Volunteers are out there – you just need to know how to connect

Volunteers are out there – you just need to know how to connect

In 2015, more than 62.6 million people over the age of 16 donated time to a non-profit organization, according to a survey by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS estimated 24.9 percent of the 251.5 million people over the age of 16 volunteered.

Obviously, volunteerism isn’t dead in the social media age, but it isn’t exactly thriving. In 2005, according to the BLS survey, more than 65.4 million volunteered or 28.8 percent of the population over 16.

A Freeport, Ill. company, NonProfitTHRIVE.com started by chiropractor Nicole Sdao, believes the key to reversing that trend is to use modern tools. Sdao has been a member of the Freeport Rotary Club, sat on the board of Tri-County Christian School and was a member of the Freeport Jaycees, which disbanded in July because of a lack of members.

“We tried a number of different things with the Jaycees, and that really got me thinking about how we are connecting,” Sdao said. “Now, we connect on digital devices. We have to connect with volunteers in a digital format.”

NonProfitTHRIVE.com is a match-making service, a website where nonprofits can post volunteer openings or events and those interested in helping can sign up and look over the opportunities. If one fits, they can sign up directly or they can click on a heart icon that will allow them to “follow” that organization. They will then be notified when other opportunities arise.

NonProfitTHRIVE isn’t the only organization to offer digital volunteer match-making, but what makes the program different is that it also tracks volunteer hours, taking the responsibility off of volunteers, nonprofits or businesses.

“A volunteer checks in at a kiosk and then checks out four hours later, and they’ll get a receipt emailed to them,” Sdao said. “The nonprofit won’t have to remember six months later. Many companies that have policies in place that donate based on where their employees volunteer. At some large companies, this can be millions of hours to keep track of and NonProfitTHRIVE does it automatically.”

The United Way of Northwestern Illinois is an early adopter of the program and its executive director, Tiffany Nieman, is encouraging the nonprofits it works with to get involved. Highland Community College of Freeport, which has about 2,500 students, is partnering with NonProfitTHRIVE.com to get its students entered so they can connect more easily with nonprofits in need of help.

Although the emphasis at first will be to sign up Freeport-area nonprofits and volunteers, the site is designed to match volunteers and nonprofits from Alaska to Hawaii and Maine to Florida.

“When you look at those volunteer numbers, you see all nonprofits are facing the same issue,” Nieman said. “Research shows that millennials want to get involved. We just haven’t utilized technology to attract them.”