Good 'Hoods: Vollie is an amazing platform to get people volunteering. Please tell us how it began.
Tanya: My co-founder (Matthew) and I have always been passionate about volunteering; it’s something that’s made a huge impact on our lives.
Our journey began when we were volunteering whilst working at our previous corporate employer. Our colleagues would frequently ask us for advice on how to start volunteering.
From experience, we knew that a volunteering role for people with really busy lives can be impossible to commit to, not to mention how much time it can take.
For instance, the application process for one of the volunteering positions we applied for took six months to get approved – we thought how easy it would be for someone to lose the motivation to volunteer in that time! People stop volunteering after a few goes for these very reasons, hence what inspired us to quit our jobs in 2016 and come up with another solution that would make it easy for people to make an impact.
We started off by doing a large amount of research on trends in the volunteering sector, a lot of which suggested that organisations should open themselves up to online volunteering, given the ways people prefer to work these days (in particular millennials) and just how time poor they are. That’s why we chose to make the volunteering opportunities at Vollie project based; we try to emulate the "gig" economy and a freelance way of working.
Good 'Hoods: Was it easy or hard to get this going? What did it take?
Tanya: It took a lot of patience, energy and money! We are self-funded to date. And we were lucky in that we already had quite a few connections in the not-for-profit (NFP) sector, so when we launched we had 25 NFPs who really believed in the product.
It has also been a challenge to make people understand the value in what Vollie has to offer as it’s more than just an aggregator site. We have made it a point to understand the NFP industry and where it’s headed, we want to enhance all the good that’s currently happening. For instance, a lot of NFPs are frustrated by the lack of volunteering interest from millennials, compared to Baby Boomers and Gen X, despite the fact that this group is very passionate about world issues and have a burning desire to help. So, through Vollie, we make it easy for Milennials to make an impact on the world by connecting volunteers remotely with charities, offering their digital skills. Vollie also provides full project oversight from start to end, to ensure successful delivery of the project.
We also engaged a digital agency (focused on impact, and causes), and some PR/digital agencies to get our name out there.
Good 'Hoods: How has the site contributed to making a strong, more connected community?
Tanya: Vollie’s aim is to get an army of tech-savvy volunteers directly connected to non-profits that desperately need those skills. Right now, it’s one person per project, but want to end up facilitating team based projects soon.
At the moment, we are mostly operating in Australia and working on developing our international NFP partnerships. We’ve already started establishing partnerships in other countries like Indonesia, Bolivia and Uganda.
I always think how incredible it is to be able to facilitate those connections and help others make an impact without being restricted by physical boundaries.
We can actually quantify the number of connections we’ve made in time and monetary value! See below.
· We’ve had just over 260 projects go live in the last year, and almost 4800 volunteer hours
· Volunteering through Vollie has been worth $235,000 worth of profit to the NFP sector
· The average value per project = $900
Good 'Hoods: What are the roadblocks/challenges you’ve faced?
Tanya: Our challenges were probably similar to most start-ups. Initially getting the Vollie brand there has taken quite a lot of effort – and as I’ve said it’s taken a lot of explaining at times. Essentially the idea of it being a remote and skills-based volunteering platform that enhances what’s already happening in the NFP sector.
Good 'Hoods: What would you have done differently and what are your hopes for the future of Vollie?
Tanya: I don’t think we would have changed anything. I’ve found it’s important to learn from mistakes and improve. Things like external investments would have obviously made things easier, and we’ll be searching for these soon.
Our goal is to be able to connect anybody’s skill set for any NFP need anywhere in the world! We’re always working on increasing our list of partnerships and projects, and encouraging positive word of mouth. We’ve always believed in the power of doing a good job!
Currently we’re also working on developing our business offering for clients that want to increase staff volunteering hours, and make it very easy for them through our platform. As well as letting staff decide which cause they’d like to volunteer for according to their individual passions, Vollie for business offers tracking and reporting systems that can help businesses easily see what impact their staff are making!