Skills-based Volunteerism: Why swing a hammer when you are best at taming a spreadsheet?

It was while Rachel Chong was lifting a piece of lumber that weighed more than she did that the epiphany came to her.  Wouldn’t it be better for the world if she helped with the finances, ran some spreadsheets or wrote a volunteered her time doing something that made use one of her real skills?

This was the seed of an idea that grew into her new company, Catchafire, a business that is “changing the way people volunteer.”  As Rachel explains in this clip, she is applying existing technologies to create a site focused on matching well-defined, short-term projects with the specific skills of individual volunteers.  This creates a more effective, efficient, and rewarding experience for both sides.

Rachel may really be on to something, based on the work of Daniel Pink, recently presented in an ultra-cool video by Daniel Pink.   He argues that when people have at least a modest standard of living, there are three things that motivate them to do well (hint:  money doesn’t work).  People achieve at the highest levels if they are given:

  • autonomy
  • a chance at mastery (improving what they enjoy)
  • purpose

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So if Catchafire can tap into my desire to get better and better at storytelling with digital media (which I have been doing for more than a decade) by matching my skills with a nonprofit needing help telling its story, I’ll enjoy the experience and do better than when I am asked to bake a casserole for my church!

One thought on “Skills-based Volunteerism: Why swing a hammer when you are best at taming a spreadsheet?

  1. I’ve worked for Weight Watchers part-time and full-time and my experience is that the money is almost completely disconnected from my incentive for doing meetings. When I work part-time, I find I really enjoy the people and I’m happy to deal with all of the paperwork and other inanities of the organization. However, when I worked for them full time I grew weary of the burden and ended up really resenting the people and the program. Put differently, as long as I don’t NEED the money I get from doing that kind of work, I can throw my heart and soul into it and have a ton of fun helping people. Only when I need the cash does it suck.

    Similarly, I’ve also found that when I do volunteer work for my church that involves my best skills (group mentoring/education) I’m way happier than doing manual labor like cleaning or gardening or what have you.

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