It’s just one more extension of the social media revolution: matching up donors and volunteers with the most appropriate nonprofit organizations. Consider it the eHarmony.com or Match.com version of nonprofit matchmaking.
In days of old, an impassioned consumer might seek out a cause and find a specific nonprofit associated with it, either through personal research or a referral from a family member or friend. Nowadays, however, consumers can find any number of online services that specialize in pairing them up with nonprofits.
It turns out that nonprofit matchmaking is “thriving,” according to Trendcentral, a website that covers social trends and is published by The Intelligence Group, a consumer research firm.
Volunteer Matchmaking Since 1998
The granddaddy of volunteer matching is VolunteerMatch. Its roots, remarkably, stretch back as far as 1994, when four MBAs drafted a plan to launch an online nonprofit to promote community involvement. It morphed into Volunteer America and then became VolunteerMatch.org in 1998, a website service that focuses on referring volunteers and business leaders to nonprofit organizations. By January 2003, VolunteerMatch had recorded its on millionth referral. Today, VolunteerMatch has over 71,000 active opportunities and over 79,000 participating organizations. The organization has made over 5,600,000 referrals since 1998.
The process is pretty simple. A consumer enters his or her zip code and areas of interest (environmental, for example) and searches for available opportunities. The consumer can also look for organizations in general or special opportunities in disaster relief volunteering. VolunteerMatch makes tools available to nonprofits so they can recruit volunteers and to businesses and institutions who want to encourage community involvement.
Idealist has elements that are similar to VolunteerMatch, but its mission extends beyond volunteering. In addition to volunteer opportunities, Idealist is a marketplace for paid jobs and internships with nonprofit organizations. It provides nonprofits with the ability to post jobs, internships, volunteer opportunities, events and programs.
Catchafire is one of a newer breed of matching services that provides pro bono volunteering opportunities for skilled professionals. According to Catchafire, the organization “matches professionals who want to give their skills with nonprofits and social enterprises that need their help. We match professionals and organizations based on a variety of characteristics including skills, cause interests, and time availability.”
Matching Donors with Nonprofits
Donor matching is just as common. In a previous post, I mentioned Network for Good as one example. This organization offers a one-stop donor giving site for over one million charities. A donor can get involved with the charity of their choice entirely online. Network for Good’s website can also be used to search for volunteer opportunities.
Global Giving is another such site that has helped over 4,600 projects, nonprofits and social entrepreneurs attract donors. It has helped them raise over $52 million by matching donors up with causes by topic or location posted by “project leaders.” The donor makes an online gift and subsequently receives regular updates posted by the project leaders.
Matchmaking Goes Social
Nonprofit matchmaking is going social as well.
AARP, the country’s largest organization of seniors, has launched Create the Good, an online program that enables its members to find opportunities to do service in their local communities. Facebook Causes, which I discussed in a previous post, claims to be the world’s largest platform for activism and philanthropy. In September, social network LinkedIn added “Volunteer Experience & Causes” to its LinkedIn Profile so members could add volunteer positions, causes they care about, and organizations they support. While this doesn’t qualify as matchmaking, the addition still promotes volunteerism in a subtle way.
With respect to acquiring both new volunteers and new donors, one thing is certain: the online world has been a boon to nonprofits.