Skills-based volunteering: the currency of a new generation of givers.

Skills-based volunteering: the currency of a new generation of givers.

Ask most Millennials what engagement with a non-profit organization looks like to them, and they’ll probably say a combination of a few things.  They’ll talk about traditional giving (writing a check, making a donation, attending a gala).  Most likely, they’ll mention a volunteer day where they had the opportunity to mentor a child or paint a fence.  But, perhaps the biggest marker of Millennial philanthropy that sets my peers apart from generations preceding us is Millennials’ desire to also provide their knowledge and skills to help an organization expand and grow.  

Wanting to share what you’re good at is nothing revolutionary.  What’s unique about Millennials, though, is that they weigh all three of those aforementioned forms of giving as equal in value.  According to the Millennial Impact Report, 72% of Millennials believe their assets – time, money and skills – are interchangeable.  So naturally, a Millennial who doesn’t have disposable income to make an outright, more typical philanthropic donation to an organization would probably be really excited by the prospect of volunteering their time and energy lending their particular skill-set to that same non-profit.

There’s a pretty cool website that’s making that easy to do.  Called Catchafire, this database of skills-based volunteer opportunities allows organizations to post their specific needs.  An organization can vet volunteers who apply in advance in order to find the best fit for the project or consultation.  Projects range from a few hours, to several months, and typically save the organizations large sums of money they would have to pony up for a freelancer otherwise.  

Similarly, volunteers can share their resume or articulate the skills they’re already building that they wish to finetune, and search for opportunities that fit what they are looking for in a volunteer experience.  Through a comprehensive database that syncs up with your LinkedIn account, you can apply to assist an organization with their special project, or do a consultation for an hour over the phone.  Once you’ve started racking up volunteer hours, Catchafire even calculates the amount of impact you’ve generated in dollars.  The other great thing? You’re not limited to where you live to volunteer.  Catchafire features organizations looking for help all over, so through the ease and accessibility of the Interwebs, you can still make a difference.  

So far, I’ve signed up to do a phone consultation for an app called Coin Up, which rounds up each transaction on your credit or debit card to the nearest dollar and automatically donates that to the charity of your choice.  I also submitted an application to do another phone consultation for a Boston area organization who wants to maximize their event fundraising.  I opted into applying for consultations to test the waters, especially since my time is limited.  But I’m excited to see if I can be helpful to these organizations, and hear what they are all about.  

To check out skills-based volunteer opportunities, head to Catchafire now and start dropping some knowledge.  Do you have other volunteer or philanthropic resources you want us to highlight?  Email us at and let us know! 

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