Archive | May, 2010

Catchafire Seeks Event Planner!

24 May

Catchafire is planning an exciting service event for late June to kick off 50 projects with professionals who want to volunteer their skills with some outstanding NYC nonprofits that need their help.

Catchafire is revolutionizing the way people volunteer by helping them give what they’re good at. We’re also providing nonprofits with access to professional services they would otherwise be unable to find and/or afford. Our skilled service event will showcase the impact of this powerful and revolutionary volunteering model.

We’re looking for an incredibly organized Event Planner to help us manage some of the logistics for this event. Our event committee is full of amazing professionals who can connect us to a number of amazing resources (free space, food, drink, music, etc.). All we need is a great Event Planner (who is passionate about our mission) to help coordinate these details and manage the overall planning.

This 1 month project starts ASAP. If interested, please email jane@catchafire.org by Friday, May 28th.

If you’re not an event planner, but would like to help (whether it’s by providing food, music, drinks, your photography/video/AV skills), we’d love to have you involved. Please email jane@catchafire.org and indicate how you’d like to help us with this amazing event.

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What’s So Special About Our Project Menu, Anyway?

24 May

Volunteering should never leave you feeling like you’ve just eaten a slice of cafeteria mystery meatloaf.

That’s a fundamental belief here at Catchafire. Whether you’re a volunteer, a nonprofit, or a social enterprise, you should know what you’re getting into before you start a volunteer project. Catchafire’s Project Menu makes sure that’s the case.

Why does volunteering sometimes suck and sometimes not? The success or failure of a volunteer experience can almost always be traced to the very beginning. If both parties share clear expectations, projects usually succeed; if they don’t, projects often end in disappointment for both the volunteer and the nonprofit. The best volunteer groups know they need to set expectations, and they do this for many volunteer projects which are unrelated to a volunteer’s professional skills.

An outstanding organization like New York Cares connects New Yorkers to one-time, one-day volunteer experiences. If I want to join a group to clean up my neighborhood park, New York Cares makes sure I know what that entails. I need to show up at the park one Saturday to work from 9-3, wearing comfy shoes and clothes that I don’t mind getting dirty. Our goal is to pick up trash and plant trees. At the end of the day, when the park is clean and green, I’m satisfied to see concrete results, which clearly match what New York Cares told me to expect.

When people try to volunteer their professional skills, unfortunately, expectations are rarely set and projects are almost never scoped out in advance. Volunteers don’t know what they’re committing to, nonprofits don’t know what they’re getting, neither party is clear on the timeline of the partnership, and neither agrees to what will be delivered. It’s no wonder so many skills-based volunteering experiences end in disappointment: the nonprofit feeling it invested too much time and resources in a volunteer who didn’t stick around to finish a project, and the volunteer feeling as though she signed up for a project that morphed into something entirely different.

Over the past year, we have worked tirelessly to get to the root of why nonprofits struggle to use people who want to volunteer their professional skills (like public relations, marketing, finance, and IT). We found that most nonprofits don’t do a great job of breaking down their needs into concrete projects and deliverables that a volunteer can complete. Either nonprofit staff lack the expertise (in marketing, public relations, technology, etc.) to determine what these projects should look like, or they lack the time to do it (they are busy changing the world, after all). Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all nonprofits had someone to scope out the projects that meet their needs AND recruit the volunteers who are willing and able to complete those projects? We thought so, and created the Project Menu.

Catchafire’s Project Menu presents and structures skills-based volunteer projects in a way that sets nonprofits and volunteers up for success. After spending countless hours talking to nonprofits over the past year, we noticed they expressed the same needs over and over again: “I need marketing help,” “I want to develop an online social media presence,” or “I hear Twitter can help my organization, but how?” These needs are common to nonprofits (and social enterprises) big and small, whether they’ve been around for a hundred years or 6 months, and whether they help the environment or raise awareness about domestic abuse. We consolidated common nonprofit needs and created project templates around them, which free up the nonprofit’s and volunteer’s time to actually get the work done.

Our projects are designed to make it easy for a busy professional to volunteer and deliver a good product, to minimize the amount of time a nonprofit spends managing a project, and to maximize the results of the volunteer partnership. All projects in our Project Menu are defined by three important characteristics:

1. Short-term: Catchafire projects take no more than 5 hours a week of a volunteer’s time, and are completed in less than 2 months.

2. Discrete: Catchafire projects produce a concrete deliverable, and outline the steps a nonprofit and volunteer need to take to achieve it.

3. Individual: Catchafire projects can be completed by one individual with the right skills.

Each project also contains a list of nonprofit and volunteer requirements, so it’s easy to know what each party must bring to the table to ensure a project’s success. As an added bonus, we’ve estimated the time each project requires from a volunteer, and the value of the project at-market prices.

Whether you’re a volunteer or a nonprofit, we want to get your projects off to a great start so that you can come back to tell us all your success stories. Sign up at Catchafire and then check out our Project Menu, to see what projects we currently offer.

If you don’t see what you want, keep in mind that we’re rolling out new projects constantly. If you have an idea for a project we can add, email jane@catchafire.org. We’ll be rolling out more based on those most often requested!

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