VolunteerMatch Benefits from Sweet Cause Marketing Deal with Ben and Jerry's and Target

Scoop it Forward, which is was brought to VolunteerMatch by Ben and Jerry's and Target, is VolunteerMatch's newest cause marketing effort.

Scoop it Forward rewards volunteers with a sweet treat of two new varieties of Ben and Jerry's ice cream, both available exclusively at Target.

I put a few questions to Robert Rosenthal, director of communications at VolunteerMatch, about it's history, its present and where its going with cause marketing now and in the future.

Here's the first half of that interview with Robert. The second half will post on Monday, July 26, 2010.

1. How many volunteer placements has VolunteerMatch enabled since its founding in 1995?
VolunteerMatch was formed from the merging of two projects that were doing pioneering work to hotwire the Web for doing good. We officially launched our public Web service in 1998, www.volunteermatch.org, as the first Web resource for finding a great place to volunteer in local communities around the nation. We began building out our network with Web solutions for partner companies and organizations shortly thereafter, and today we are approaching 5 million "volunteer referrals" generated by our service.

Three-quarters of today's referral activity is generated by our public Web service, which is the #1 search result for "volunteer" at Yahoo!, Google, and Bing. The other quarter comes from our wider family of business, campus, and national nonprofit clients.

On the corporate side, we support 70 or so employee volunteer programs at companies like Google, Johnson & Johnson, UnitedHealth Group, Target, Medtronic, Morgan Stanley, and The Gap. We also have a dozen or so cause marketing partnerships with companies seeking to link their brands with volunteer engagement: CMT, Coca Cola, American Express (via TakePart.com), Allstate, Kenneth Cole, Target and Ben & Jerry's are a few examples.
2. How many searches does VolunteerMatch serve up, on average, every day?
VolunteerMatch.org serves up around 180,000 searches each day. Searches happening elsewhere in our network probably add close another 30,000-40,000.
3. How big is your staff?
We have 29 paid stuff, primarily at our headquarters in San Francisco's Chinatown. We are a nonprofit, 501c3 organization with a budget of around $4 million annually. Recently we celebrated our first two consecutive quarters in the black, marking the fulfillment of a promise we made to our early funders to figure out how to stay in business.
4. Do you have any stories of specific individuals whose lives were changed for the better thanks to VolunteerMatch?
Here are 30-40 of them, and we get dozens more each month:

Some highlights:

Michael Nicklin, National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship - After a movie trailer inspired business consultant Michael Nicklin to make volunteering a focus in his life, a search at VolunteerMatch led him to an opportunity that changed his life once and for all.

Sara Hooker, Volunteer - Growing up in Swaziland, where one in four adults has HIV, Sara Hooker was aware from a young age how some communities face extraordinary challenges. As she become active as a volunteer, she realized that she was not only solving problems – she was growing as a person, too.

Nancy Peyton, Cheerful Givers - Looking to volunteer at her own pace from the comfort of home, Nancy Peyton found the perfect virtual opportunity seeking donations for Cheerful Givers. Now she helps provide birthday gifts to thousands of children whose parents can not afford them.
5. VolunteerMatch is a well-established and well-respected brand with many existing corporate relationships, why go this direction with specific corporate partners?
Our focus has been to organize a marketplace for civic engagement, and we've always recognized that there are lots of stakeholders in this -- municipalities, policy makers, nonprofit organizations, individuals of all ages and backgrounds, faith-based organizations, and corporations are just a few.

To make this work, we've really tried hard to expand our system to create entry points for new intermediaries. Cause marketing partnerships are an obvious strategy for us; not only are we able to help companies align their brands with good intentions and local solutions, we're able to piggyback on media and marketing investments we would never be able to afford on our own -- such as American Express Members Project or Scoop It Forward with Ben & Jerry's and Target.

Today around 73,000 nonprofits participate in our network, but some 1.4 million other nonprofits haven't discovered our solution yet, and many are facing severe resource constraints at a time when their services are most needed. We want to reach them and help them leverage more volunteer resources before it's too late. We're fortunate that so many companies now recognize the value of this kind of strategic alignment; it would be difficult for us to continue to scale our network otherwise.

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