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Can We Create An Effective Internet-Based System to Match Volunteers With Volunteer Needs?
Submitted by Kevin Cronin on Fri, 11/11/2005 - 14:16.
Can we use the Internet to develop a matching system for potential volunteers and volunteer activities at area nonprofits? After three years of raising money for University Settlement, a nonprofit social service agency on the southeast side of Cleveland, I am amazed by the good will and desire to help among the public. But couldn't we develop a system to utilize and magnify that good will? The following are my thoughts (based on computers labs in Chicago and the website tutormentorconnection.org, but business volunteers unlimited uses aspects of this as well), but I'd certainly welcome yours.
The goal is to create a universal volunteer recruitment/deployment website. Potential volunteers and nonprofits sites would load and use information directly, without time delays for referrals.
Potential volunteers describe their volunteer goals: activity (such as "working with kids," working with seniors, painting/facility repair and the like); time availability (available Thursday evenings, available week-ends, call when needed, call, but not on week-ends); geographic information - preferred neighborhood (zip sort for close to home, close to work, traveling to Cleveland and want to help); type of volunteer relationship (ongoing, regular volunteer activity or one-time only); describe any special skills or experiences to offer (carpenter, web designer or auto mechanic); describe goods or materials to donate (toys for kids, wood chips for playground equipment surface in a poor neighborhood, money for GED software acquisition); or other issues (a high school senior looking for a three month, 9-5 experience).
Organizations describe volunteer opportunities (reading in day care; helping repair kids' bikes at the bicycle co-op; weeding a garden; tutoring former inmates on computers); create a time frame or specify day or create an open-ended activity; describe any training/special experience required; characterize the need as regular or single occurring activity; identify an agency contact (with contact information).
The model is tutor/mentor connections in Chicago, developed by Dan Bassill www.tutormentorconnection.org),which matched tutors in Cabrini Green housing development.
The concept is both flexible and precise, better for volunteers and organizations in tareting the desired volunteer activity. This helps address a major concern for volunteers and agencies - that the volunteer experience is a positive one, because those are the ones likely to repeat.
The structure is simply a matching system, which I think can increase the volume and ease the execution of volunteer activity. If it's easy and can match a potential volunteer's availability, a person is more likely to volunteer.
It would have to be clear that the structure makes no independent investigation or certification about the individual. Organizations must still screen or interview people, consistent with their organization's policy if the individual walked in off the street, but this system would still target people better and improve efficiency.
Can I get your thoughts? Thanks.