catchafire
andrew lin

NYC Startup CatchAFire.org Launches Site To Match Skilled Volunteers And Charities

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Catchafire.org, a service to find and match volunteers with professional skills and charitable organizations in need of their help, will open its website to the public today after about a year in private beta testing.

Founded in Manhattan in 2009, the angel-backed Catchafire plans to charge non-profits a fee for each match (or “hire”) that they make through the site. The fee would represent a tiny fraction of the value of a volunteer manager’s time spent recruiting and vetting candidates, and a volunteer’s contributions to the non-profit, Catchafire reasons.

Chief executive and company founder Rachael Chong, a former investment banker, reports that for the 60 non-profits her company helped in the last year, the most common needs included public relations, marketing, social media and design (including web design). More than 90% of these organizations paid for the volunteer matching. An average price was around $200 per match.

2,000 volunteers have already registered, along with 300 non-profits for Catchafire.org.

Ms. Chong frequently tells the story of how she decided to start this company:

“I was trying to volunteer and do this stuff through the banks I worked for. But I found myself carrying a piece of wood the size of my body around one day, thinking I’m not the person who wants to be building a house. I spent 6 months trying to find a chance to volunteer financial skills and eventually, quit banking to go into microfinance before starting this company. Even though I had to do it, I believe that people should not have to sacrifice their well paying jobs to make a difference.”

Would-be volunteers with skills to offer can use Catchafire.org for free, logging in via Facebook Connect, and auto-importing details about their professional experience and education from a LinkedIn profile, or adding their information to the site manually, including details like availability, location, interests and skills.

Non-profit managers can start using the site for free, but pay per volunteer match. The non-profits can select what Catchafire.org’s chief of technology, Andrew Lin (formerly at Hulu) calls a “mini-RFP” from a “project menu.”

The menu items are fairly detailed and precise descriptions of projects that non-profits typically need volunteers to complete. The menu is meant to alleviate a pain point for non-profits: their volunteer managers may not be great RFP writers, and even if they are, they may not know much about the skills it would take to set up a Salesforce database, for example, or how to run a social media campaign in three languages. The company surveyed 1,000s of people in charitable fields to derive its project descriptions.

Catchafire.org also briefly quizzes potential volunteers to make sure they actually have the skills they say they do. If a painter offers up graphic design services, what do they know about vector graphics? A quick, vetting quiz can help make sure a volunteer’s definition of particular skills, matches that non-profit’s needs before a project begins.

The company is hosting a webinar, and live Tweet Q&A today. Details follow below:

Join Catchafire Founder & CEO, Rachael Chong, and CTO, Andrew Lin, for a demo and Q&A on Catchafire’s site launch on Thursday September 23, 2010. Catchafire is a scalable skills-based volunteer platform that has developed a matching technology to create high quality matches to improve the quality of the volunteer experience.

Space is limited. Reserve your Webinar seat now at:

https://www3.gotomeeting.com/register/415598830

After registering you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Webinar.
What: Catchafire New Site Demo with Founder & CEO, Rachael Chong, and CTO, Andrew Lin
When: Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 1:30 PM (10 minute demo, 20 minute Q+A)

System Requirements:
PC Requirements: Windows® 7, Vista, XP or 2003 Server
Macintosh® Requirements: Mac OS® X 10.4.11 (Tiger®) or newer

The company will be live-tweeting the demo from @Catchafire using the hashtag #CAFBeta

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