Putting Yuppies To Use - Volunteerism For Urban Professionals

Volunteerism is becoming a big thing these days, and it's great if you like - or better still, are good at - packing boxes, picking up trash, or construction. These kinds of projects are everywhere, and kudos to anyone who participates in them: you are most definitely making the world a better place.

But there are plenty of people out there who do nothing with their hands but type and click. Put one of these people on a construction project, and you'll set it back a couple of weeks; give them boxes to pack, and they'll get a paper cut; and don't - whatever you do - let them pick up trash: it'll ruin their Gladiator sandals, put a nasty stain on their brand new Jeggings, or worse still, they'll scratch their iPad.

But these people are still useful. Just look at their paychecks, and you'll know that someone else agrees. So the question is, how do you get the most out of them through volunteering?

Rachael Chong and her New York City-based, for-profit social mission business, Catchafire, may just have the answer. Inspired by Chong's own experiences both in trying to make the most out of her skill set when volunteering, and also by trying to find the right volunteers for her previous employer's needs, Catchafire's mission is "to improve the quality of the volunteer experience by providing pro bono opportunities for skilled professionals."

Targeting nonprofits and social enterprises, Chong aims to ensure everybody wins from the experience, by breaking things down as succinctly as possible. When matching volunteers with organizations, Catchafire looks at skills, cause interests, and time availability. But prior to that, they work directly with each organization to "identify their needs as short-term, discrete, and individual-based projects." This is vital, Chong explains, because, "People's time is often worth more than their money."

So, if you're a skilled professional looking to expand your horizons and be of greater service, or you represent an organization that requires a specific skill set for a certain project, you may well need look no further than Catchafire.

Here is Chong, late last year, explaining the what, why and wherefore of Catchafire, as they entered the beta phase of this project: