Maybe you're a natural do-gooder, or perhaps your altruistic inclinations are spurred more by work or school requirements than your own fuzzy feelings toward humanity. Either way, finding volunteer opportunities is a little more difficult than just showing up at your local soup kitchen. Not to worry: Internet to the rescue!
GiveGab is an under-the-radar social network for volunteers that has been quietly partnering with colleges and nonprofits across the country over the last two years. Quietly is the key word: GiveGab has been focused on growing its network organically and without a lot of fuss. After all, volunteering is serious business.
The feel-good social network
"I like to say we're like LinkedIn for volunteering [because] LinkedIn has similar functionality to Facebook but a completely different context," says GiveGab CEO Charlie Mulligan. "I think [GiveGab] falls in the middle: We're not about really trivial things like Facebook and we're not super serious like LinkedIn. We're in between."
Like LinkedIn (or Facebook or basically all other social networks), when you sign up for GiveGab you build out a profile. On GiveGab, your profile acts as a volunteer resume--you can search for nonprofits or they can search for you based on interests and skills.
After launching as a desktop-only network only recently optimized for smartphones--did I mention the slow growth?--GiveGab is building a mobile app and rolling out premium services for universities, nonprofits, and businesses looking to connect with volunteers.
The forthcoming app will put a ton of new tools in the hands of volunteers. If you're looking for a way to give back, GiveGab will list upcoming volunteer events, send reminders, and add social elements so you can see which nonprofits your friends are involved with. A gamification feature will make volunteering more fun--you can win virtual trophies for various skills or tasks completed.
What's the big idea?
There are countless ways to find volunteer opportunities--or at least, that's what it seems like. Nonprofits are always in need, right? Yes and no. Many charitable organizations have specific days/times you can help out, or big events during the year when they need volunteer staffers to pitch in. It's hard to find that information in a centralized location. GiveGab hopes to be that hub, plus with all the social features you expect from a platform today.
"There's a huge need for this," Mulligan says. "Every year in the U.S., about 25 percent of the adult population volunteers, but 86 percent says they intend to volunteer. That is a massive gap. Even though there are all these databases and opportunities being added, over the last 20 years, the 25 percent volunteer rate has remained the same. We think the reason why is because most places are simply a database: 'You should volunteer, here are some places.'"
GiveGab is starting with college students first, because they often do charitable work to fulfill course requirements, as part of sorority or fraternity obligations, or to pad their resumes. The network has about 15,000 users right now and is expecting to make a major push during the fall semester. More than 200 universities are using GiveGab to pair their students with local charities. Mulligan says the mobile app will be more centered on the volunteers than universities and nonprofits.
"The site itself is designed to help nonprofit groups primarily--it helps people who manage volunteers," Mulligan says. "The mobile app is focused mainly on the consumer. The social features and the fun gamification-type features are the things we think really hit home with younger people."
Other social networks have experimented with charitable features, but the results have been mixed. Facebook's Causes, which is one of the platform's largest apps, is focused more on petitions and fundraising than volunteering. Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes in 2010 launched Jumo, a social network for charities, but the site didn't offer users any real way to interact with the nonprofits they followed. Jumo was "acquired" (died) in 2011.
It's easy to be a social slacktivist, but tougher to venture out into your community. If GiveGab can combine an index of volunteer opportunities with fun, social features, the network could be a real success. Hey, if Waze can turn traffic reports into a game, anything is possible.