibitive for many nonprofits to have a Web presence, and we’re trying to remove the obstacles that make it difficult for them to recruit volunteers online.” Each opportunity listed on VolunteerMatch.org specifies a requisite skill set, as well as a date range in which volunteer service is needed.