Are you a recent grad who can’t find an internship because you can’t receive credit anymore? Are you stuck at a job that is unfulfilling? Maybe you’re in between jobs or looking to transition into a new field? Looking to volunteer and build your resume?! If you answered yes to any of these, read on, this is exciting stuff. Recently I was lucky enough to chat with CEO and Founder of Catchafire — the first and largest online pro bono service matching platform. You’ll see quickly why we wanted to share the story with NYCi!
Tell us about you and your company.
We connect professionals who want to use their skills for a good cause with nonprofits and social good organizations who need professional services but can’t afford them. I founded Catchafire two years ago, and we’ve already raised more than $2 Million worth of professional services for great causes all over the New York area.
What inspired you to start/work at your company?
A few years ago, I was working as a banker, and wanted to give back to my community using my professional skills. I was discouraged by the lack of options to do so. There are so many skilled professionals out there who want to contribute to important causes, but can’t find an outlet or are afraid their time will not be used in the best way. At the same time, there are so many nonprofits that are unable to build capacity quickly, because they lack the expertise, and the funding, to carry out important projects.
What are your company’s goals?
We want every professional who wants to give their time and skills to have the opportunity to do so quickly and easily, and have a positive experience making an impact for a cause they care about. We don’t want people to have to choose between having a career and making a positive impact. At the same time, we want to see our social good organizations flourish because of this newfound source of expertise at a reasonable price. Right now we work only in the greater New York area, but Catchafire is a scalable operation, and we intend to expand to several more markets in the US, and eventually beyond.
How does your company help people who are looking for internships?
If you have professional skills — maybe you’re a web designer, or a social media pro — taking on a pro bono project can be a great way to land an internship with your dream organization. The beauty of the Catchafire model is that the benefits work both ways. Pro bono can be a great way to boost your resume and add to your professional repertoire, especially when you’re relatively young and looking for new experiences. We’ve noticed that a lot of our professionals stay in touch with the organizations they serve — pro bono really creates lasting relationships. Signing up for several pro bono projects with us can be a great way to gain experience in of a range of organizations, which can teach you a lot about what to look for in an internship, or a job, before you commit.
What advice would you give to college students?
You don’t have to choose between making a decent living and making a positive social impact. The business and social good sectors are intersecting in ways that people could not have even imagined a generation ago. I think we’re entering a golden age for social entrepreneurship — a model that combines traditional business with social good. Pro bono service is just one option for people who want to do both.
What did you wish you knew in college?
That there was such a thing as “social enterprise.”
What is the best part of your job?
I feel lucky to have a job where I can see tangible, sometimes dramatic, results of my work every day. It’s inspiring to hear back from someone who had a great experience giving pro bono, or a nonprofit that was able to build a website or send off a grant that they absolutely would not have been able to do without pro bono. At the same time, we’re still very new, and we’re constantly tweaking our model. It’s an exciting time — we’re always thinking about how we can refine Catchafire and expand it to make an even bigger impact.
What is your company’s biggest challenge?
Probably just getting the word out. Whenever we talk to new people about Catchafire, many of them think it’s a great idea — I think it’s one of those “I wish I’d thought of that” things. We’ve grown in the past 2 years to more than 5,000 professionals and more than 1,000 organizations. But it’s a model that has the potential to engage millions of professionals, and hundreds of thousands of organizations — to really take over. We’ve trying to create a widespread movement here and we need help spreading the word — something you can help us with!
What is your company’s biggest strength?
Anything else we should know?
We may just have the perfect pro bono project waiting for you. You can browse our open project menu, or see what types of projects we offer. Sign up and give us a try, pro bono is surprisingly addicting!