Rachael Chong is a modern-day matchmaker, but her clients aren't looking for love.
Her company, Catchafire, is an online platform for nonprofits and social enterprises to find skilled professionals willing to volunteer their services, from photographers to technologists to accountants. Think of it as a cross between OkCupid and the classifieds.
"A matchmaking service between talent and purpose," as Chong says.
Chong started her career as an investment banker. After years of volunteering, however, she was left frustrated that her professional skills were never taken advantage of in those settings. Now she's taken that frustration and channeled it into an enterprise that seeks to facilitate change in the world.
"From when I was small I have been driven to make the world more fair," Chong said. "Not just the kid in the developing world who needs an education, but I'm also talking about us."
Prospective volunteers can search for projects based on two simple questions: What do I care about? And what am I good at?
"What we see all the time is that people are desperately seeking purpose," Chong said.
Catchafire itself isn't a nonprofit, but rather a B-corporation, or benefit corporation, which lists positive social impact among its legally defined goals. Participating organizations pay a monthly fee (around $200) and post projects, including a description and estimated time commitment. Volunteers apply online and matches are made.
There are roughly 30,000 professionals currently active within the Catchafire network, bolstered by a partnership forged last year with LinkedIn, which surfaces volunteer opportunities to millions of users.
Francis Minien is a volunteer photographer at Catchafire. He takes photos for the Pratt Area Community Council, an organization in Brooklyn, New York, that helps people find affordable housing. Minien grew up in affordable housing, so his strong feelings on the subject make him a great match for the PACC.
"We don't live in a perfect world, but there's a lot of people that do need to be helped," Minien said.
He was inspired to volunteer his skills because he knows photography is expensive but has real value to nonprofits, particularly when it comes to marketing.
The PACC agrees. "We want clients to come to our office and see a picture of a woman who just had her home saved from foreclosure, to see the smile on her face, and know that its not a stock person, its an actual client that came through our services," communication manager Michelle Etwaroo said.
The PACC is just one of the around 2,500 nonprofits and social enterprises that have been supported by Catchafire nationwide. (About 1,500 of which are currently active.)
"A volunteer experience has the power to help somebody see into a different world through different eyes," Chong said. "Once you have that experience one time that awakens something inside of us."