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Stop Feeling Guilty

1 Nov

As of this post, Catchafire’s NY headquarters are still without power. Nevertheless, we’re all back at work, albeit remotely, alone in our apartments, or in coffee shops, on our cell phones and laptops with spotty service.

Or in some lucky cases, small clusters: a few of our colleagues who live near each other have been meeting at designated apartments to work together. It feels better that way; we all need community right now and we all need to keep working.

Catchafire itinerant office set ups in Upper West Side and Prospect Heights

We’ve been hearing some folks say they don’t know what to do, they feel helpless. We say: cut that out. There’s plenty. Today and when the dust settles.

Right now:

  • Follow Hope Mob CEO @ShaunKing  and @Hope on Twitter. He is a clearinghouse of immediate needs that he live tweets, solving various crises as soon as he hears about them. He encourages people in need to email him directly at shaun@hopemob.org.
  • Donate your time by registering to join disaster relief volunteers. Here are some great organizations in Catchafire’s community of social good organizations that are accepting applications now: Long Island Volunteer Center, All Hands Volunteers, World Cares Center and The Bowery Mission.
  • Get involved with local evacuation centers; many are in serious need of volunteers. HillSongNYC also provides a comprehensive list of shelters that need desperate help.
  • Donate blood. Sandy forced many blood drives to cancel, leaving hospitals with a limited blood supply and the need is great. Find a location near you to donate.
  • Donate clothing. Take a quick look through your closet, grab items that have been sitting there unworn for a year and share them with someone in need. It’s getting cold now and many are displaced from their homes.
  • Donate food to local food banks.
  • Check in with the Red Cross, as always.

When the dust settles:

We’ve been writing and calling to check in with our Community of close by Non-Profits, to hear how they’re doing. Like us, they’re scrambling to get back on their feet, so they can get back to the uninterrupted business of their missions — their very reason for being. This post from our friends at All Hands Volunteers says it well.

Of course we all want to help them. Isn’t that what always happens in a crisis? The floodgates of feeling and generosity open. Let’s not allow the lessons of Hurricane Sandy to blow away when life is back to normal. We have the golden opportunity right now, for a permanent shift, toward service-centric lives embedded in our DNA.

As our CEO Rachael Chong said: we have the luxury to make a difference, the luxury to give back, and the luxury to do meaningful work. I refuse to take this for granted. I will take advantage of and LOVE every luxurious day. Please someone slap me if I don’t.”

So, keep checking back with us and with our amazing community of Social Good Organizations to see what they need, shop around on the Open Projects page. Apply to put your amazing skills and talent to work today. Go ahead — be selfish and give.

We’ll be posting more opportunities on Facebook and Twitter as they arise. You do it too: post on our wall and in the comments of this blog.

Let’s keep this going…

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Announcing Virtual Pro Bono!

7 Sep

 Make An Impact
From Anywhere

September 2011 is a big month for Catchafire – we have gone national with talent by activating virtual pro bono for the first time! Until recently, only pro bono professionals based in the greater NYC area could give what they’re good at but now, professionals can give their skills pro bono from anywhere in the United States.

All registered pro bono professionals will now begin to receive suggested projects based on their nominated cause interests and skills. Visit your dashboard to update your skills and causes interests, or begin applying to projects today!

Here are just a few benefits of opening our opportunities to professionals nationwide:

  • More options for organizations thanks to project applications from both virtual and local professionals
  • Access to a larger pool of talent to help organizations build capacity
  • Greater exposure for organizations as, from coast to coast, more professionals will now hear about an organization’s important work

“The move to virtual pro bono is possible now that we can provide our organizations and professionals with just as good an experience virtually as we can in person,” says Catchafire CEO Rachael Chong. “We have all the pieces in place to make a virtual project just as successful as a project where the professional and organization can meet in person. We want to provide our organizations with as much choice as possible in terms of talent, and allow highly skilled professionals from anywhere in the United States to give what they’re good at to an organization they are passionate about!”

To learn more about virtual pro bono, visit our Pro Bono Best Practices or read more about How Matches Are Made.

What do YOU think of virtual pro bono?
Post your comments below!

Best Practices for Pro Bono

21 Jul

Pro bono professionals with Catchafire are committing their time and skills to a social mission organization. Maybe they are looking to switch careers, develop their skills, meet some like-minded people or just give back in a meaningful way to a cause they care about. Social good organizations are mission-driven, passionate about their cause, and in need of skilled professionals to help them build capacity so they can focus on critical path tasks.

So how exactly does pro bono work?

