Much has been said recently about the value of volunteering. Job seekers, including those in my seminars and classes, ask the questions, “Should I volunteer and can I include it in my résumé and LinkedIn profile?” Yes, you should. Yes, you can. The harder advice to give has been how and where to look for volunteer opportunities. Here is one option that I share not as an interested observer, but as a participant in the process. I hope that it helps and informs your thoughts on what you can and should do.
A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with a long-time friend. We were catching up on each other’s career stories when he mentioned a website called Catchafire. Had I heard of it? No. Henry explained that it was like a Monster job board for matching professionals interested in volunteer opportunities with social-good organizations needing help. It sounded interesting and I investigated.
Catchafire allows volunteers (PBPs : pro bono professionals) to identify causes in which they are interested (e.g. childhood education, women’s rights, etc.) and their skills (e.g. accounting, web design, copywriting). The site then offers open assignments that it thinks are good matches. The PBP browses the assistance requests and, if interested, applies for the job. I decided to try it.
Here are a few observations from having gone through the process. First, if you are going to do this yourself, be prepared to spend some time to set up your Catchafire profile. The fastest and easiest way is to import your LinkedIn profile. Second, be prepared for a screening and selection process that is not unlike applying for a paying position. When a PBP applies for a job, the requesting organization and Catchafire’s team will ask questions and request work samples. This is more than just raising your hand and getting the gig.
Catchafire is able to pay its staff and keep the computers running by earning a fee from the organization requesting the services of the PBP. It’s easy to understand why they want good people who can and will fulfill their commitments. The non-profit gets professional services at a greatly reduced rate, far below market value. The volunteer gets the satisfaction of working on a project that best matches her or his skills while doing something that matters, and maybe has earned another résumé bullet. Plus, there is the intangible benefit of making new connections and getting your name and work more widely known.
I have been accepted for my first assignment. The writing work begins in October. I will be sure to share an update, including information about the organization for which I am working, as the effort gets going. Check it out for yourself and maybe you can Catchafire, too.