Archive | May, 2012

Livin’ the Dream

31 May

My first week at Catchafire has given new meaning to the phrase “hit the ground running.” I’ve already taken ownership of many key tasks. For example, I’ll be responsible for recruiting new pro bono professionals and welcoming them into the Catchafire community, and supporting the professionals that are already in the fold. Lady Ryan has the good fortune of sitting next to me as I figure out how to climb all these mountains, and she’s been fielding my questions with good-spirited grace. (Thanks, Lady Ryan!)

My past week has been chock full of awesome learning opportunities. I’ve been practicing phone calls with Sir Ryan and Lady Ryan, and they are really challenging me to refine my strategy and execution. I can feel my performance getting better with each role play. A lot goes into creating excellent interactions with our professionals – each call has to be effective and efficient so as to make the best use of our professionals’ time.

Storytelling is another skill that I’ve been actively improving. It’s important that we explain Catchafire’s model and value clearly and concisely, and I need to articulate my own story and establish my credibility succinctly and effectively. I’m continually iterating and refining my delivery, and last night I got the opportunity to address a room of a 100+ people at a Social Innovation Demo Night event hosted by General Assembly and TechiesGiveBack. It went really well!

We always have more to do at Catchafire, which is how it works when you’re in the business of changing the way the world volunteers. It’s been a full week, and I’m feeling engaged, challenged, and ready to keep climbing, one mountain at a time. It feels good… like I’m livin’ the dream!


Molly Ganley is a Community Associate at Catchafire. Before joining Catchafire, she worked with Special Olympics Minnesota to create empowering, community-focused experiences for people with diffabilities. Molly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Global Studies.


Conquer Mountains

23 May

Today was my first day at Catchafire and my brain is spent. Sir Ryan, Rachael, Rachel, Lady Ryan, and Jie spent time getting me started on the right foot with everything from vision clarity to account management protocol to email passwords. Everyone welcomed me warmly; I already feel like a member of the Catchafire team, and I am beyond excited about putting Catchafire’s mission, vision, and values into practice.

During a quick debrief after one of this afternoon’s trainings, Ryan Letada brought out a sheet of paper with this image on it:

Superimposed over the image was the phrase “Conquer Mountains.” After being inundated with information throughout the day, those words really struck me. Can you think of anything bolder? I love this attitude. First of all, mountains are there to climb. Challenges (in the social good sector and otherwise) exist as chances to prove something, to accomplish big things. But don’t just climb mountains. Conquer them. Do it with courage, with style.

In the words of Sir Edmund Hillary, who literally conquered mountains, “It is not the mountain that we conquer, but ourselves.” So that’s where I am right now. Facing mountains and feeling energized, I’m ready to start learning, growing, contributing, conquering. Here’s to Day 2.


Molly Ganley is a Community Associate at Catchafire. Before joining Catchafire, she worked with Special Olympics Minnesota to create empowering, community-focused experiences for people with diffabilities. Molly graduated from the University of Minnesota with a B.A. in Global Studies.

Meet our Durham Founding Members

22 May

Last week we announced our expansion to North Carolina’s Triangle, starting in Durham. This week Catchafire is in the Bull City to celebrate our 20 Durham Founding Members at our official Durham launch. These organizations are true leaders in their community with demonstrated impact in their community and beyond.

The breadth of cause areas represented by our 20 Founding Members epitomizes Durham’s innovative social good sector. We’re so pleased to be opening up this incredible community to our professionals, who are no doubt as excited as we are at the prospect of working with these great organizations.

Catchafire Durham Founding Members 

Southern Documentary Fund

The Art of Cool Project


El Centro

Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students

Playworks – Durham

Communities in Schools –  Wake County

East Durham Children’s Initiative

The Scrap Exchange

Durham Scinergy

Green Plus

Meals on Wheels – Durham


The Chordoma Foundation 

Ronald McDonald

Habitat for Humanity of Durham



Self-Help Credit Union


Catchafire is now accepting meetings with organizations in Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill and the Greater Triangle to walk through the registration process and our Project Menu. Visit Catchafire to register your organization and email to schedule a 20 minute call.

5 Visions Of The Future Of Service In America by Rachael Chong

21 May

We hope everyone has enjoyed Catchafire and Fast Company’s “The Future of Service in America” blog series where, for the past five months, we discussed the expanding role of service in life and business. We want to extend a big thank you to Morgan Clendaniel, editor of Fast Company’s Co.Exist blog, and to all the contributors for their great writing and valued insight. It has been a truly inspiring and thought-provoking series written by leaders and visionaries in their respective industries.

