Job Search Advice: Catchafire – Find Volunteer Needs To Match Your Career Goals

Aug 11 2011 in Featured, Job Search Strategy, reCareered Blog by Phil Rosenberg

How many of you want to volunteer while you’re in career transition?

Many of you want to volunteer, but don’t know who needs your help. Sure you could serve the hungry at a soup kitchen, but wouldn’t you be able to provide even greater value by using your law degree to help an organization?

While you might like the idea of using your down time to give back – the reality is that you help yourself and help a charitable organization when you can use your specific work skills for volunteer work. It looks better on your resume, and you’ll feel better that you’re able to provide skills that few others have.

I’ll risk being Captain Obvious here, but finding a volunteer assignment that actually uses your work skills shows that you’re keeping your most important skills fresh. Plus, you might just meet someone who could use you in their workplace.

I see so many of your resumes that try to use volunteer work to fill the gap between jobs. The problem is that most of you have taken volunteer assignments that have little relevance to the full time job you seek. To an employer, this can look like you aren’t keeping your business skills sharp and haven’t been developing new skills – so it can cause extra challenges in your job searches.

What if you could easily find organizations who need your specific skills? Learn how Catchafire can help, in this article in .

“Catchafire founder Rachael Chong is not especially well-suited for building houses. As a physically not-large person, her hoisting power is relatively limited, and she doesn’t consider herself to have any particular carpentry skills. So why, when she had valuable skills in finance and business that she was willing to share, was she tacking on shingles for Habitat for Humanity — a cause she believed in but nonetheless frustrated her?

‘People weren’t looking [for volunteers with those skills],” she says. “It made me feel like I couldn’t be in corporate America and give back at the same time, which isn’t true.’

It’s not that social good organizations didn’t need skills like hers — it’s that they weren’t necessarily sure where to look for them. A 2009 survey of 300 nonprofit executives by Deloitte found that 97% of them didn’t know whom within a company to approach about pro bono work. Ninety-five percent of them said they didn’t know which companies to approach.

Chong started to see a solution to this problem as she assigned friends small pro bono projects for a nonprofit she joined after leaving the corporate world. With what she learned from that experience, she launched Catchafire in September.

The website matches professionals who have skills they’d like to volunteer with organizations that need work done. While established volunteer sites like idealist and volunteermatch already had vast databases (VolunteerMatch boasts listings from 79,000 nonprofit organizations), Chong wanted to take a more personal approach that the company has dubbed ‘eHarmony for volunteering.’

Volunteers fill out profiles that detail their interests and skills, and Catchafire sends them projects that might be a good match.

Catchafire projects span a smaller niche than database-style volunteering websites. They are usually about 30-to-80 hour projects that involve professional skills, can be completed by one person in three months, and have a clear deliverable. Chong, for instance, is currently working on a fundraising plan for an organization called Youth Challenge America.

About 1,700 social good organizations and 10,000 volunteers have registered for the service. Just as Idealist charges U.S.-based organizations per volunteer posting, Catchafire makes money by charging organizations a subscription fee that varies depending on their size.

‘It is not uncommon to have your time wasted when volunteering,’ Chong says of the decision to make Catchafire a company instead of a nonprofit. “[Paying a subscription fee] shows organizations are willing to put skin in the game to make this worthwhile.’ “

Original article Volunteer Matching Service Helps You Donate Your Professional Skills by Sarah Kessler published by .

How will you apply your work skills to volunteer for non-profits going forward?


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