  1. Setting up your first meeting: Once you’ve been matched, you have two weeks to meet each other and make sure you’re the right personality fit for one another. So don’t hesitate – set up your first meeting within the first week of being matched. By accepting a match, you’re telling the other party that you are committed and ready to hit the ground running.
  2. Responding to emails:  As a skilled and experienced professional or pro bono manager, you’re expected to respond to email within 24 hours. We know you’re busy – but the project you’re working on is important and will impact the organization’s mission. Make sure your match is in the loop on your schedule – even if your first response lets him or her know you’ll answer more thoroughly later that week.
  3. Preparing for your project: Now that you’ve been matched, the first impression is critical for both parties. Come to the table prepared – review your deliverable, the project steps and the organizational prerequisites. Research your organization or professional with whom you’ll be working directly and come organized – with any background materials gathered and homework completed.
  4. Setting expectations: In the first meeting, it is important to describe your work and communication style, set project goals and realistic timelines to complete them. Be honest. This is your chance to ensure this match is the right fit for you. Speak up if something doesn’t feel right. Determine whether your mutual expectations are on par with the project scope and deliverable. If you need any clarification or guidance, you can always reach out to community@catchafire.org.
  5. Setting personal goals: Have a clear goal as to what you want from this experience. For the professional, this might be to access professional development, to connect further to a cause, to meet a specific person or to join a like-minded community. For the organization, this might be to increase your audience, attract new donors, create a buzz about an upcoming event – have a clear idea of the impact you’d like this project to have. Whatever your goals are, communicate your motivations and aspirations to your match. Knowing how to ask for what you want is a great skill!
  6. Delivering: Now it’s time to follow through on the deadlines and deliverables you’ve agreed to. It may seem obvious – but it’s very important to stick to your game plan and timeline in order to make an impact. Schedule regular check-ins and track your progress and timeline. Think back to Best Practice #3: setting expectations. Always better to set them realistically and then over-deliver, right? This is your professional or organizational reputation we’re talking about and you have a great opportunity to enhance it!
  7. Patting yourself on the back: We know you’re working hard and creating something amazing. We want to know about it and show it off. Tell us everything. Send us a case study, screenshots and a summary of the deliverable.  Blog about your experience, or share your story on social media. Together, you’ve made an impact on an important cause and we want to shout it from the rooftops!
  8. Requesting a recommendation: The organization is happy and the professional is proud of their work. Why not request a recommendation? Hand-written or on LinkedIn – this is your time to shine, whether as a pro bono professional or manager.
  9. Repeating the process: It feels good to make an impact together, doesn’t it? Take on another challenge – apply to or request a new project, expand your horizons and meet new people. Or if you don’t want to say goodbye yet, continue on with your work together – but remember to set a new game plan!

A few additional tips if you are doing a pro bono project virtually:

  1. Videoconferencing: It makes a big difference – especially for your first meeting! Once two parties are able to put a face to a name and “meet” each other – even virtually – the level of comfort goes way up.
  2. Communicating often: Try to touch base at least once a week. Establishing more frequent contact points with smaller deadlines allows for greater control of the process, which is even more important when you cannot meet in person.
  3. Being aware of time differences: Set appointments accordingly. When you suggest a time, include the time zone. For example, “Are you available for a Skype call this Thursday at 10 am EST?”
  4. Planning ahead: Give your organization or professional a heads up if you’re leaving town or will have limited access to the 
    Internet for a period of time. Set a firm date and time at which you will reconnect to get the project moving again.
  5. Using technology: Check out some tech tools available to support you while working virtually:
    1. Screen Sharing: Many programs allow parties in different locations to see what the other is viewing on their screen. This is particularly useful for training or handover at the end of the projects. Check out Skype, Join.me, and GoToMeeting.
    2. File Sharing: Sharing large files can be a pain. Check out DropBox – any easy way to pass information back and forth virtually.
    3. Emailing Files: Similarly, many types of email don’t allow you to send large files. Try yousendit.com to make this process a whole lot easier.
    4. Videoconferencing: “Meeting” virtually is key – try Ichat, Gmail video chat or Skype.
Image

How Matches Are Made

20 Jul

Hurray – You’ve successfully submitted your application and it has been sent to the organization of your choice!

Now, the organization has 3 business days to decide if they’d like to proceed.

Here is what the organization sees:

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 12.14.11 PM

If the organization decides to move forward, a Catchafire representative will be in touch to schedule a two-way interview, where you can learn more about this project and make sure this is the right match for you!

After the interview, both you and the organization will have 3 days to determine if you would like to work together. You must both opt into the project by accepting the match on your Catchafire Dashoard

Here is what you see:

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 12.05.33 PM

Here is what the organization sees:

Screen shot 2013-01-17 at 12.04.53 PM

If you both decide to move forward, you will receive a confirmation email from Catchafire that you have been matched! Please remember that Catchafire is here to help- email us at help@catchafire.org if you have any questions!

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