Catchafire exists to create a more efficient and effective social good sector where it is commonplace to serve the greater good, so for us this series has been especially important. It has shone a light on some pertinent issues, raised critical questions and provided practical answers. In the final post (below) Catchafire’s Rachael Chong briefly reflects on the series and offers her view of the future of service in America:


5 Visions Of The Future Of Service In America

More and more Americans are making volunteering an important part of their lives. How will that shape the business landscape in the coming years?

Today’s social entrepreneurs are making it easy for us to open our wallets and our hearts to our favorite causes. Leveraging online technology, innovators are making giving so easy and enjoyable that the experience does not feel like “giving” at all. Take Sevenly, a service that provides the user with a wonderful shopping experience in which one can buy uniquely designed T-shirts and where a portion of proceeds benefit a different charity each week.

Social entrepreneurs are also helping us sort through and make sense of the nearly 2 million social good organizations in the United States. From curating causes and nonprofits for us to using the crowd to help surface the most “worthy” projects and organizations, innovators are giving people more choice when it comes to donating.

On the lesser-known side of “giving innovation,” are the innovators who are making giving time more efficient, effective, and accessible. Over the past weeks, we have been proud to hear from innovators like Jack Rosenthal and Marc Freedman, who have created organizations that provide opportunities for retirees to serve and build encore careers with social purpose organizations. We have also heard from the leaders who have built the organizations that have defined the volunteering sector as we know it today:, and the Taproot Foundation.

To wrap up a series that has, for the first time, showcased innovation in the volunteering or “service” sector, let me share with you what I, as a humble and relatively new player in the space, see as the future of service in America:

1. People will easily be able to access tailored volunteer opportunities via technology platforms

Much like online dating, and (my organization) take an individual’s preferences and use the power of online technology to push volunteer projects to them that are tailored to their skillsets and cause interests. The next step is to make this matching even more nuanced, taking one’s communication style, work style, and motivations (such as networking, professional development, finding love, learning a new skill, etc.) into account when matching one to relevant volunteer opportunities.

Eight out of 10 companies believe in skills-based volunteering but fewer than half have any kind of skills-based volunteering program for their employees.

2. Companies will provide their employees with volunteer opportunities aligned with their skill sets

Eight out of 10 companies believe in skills-based volunteering but fewer than half have any kind of skills-based volunteering program for their employees. Further, 91% of HR managers of Fortune 500 companies believe that volunteering knowledge and expertise to a nonprofit is an effective way to cultivate many skills including critical thinking and leadership skills. But only 16% of these companies actually use skills-based volunteering for talent development. This disconnect between what companies want to do and what they actually do in regards to skills-based volunteering is in large part due to companies lacking the infrastructure to access relevant skills-based volunteer projects and then manage individual employees’ projects. It has only been in the past year or so that organizations such as Catchafire, Sparked, and NPower have started to structure pro bono projects to companies for their employee base to access. And the hard reality is that there are still not enough of these pro bono projects to service corporations at scale, but this is changing. Watch for it.

3. Volunteer work will become an increasingly important aspect of one’s resume and social cache

Last year, LinkedIn made it possible for their 150 million users to add their “Volunteer Experience & Causes” to their LinkedIn profile. More than 40% of the professionals that LinkedIn surveyed stated that when they are evaluating candidates, they consider volunteer work equally as valuable as paid work experience. One-fifth of hiring managers surveyed agree they have made a hiring decision based on a candidate’s volunteer work experience. “Given the current economic climate and the hypercompetitive job market, it’s essential to include your volunteer work on your profile, ” wrote Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s Connection Director, in a statement. “Even if you’re currently unemployed, you can still actively volunteer and begin to accrue new skill sets. When hiring managers or business partners are comparing two people side by side, volunteer experience makes you a more multifaceted professional and can set you apart from the competition.”

4. Volunteering will become competitive

When users have the power to pick and choose their favorite volunteer projects–causing the best or most popular projects to float to the top–people start to compete for these opportunities. On Catchafire, every day we see more and more professionals applying for the same pro bono projects. This healthy competition will ensure that social good organizations are getting the best volunteer talent. It also incentivizes the organizations that are looking for volunteer talent to invest in themselves in order to attract the best talent. This is tremendously exciting, because it implies that competition among organizations for volunteer talent could force nonprofits to become more efficient and effective, a huge positive externality.

5. Volunteering will be tax deductible

Time is money. We all know this. So why shouldn’t the value of a professional’s time be tax deductible if it is spent doing pro bono work? The more common it becomes for us to give our time pro bono, the more power we have as a group to demand from our government that the gift of time be treated the same as any philanthropic or in-kind gift, an action benefiting society that should be incentivized through tax deduction.

It’s been a pleasure to curate and be a part of such an insightful series about the future of service in America. Reading the posts of my fellow innovators who have contributed to this series reminds me of how much history and work there is behind the “giving innovation” we see today. I’m proud to say that my work stands on the shoulders of giants.


