THE BLOG
01/24/2014 06:00 pm ET Updated Mar 25, 2014

LinkedIn's Volunteer Marketplace: Half the Battle

"Everybody can be great because anybody can serve... You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love. And you can be that servant." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

For the last four years, Catchafire has been connecting talented professionals with opportunities to serve communities in the spirit of civic engagement and activism that Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired. To reach even more potential "servants," we became a key partner in LinkedIn's new Volunteer Marketplace.

While we've had great success recruiting over 5,000 nonprofits and 20,000 professionals to Catchafire, those are small numbers compared to 260 million professionals who will now be provided with skills-based volunteer opportunities. Suddenly, half of our puzzle -- getting our projects in front of more professionals -- has been solved. We can now focus on getting more nonprofits to leverage the power of skills-based volunteers and ensuring a great volunteer experience.

That's an incredible opportunity for Catchafire, and other organizations, focused 100 percent on a successful skills-based volunteering ecosystem, because we know that making matches simply is not enough.

Reid Hoffman, Founder & Chairman of LinkedIn, in his blog post announcing the new Volunteer Marketplace says that, "The challenge is that nonprofits and professionals don't know how to easily find each other." That's only partially true. Since 2010, Catchafire has matched over 1,700 projects. Working directly with nonprofit leaders, we've learned that nonprofits need assistance identifying, scoping and drafting appealing volunteer opportunities. Volunteers need to be vetted, interviewed, and evaluated, like any vendor or job applicant. Every project has bumps in the road and every nonprofit needs support and feedback.

This is the hard stuff and the stakes are high. An unsuccessful skills-based volunteer project is a tremendous waste of nonprofit time and resources and the volunteers just don't come back. The 40 percent volunteer dropout rate in the U.S. is evidence of that fact.

Certainly, no one wants to repeat the mistakes of platforms like Google's All For Good -- the first volunteer matching project by a major player and consensus "next big thing," until it disappeared a month later. Exposure, users, and connections just weren't enough.

The experience clearly matters.

The good news is that LinkedIn really values the experience of their users -- nonprofit and professional -- which is why they are partnering with organizations like Catchafire, Taproot, and BoardSource. Together, we can provide the kind of meaningful volunteer experiences that create real impact for nonprofit organizations and keep volunteers coming back for more.

CORRECTION: The reference to the All For Good website “disappearing” was an insensitive exaggeration. To clarify, with the current partners at Points of Light, the site has become another important volunteer matching platform. The author apologizes for the misleading statement and rescind it.

UPDATE: The statement that it's 'only partially true' that nonprofits and professional do not know how to easily find each other no longer represents the author's opinions. To clarify, this is not partially true, but absolutely true, and it’s also true that there’s more to creating successful skills-based volunteer experiences than just matching.