I‘ve long been a proponent of microlending programs. For only a small amount of money, you can give a woman in a developing country like Africa the means to feed her entire family, by funding her to purchase a sewing machine, a goat, or some chickens. Plus, you almost always get your money back! Kiva is a really great example of a microlending program.
Recently, however, I found out about Micovolunteering, and I thought it was so cool, I asked Jennifer Robertson, who does marketing and communications for Koodo, and whom I met last week at a workshop we shared in Victoria, to tell me a bit more about it, because I thought some of you might be interested.
RC: Where did the idea for Koodonation come from?
JR: First, context. At Koodo, we believe in supporting social good. And we know that people really want to make a difference in their communities, too. So to help make it happen, we’ve created Koodonation. Koodonation is an online microvolunteering community that makes it easy and convenient for busy people to lend their skills to non-profits, all in their spare time.
Now, while I would love to say the idea of Koodonation was mine… it wasn’t! It was a combination of the work from incredible team I work with at Strategic Objectives and the Sparked team in the U.S.!
A member of Strategic Objectives found Sparked.com – a microvolunteering community in the States, and they therefore reached out to Sparked to see if they would be interested in licencing their platform for a Canadian launch. Sparked already works with several companies such as Google, Kraft, SAP, licencing their platform and database to them as their internal CSR programs. But it was the first time a company was reaching out to take their platform and launch it with a separate database.
The idea to us was brilliant!
- Microvolunteering was totally new to Canada,
- Any non-profit across Canada could take advantage of it,
- Any volunteer in any region could use it and contribute to the challenges posted by the non-profits,
- The platform is easy, interactive (sign up process for microvolunteers takes less than 5 minutes)
- It’s social (uses Facebook to sign up, share on your wall a challenge you just helped on, …)
Now this was the kind of CSR program we liked! We therefore set up an agreement with Sparked.com, which means we re-skinned their platform as Koodonation (that is why you see ‘Powered by Sparked’ in the footer of our site) and launched it in Canada.
RC: What is microvolunteering?
JR: Think of microvolunteering as a type of volunteering that is done online and that fits in the kind of time you spend on Facebook. Microvolunteering can be defined by these four characteristics:
- It’s volunteerism that fits into a volunteer’s schedule when they have free time. The tasks are simple and it’s all done online so they can volunteer anytime, anywhere – even at 3am on their couch!
- Volunteer tasks are broken into small-ish pieces, so they’re quick and easy to solve. So if a volunteer only has a little time to help/spare, they can still make a big difference. They can log on Koodonation and help a non-profit in as little as 15 minutes!
It’s crowdsourced, which means that anyone and everyone can help. And when it comes to coming up with ideas to help non-profits and solve challenges, a crowd of heads is better than one! So for example, a non-profit based in Toronto can receive help from microvolunteers anywhere in Canada! Microvolunteering really broadens a non-profit’s reach.
It’s also network managed, which means a non-profit can take advantage of the community of microvolunteers, and use this network to have questions answered, get opinions, get ideas. As microvolunteers post all of their ideas and responses, the community also provides added value in rating the responses and helping non-profits decide which solutions are best.
RC: How does the process work?
JR: Non-profits post challenges on the site. Challenges are small tasks that can be completed entirely online – from simple questions that need answering to a quick brainstorm for ideas. From there, the microvolunteer community takes over and posts answers to help solve each challenge. A challenge page kind of looks like a Facebook wall! Volunteers are free to get involved in any cause that they care about, and respond to any challenges that interest them and match their skills. And they can do it any time, on their own time, with no commitments.
RC: What kind of success have you had to date?
JR: Well, we launched in October 2011. To date, we have over
- 3270 microvolunteers registered
- 220 non-profits signed up
- 172 challenges completed
These numbers grow each week. And with our 2012 Koodonation Online Challenge, we aim to increase these numbers even more, as well as improve the participation rate (ie. it’s one thing to sign up, it’s another to make sure to keep going to the site and volunteer!).
RC: What kind of people benefit most from Koodonation?
JR: First, the people who work for the non-profits. Koodonation offers them a new channel to get the community involved – and not just folks from their local community, anyone across Canada! In addition, koodonation.com offers them a new way to get help… non-profits can ask questions such as which new logo do you like best, how do you find our website/how would you improve it, do you have ideas for this fundraising event I have coming up, etc…
These are not the typical volunteering opportunities you usually see, and so Koodonation is a new tool for non-profits.
For the microvolunteers themselves, Koodonation offers them a unique way to give back to the Canadian community, in a way that will fit their schedule! No traveling required, no training required. Microvolunteers just log on and see which challenge they can contribute on using the skills they already have. And they do so from wherever they are, at whatever time suits them. It makes volunteering easier. And you feel so good after volunteering!
RC: Thanks, Jennifer, and good luck with the project!