Written by Rachael Chong, CEO and founder of Catchafire

Catchafire is Expanding to North Carolina’s Triangle

16 May

We are excited to announce our launch in the Raleigh – Durham – Chapel Hill region of North Carolina, beginning with Durham

 Durham marks Catchafire’s next city launch, after New York City and Boston. As part of the launch, on May 21st we will announce our 20 Durham Founding Members, organizations that are leaders in their community. Stay tuned for the announcements on Twitter and her on our blog where we will proudly feature these organizations throughout the end of May and early June.

Durham’s fun and tight-knit personality came through when we learned of their
2011 “Marriage” of Durham’s citizens to the city!

Why Durham?

Durham, with its innovative social good sector, robust professional network, and commitment to the local community, represents the best of American cities. We too value “local” and admire Durham’s strong sense of community. For our Founder and CEO, Rachael Chong, the Bull City also has a soft spot in her heart – it was at Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy where she wrote the Catchafire business plan as her Master’s thesis!

National Volunteer Week Wrap Up Part 2

10 May

To celebrate national Volunteer Week, we shared stories of Catchafire pro bono professionals who have inspired us through their contribution to our community of organizations. As part of that campaign, we also asked you to tell us about someone in your immediate community that inspires you through their pro bono service.

We received many great nominations of your friends, family, colleagues and community leaders who go above and beyond to make a difference in the lives of those around them. We’d like to give a special shout out to five of these individuals and add them to our Catchafire Wall of Pro Bono Fame.

Matthew Burkirin

Matthew’s strategic and finance skills, combined with his passion to improve the lives of those around him, enables him raise funds for causes he believes in.




Reshma Saujani

Reshma mentors young women and inspires them to become their best selves. Her work ethic and commitment to selflessly and tirelessly helping others motivates those around her.


Joanne Wilson

Joanne invests in women entrepreneurs. She makes significant contributions to women working in tech, the nonprofit space and causes she believes in.


Kari Litzmann

Kari has made it her mission, personally and professionally, to bring the work of artisans and their communities to light. She’s currently working in India.




Tiffany Guarnaccia

Tiffany gives her social media skills to the nonprofit community, including teaching classes through the New York Cares program.






Thank you to our outreach partners for spreading the word about National Volunteer Week and participating in Catchafire’s quest to find professionals who, through their service, are shining brightly among their peers.

National Volunteer Week Wrap Up

3 May

Here at Catchafire, every week and every day is about volunteering. That’s our business and our mission: To provide talented individuals with meaningful pro bono opportunities and make it commonplace to serve for the greater good any and every day! Needless to say we celebrated National Volunteer Week by featuring some of our star pro bono professionals, those that have embraced pro bono, eagerly giving their time and skills to our member organizations.

The response from our community has been overwhelmingly positive, so we’re going to continue to highlight a new rising star every week, both on our homepage and Facebook wall.

We look forward to sharing all our star Pro Bono Professionals’ inspiring stories. Here are the ones we shared during National Volunteer Week… just in case you missed them!

Matt Bertuzzi: Backpacker Extraordinaire
Hometown: Somerville, MA
Expertise: Database Design, Marketing
Completed Projects: $48K impact through Salesforce Database Customization projects with NYCRx and Science Club for Girls

The pro bono projects I’ve worked on have been amazing. I love being able to deliver a big impact to these nonprofits by combining my specific professional skillset, my desire to serve and just a little bit of time and creativity.”

Maria Rapetskaya: Founder & Creative Director at Undefined Creative
Hometown: New York City, NY
Expertise: Motion Graphics, Animation and Graphic Design
Completed Projects: $50K impact through Motion Graphics Video projects with UNDP Equator Initiative, BRAC USA, ThinkImpact, Common Good and Maternova Inc

Giving back does good, feels good, and inspires more good.

Rob Wu: Founder of CauseVox & Nonprofit Advocate

Hometown: Greater New York City
Expertise: Technology & Fundraising
Completed Projects: $7.5K impact through a Fundraising Plan Review project for Restore NYC.

Finding where you belong is difficult. Pro bono helped me find my purpose.

Audrey Sperano: Sassy Advertising Gal & Mother
Hometown: Greater New York City
Expertise: Advertising & Marketing
Completed Projects: $5K impact through an Event Planning project with East River Development Alliance

My family has been very fortunate to have good health and much happiness and success.  And, in giving back, I believe we can help others become healthy, happy and successful, too. I also want to my daughter to be caring, compassionate and proactive about inciting change.  So, I’m teaching her by example!

Lisa Travnik: PR, Copywriting & Social Media Maven
Hometown: Greater New York
Expertise: PR, Marketing & Blogging
Completed Projects: $6K impact through a Social Media Campaign project with Prosperity Candle

My pro bono work is usually focused on empowering women and girls. Ladies, if we stick together, we can change the world!

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