We all know volunteering is one of the best ways to expand your network, gain new experience and ultimately give back to the community.
I personally have been volunteering for years and that’s why I’m excited to introduce you to a local startup that is aiming to make it easier to connect with the right organizations and then donate your skills.
Last year I met Sean Kennedy, founder and CEO of Pitch’n – the startup I’m talking about, at institute B and then we re-connected again on Twitter. We had a conversation two weeks after and what stood out to me was how passionate he is about the world of skilled-based volunteerism and non-profit.
We should start with what Pitch'n is about. Tell us more about it.
Sean: Pitch’n is an online system that connects skilled professionals who want to donate their skills and expertise to non-profit organizations. Tons of people out there are looking to do social good but have to go scrolling through endless Google searches or volunteer boards to try to find the closest thing to what they want to help with. On the other end, finding quality volunteers is hard for many organizations and they find themselves settling for people without the skills or passion for their cause in order to fill a role.
Pitch’n helps by making things simpler and gets rid of the noise. Volunteers simply create a profile showcasing themselves and the skills they want to donate. They can then filter the opportunities available down to specific details. Right now, that includes filtering by location, supported cause, skills needed, availability (such as weekday opportunities vs. evenings or weekends), and by general keywords. When they find an opportunity they want to help, they simply click the apply button.
Think of Pitch’n like oDesk or Elance – but for volunteers. The goal is to make it super easy to find the opportunities that need your skills so you can make a difference.
How did you come up with the idea for Pitch'n? How did you get started?
Sean: Like most great ideas, Pitch’n came from personal experience. As a freelance web developer, I wanted to help out and knew that organizations don’t always give web development the attention they deserve when budgets are tight. While trying to find volunteer opportunities to offer my services, I found it nearly impossible to find anything in Vancouver – which was crazy to me when all I wanted to do was help! The closest I came was boards that listed hundreds of opportunities but with very basic filters and mostly focusing on traditional volunteer roles. I knew there had to be a better way!
At the end of May 2013, I attended my first Startup Weekend event in Vancouver. The idea came to me at 2:30am, a couple days before the event – I remember this vividly – as I woke up with one of those “ah ha!” moments remembering the frustration from trying to volunteer earlier that year. I went to the event, pitched the idea, gained a lot of support, and now, here we are!
I think most of us know about GoVolunteer. How are you different from GoVolunteer? What value will you add to organizations and volunteers?
Sean: We love GoVolunteer! They're great to use when it comes to local and traditional short-term opportunities – they're like Indeed or Craigslist. Pitch'n is different in that we focus on skill-based volunteers and ensure all our members are reviewed and validated so we can keep a quality pool of professional help available. This is an added value for non-profits to reduce the number of unsolicited or unqualified applications they get for opportunities.
Most importantly though, we give our volunteers the ability to really hone in on the volunteer opportunities that support their interests, need their skills, and have a good fit for how they want to help. Giving volunteers this kind of ability to easily find the opportunities they care about is a simple idea but one not really applied — that’s why many organizations experience volunteers disappearing after a couple weeks when they lose interest, forcing them to stay in a constant recruiting cycle. We aim to eliminate that by helping to create those meaningful relationships that then lead to bigger impacts.
What is your long-term vision for Pitch'n?
Sean: With the launch of our new website, we will be focusing primarily on improving the experience for both sides and adding features as they are requested or needed. We’re really looking forward to hearing feedback from the community, as they’re the ones that will let us know what matters most to them.
For the future though, while all our opportunities are currently Vancouver based, we are looking to expand. Since many skilled volunteers can work remotely, there is no reason we couldn’t grow to help connect volunteers and non-profits in other regions or internationally. Also, understanding the demand for corporate social responsibility programs, we’re looking into how we can help companies develop and manage their employee volunteer initiatives. We’re not sure how that’s going to work just yet but something we are definitely looking into.
In the end, our vision is to help create more meaningful relationships, increase the impact and efficiency of volunteers, and empower more people to do social good in their communities. We’d love to see what our world would look like where non-profit organizations had access to all the same skills and talent that Fortune 500 companies currently have. What kind of impact would that have in our world?