What if, somewhere on the Internet, there was a community of people who believed in the power of volunteering to enrich our lives and the world around us?
What if, somewhere on the Internet, millions of good people and good causes could come together to form relationships that serve us all?
What if, somewhere on the Internet, technology was being used to advance the values and partnerships that strengthen our civil society?
Yesterday I wrote about the powerful role of social media in the volunteer/voluntour universe. Today, I want to introduce you to a social networking company dedicated to cultivating these relationships: VolunteerMatch.org.
VolunteerMatch is like a combination between Facebook (you can login with your Facebook account), Craigslist and Monster.com. Volunteers use the service to search through a massive database of volunteer opportunities and to learn about volunteering culture and trends in volunteering. They can search by location and keywords so they can find targeted volunteer positions wherever they may be. Organizations set up profiles to attract potential volunteers. But VolunteerMatch is more than just a searchable database, it’s a community. Members can share their experiences, and review and recommend nonprofits. It’s a social network with a focus: volunteering.
The beauty of this idea is in its simplicity. It makes perfect sense that the Internet should be used to consolidate all of this information in one place, and yet, before VolunteerMatch, that wasn’t happening. Its integration with Facebook means the network has a massive audience of potential participants, an extremely valuable resource for organizations in need of volunteers. It also means that well-run organizations get recognized and grow. If volunteers have a good experience, they share that information. The result: more volunteers choose to work with well-run organizations. On the flip-side, if volunteers have a negative experience, the network hears about that too. It’s a system that exerts positive pressure on the volunteer community.
VolunteerMatch only works with non-profits, and that’s great. For-profit enterprises should be responsible for advertising and outreach while non-profits, limited by their status, should be focusing every available dollar on projects. VolunteerMatch offers regular webinars and a non-profit learning center. These resources are designed to help new and emerging non-profits grow. They also run Engaging Volunteers, a blog for volunteer organizations, focused on news and tips related to building a volunteer network.
The more connections a non-profit cultivates, the better. Participating in an established network like VolunteerMatch is an effective way for any non-profit to expand its reach exponentially. It should be part of any non-profit’s social media strategy.