As volunteer managers, we are all on the lookout for exciting and innovative ways to engage new audiences in our volunteering opportunities. It’s a constant battle between getting the core work achieved and providing people with one off, commitment-free opportunities.
What people want is an easy way to volunteer. We all know that. We’re not talking about the incredible volunteers who keep us all going on a day to day basis; those stalwarts who have volunteered every Tuesday morning since 1994.
We’re talking about those people who would never volunteer. The word doesn’t even enter their vocabulary. They don’t want to commit, they don’t want to fill out endless forms, and they think opportunities are going to be boring or only available while they’re at work.
And here’s the problem for volunteer managers: none of that suits our needs. Not only do we have to make time and space to run these special activities, we also have to recruit the volunteers.
So what does that mean? You end up with a team of volunteers who are dependable and reliable, yes. But where are your new members and supporters going to come from next year, and the year after that?
We need to find exciting ways to pull in that next generation of supporters. We have to start listening to those people who don’t volunteer. Why aren’t they volunteering? Just because they don’t do it now, doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t. We just need to give them the incentive and an easy way to dip their toe in.
It was exactly these challenges that I was facing as a volunteer manager, which spurred me on to create a social enterprise that would not only support charities to access that tricky non-comital audience, but more importantly, engage them on a level that would speak to their needs and interests.
Enter Good Deed Dating
Good Deed Dating works with charities in London to co-ordinate volunteering events for single people. We combine good deeds with great dates; providing single Londoners with the chance to meet someone who shares their values whilst they do something positive with their spare time.
Our website provides information on our brand and our story. It also showcases the work of our charity partners with their own profile pages. Our customers can purchase their subscription and set up their account details. The main element of our website is our events page which lists all the upcoming Good Deed Dates, where people can purchase tickets.
But how did it all happen?
One morning last year I was reading an article entitled “Forget Tinder, Volunteer Instead”, scoffing to myself, “of course volunteering is an amazing way to meet people, everyone knows that”. When it dawned on me that although those of us who work in the third sector know that volunteering holds the power to introduce likeminded people to each other, the rest of the world might not think that way. Volunteering is still seen as a selfless act where you give and you don’t get. When in fact, we all know that volunteering should always be a mutually beneficial process where you gain as much as you give. All I needed to do was to re-brand volunteering as something appealing and relevant to single people.
For starters, don’t call it “volunteering”, call it “a good deed”. Stop talking about “volunteers”, our customers are called “Deeders”. Make it all about meeting people, doing something fun and getting out there. What you end up with is the good deed being seen as a by-product of the date. Imagine that, volunteers who want something out of their experience.
The result is a group of people engaged in your charity, who would never have been involved otherwise, and you, the charity, have three or four hours of golden time to convince them that your cause is the one they should support. This is your opportunity to engage the next generation of your supporters, on their level and at their pace.
Following a significant amount of market research and several focus groups, the idea of Good Deed Dating became a reality. We launched our website in June 2016 and have been blown away by the response. People love the idea. We’ve found that over 70% of our Deeders wouldn’t have considered themselves a volunteer before their first date. And when asked whether their experience of a Good Deed Date has encouraged them to continue their involvement with the charity hosting their event, over 85% said yes.
Our success so far has led to significant seed investment recently and the expansion of the team at GDD HQ. We will soon be looking to diversify our offer, developing new products and services. We are looking forward to running events for LGBT groups very soon too. There is so much potential for our events to expand to include charities outside London or even the UK.
For me it’s all about looking at volunteering from a different angle and modernising the way we engage people. What else can you offer? What are they going to get out of it? That feel-good factor just isn’t enough anymore!
Think about the millions of people out there who don’t volunteer. Let’s aim for them!
Hannah Whitehead, Founder and CEO of Good Deed Dating
We are always happy to hear from charities who are keen to get involved with Good Deed Dating. Check out our website: www.gooddeeddating.co.uk to find out more, or get in touch to chat about how we might be able to work together. Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.