Each Friday, the another jennifer blog shares stories of those who incorporate philanthropy into their everyday lives – personally and professionally – in a creative and unique way. If you have a story you’d like to share, please contact Jennifer. You can view past posts from the series here.
Stephanie Downs, the founder and chief volunteer at Voolla, started volunteering when she found herself burned out about a year into starting a business in 1999. She needed to do something that took her away from work, so she started volunteering at an animal shelter.
After a while, Stephanie questioned whether walking dogs and cleaning kennels was the best way for her to give back. The shelter needed the help, of course, but she also had a professional skill that might have been more valuable to the organization.
Stephanie then became involved as a board member for a nonprofit where she could use more of her skills. The problem there was in the fact that her commitment developed into something that was more like an additional part-time job.
At some point, it dawned on Stephanie that charities need volunteers and money, and volunteers want to share their skills. There had to be a better way to connect the two.
She combined the two (volunteering and money) to create Voolla, which publicly launched in November 2012.
Voolla isn’t your common volunteer match service where a charity posts a profile noting what items and services they need. On Voolla, volunteer skills are turned into money for charities. It’s an online marketplace where skilled volunteers are matched with buyers who need those skills. So, you can find a music teacher on Voolla and offer graphic design services at the same time.
Want to get involved with Voolla? If you’d like to offer your services as a volunteer, setting up a profile is the first step. If you are looking to hire a professional, you can do a simple search of the service provider profiles. When the work is complete, the money is then given to the charity chosen by the volunteer, the customer or both. (Nonprofit organizations can also generate donations through Voolla.)
Voolla, a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization itself, receives a 10% transaction fee.
This video explains how Voolla works.
Stephanie pointed out a few great ways people can use Voolla in their professional life. She noted that offering services on Voolla for charity is a great way for college students or someone looking for work can boost their resume or build a portfolio. Using Voolla is also a great way for entrepreneurs to offer their services for the first time to new customers in a unique and positive way.
Here’s a great example of a Voolla exchange. A customer paid $150 for these beautiful wedding invitations and the money went to the designer’s favorite charity.
When I spoke with Stephanie, she reported that Voolla now has 1,800 people registered on the website, including 500 people with profiles.
What services could you provide (or hire) on Voolla?