When's the last time you saw a new Web app that:
- Was good for your brand
- Was useful for your customers/members
- Gave your employees a voice
- Helped your community
- Had zero IT support cost
- Allowed you to begin blogging with virtually none of the risks of a typical blog
- Caused non-customers to bookmark your site and/or subscribe to its feed
- Prompted the local press to write glowing reviews
- Put your name in front of community organizations, and their well-connected board members
- And was affordable?
Take a look at the Web-based volunteer clearinghouse originally conceived by CU thinktank Filene Research Institute. The application is being commercialized as Give With Us by Trabian, a Dallas-based design firm that built Filene's prototype called My Community Connection (see note 1).
You can see the original Filene version in production at SELCO Community Credit Union <selco.cugive.com>, where 77 volunteer opportunities have been posted since its launch less than six months ago (see note 2). The revamped, and much more Web 2.0-looking, version from Trabian will be housed at the cleverly named <www.givewith.us>. The online product tour is not yet available, but we have the world premier exclusive screenshot below, courtesy of Trey Reeme of Trabian.
How it works
The application is basically a blog where anyone can post volunteer opportunities. Readers can take action by clicking a button to either:
- Sign up
- Email a friend
- Leave a comment
Unlike other community websites that are bookmarked once then forgotten, users can sign up for a feed so that new opportunities continue to flow to their feedreader or browser. Hopefully, they'll add an email subscription option for the majority of users who are not yet using feeds.
The cost is $2,500 upfront plus $1,000 annually for the license. I don't need to tell you what a bargain that is. You get state-of-the-art blog design and functionality for the price of a Yellow Pages' ad.
You will need to assign a staff member to moderate the blog, clearing postings and comments for final publication. Assuming two posts and a couple comments each week, it shouldn't take more than a few minutes a day. But it needs constant attention, you can't have the moderator on vacation for a week with no substitute.
The biggest problem will be attention, or rather lack of it. How do you get overworked volunteers and nonprofit staffers to take time to post volunteer opportunities? Even harder, how do you get the community to remember to look at your blog when they are in a volunteering mood?
SELCO has a link on its homepage <selco.org>, but how do you reach out to the larger community to make this relevant? The SELCO website has 77 volunteer postings, but only 3 comments in the past 6 months. That suggests it's relatively lightly used by those donating their time.
But any new offering takes time to get rolling. It's not unrealistic that you could end up being THE place in your market where volunteer opportunities are publicized. But that will take more effort than just posting it on your homepage.
For example, searching for "volunteers in Eugene," SELCO's home market, doesn't bring up the CU's site until result number 160, far too low for anyone to notice (see note 2). Selco should consider using Google AdSense to get its program listed in search results. With no other bidders, it'll only take a dime or so to get the number-one listing.
Another way to receive more attention would be integrating the volunteer opportunities with fund-raising services. For example, a financial institution could create a "donate here" button for the organization's website that instantly deposits donated funds into the nonprofit's checking account.
- Trabian is a specialist in Web 2.0 design and so-called "social media." The company also built Filene's website along with several interesting credit union sites; refer to its website for a client listing. Trabian also runs the OpenSourceCU blog tracking, which tracks blogs and other social media in the credit union market.
- Click on the screenshot at right to see the front page of SELCO's My Community Connection site.
- The number-one result is a competing site, VolunteerMatch.org
which lists 98 opportunities in a tabular format.