Volunteer Alliance ‘started’ in 2007. We say started with commas because all we really had in 2007 was 1 volunteering experience and an idea.
Our first volunteering experience fairly typical. We volunteered at a childcare center in Africa through a Volunteer Placement Organization.
Unless you have volunteered, you have probably never heard of a Volunteer Placement Organization.
Volunteer Placement Organizations place volunteers at Community Based Organizations.
And this is an important point. Volunteer Placement Organizations do not host volunteers themselves. They partner with Community Based Organizations that are the real, on the ground, Organizations that host the Volunteer.
Because Volunteers had no way to connect directly with Community Based Organizations, Volunteer Placement Organizations became the ‘gatekeepers’ of international volunteering.
Volunteer Placement Organizations are limited in the number of Community Based Organizations that they can work with, offer little flexibility, and as a business have overheads that drive up the cost of volunteering.
We estimate that by connecting directly with a Community Based Organization a Volunteer will save, on average, $350 per week!
Having started out on our first volunteering experience to boost our resume, we left with a deep sense of responsibility, and a vision: to bring greater accessibility and transparency to international volunteering.
As college students, we had more ambition than skills or experience. We were volunteers with a nebulous idea and full workloads trying to change an established industry. We spent most of the first year learning how to work with each other, holding long ineffective Skype calls, brainstorming sessions, and generally just growing up. But it wasn’t a complete waste of time. At the end of the year we finally had a clear picture of what we wanted, but no idea how the hell to do it.
Volunteer Alliance is an open marketplace for volunteers to discover, connect and volunteer directly with Community Based Organizations.
The first Volunteer Alliance website launched in 2011.
With over 130k searches for ‘volunteer abroad’ on Google per month from an estimated 1.6M international volunteers per year, we quickly reached 10,000 Volunteers profiles.
Connecting with Community Based Organizations was more difficult. In 2011 we embarked on our first Community Based Organization outreach trip – travelling overland through Southern and Eastern Africa, meeting with Community Based Organizations, introducing them to Volunteer Alliance and finally helping them build and manage their Community Based Organization profiles.
We started the trip with just one Community Based Organization (the one where we had first volunteered), and finished with over 50. It felt good, but it had taken a lot of work. We knew that if this was going to work, we needed organic growth. Two months after we returned home, without any additional effort, we had 100 Community Based Organization profiles, doubling the results of our 6 month trip. What we were seeing was more than word of mouth. Community Based Organizations were realising the potential of Volunteers and were starting to look for ways to connect with Volunteers outside of Volunteer Placement Organizations. At the same time, computer and internet ‘literacy’ was improving rapidly, making an online platform like Volunteer Alliance viable. We saw this for ourselves on our trip – every single Community Based Organization that we visited had a Facebook page. It wouldn’t be long before we reached 1,000 Community Based Organization profiles.
And then it happened. Volunteers and Community Based Organizations started to connect. Since launching we facilitated over 1.2k connections between Volunteers and Community Based Organizations. With over 10 new connections per month.
In our first 3 years of Volunteer Alliance we used to say that we were ‘CouchSurfing for Volunteers’. Volunteer Alliance facilitated connections between international Volunteers and Community Based Organizations.
These were our growing years, in which we suffered growing pains in the form of slow website loading from too many visitors, and slow response times as we juggled Volunteer Alliance and full time work.
But by far our biggest issue was that Volunteers were connecting with Community Based Organizations – but were not volunteering. We found that Volunteers and Community Based Organizations needed help finalising the details and managing the transactions. Just like when booking a holiday accommodation.
This lead us to the website you see today. If the previous website was ‘CouchSurfing for Volunteers’, then this website is ‘airbnb for Volunteers’.
See How it Works for more information.
Volunteer Alliance is a comprehensive database of international volunteer opportunities created by the organization's themselves, with unfiltered volunteer reviews, matching skills and needs, offering the low cost of volunteering directly and the security of Volunteer Alliance Money Back Guarantee.
Even after 7 years, it feels like this is just the beginning. As we gain more attention and traction, we’re increasing the number of international volunteers and mutually beneficial volunteering experiences.
We love what we’re doing and encourage anyone interested to join us on this ride. We’re just getting started….