This National Volunteer Week, Melbourne startup Vollie wants to harness the talents of millennials

Vollie co-founders Matt Boyd and Tanya Dontas

Vollie co-founders Matt Boyd and Tanya Dontas

It’s National Volunteer week, and one Melbourne startup says there are plenty of millennials ready to give back by contributing their digital and professional skills to non-profit projects.

Vollie co-founders Tanya Dontas and Matthew Boyd believe there is a number of young professionals with valuable digital skills who could be providing a crucial helping hand to charities and non-profit organisations that survive on volunteers.

But the issue, says Dontas, is connecting this cohort with opportunities where they can leverage the skills and activities they love doing.

“The key problem is – especially for our age group of 25 to 35 – is they just weren’t volunteering,” Dontas tells StartupSmart.

“[But] it wasn’t that they didn’t want to.”

The idea for Vollie actually hit Dontas while she was volunteering, and she says the platform aims to solve this problem.

Dontas, who has a background in marketing, says she was cleaning up animals’ “number two” at a shelter when she realised there “must be something better” she could do to give back.

After exploring how other young professionals like her could put their talents to good use, Dontas and Boyd began developing Vollie and over the course of nine months brought the platform to life.

Since launching Vollie’s minimum viable product in late November 2016, Dontas says the platform has facilitated over 1500 hours of volunteer work worth more than $75,000, and over 1000 volunteers are registered on the site.

Listed volunteer opportunities range from voice-over work for videos to graphic design, web development and SEO specialists.

“We have projects in the digital space quite a lot because it’s something that charities can fall behind in,” she says.

Vollie generates revenue through a monthly subscription fee of $150 for charities and non-profit groups to list five volunteer projects on the platform, or $295 to list eight projects.

So far, 32 organisations have subscribed including charities Missing Persons Advocacy Network and My Green World.

Dontas says it enables social ventures that rely on pro-bono services to build and maintain a volunteer workforce.

“This has been really appealing to a lot of the smaller charities who have smaller teams,” she says.

Dontas and Boyd are hoping to turn Vollie into an international solution for non-profits around the world.

“We see it as something that can go global,” she says.

“We see it as we should have a volunteer in Australia working for a charity in Nepal [and] funnily enough we are starting to get interest from non-profits overseas.”

Reflecting on the experience of building Vollie, Dontas says she has been surprised at the uptake from millennials, who are on the lookout for specialist volunteer projects.

“I thought it would be more challenging to engage volunteers and that really surprised me,” she says.

“We were aware that people were looking for solutions but the response that we’ve had [is] amazing.”

With Vollie’s journey just beginning, Dontas says “patience” will be a critical asset for her as an entrepreneur and it’s one she continues to learn each day.

“You have to be patient,” she says.

“It’s not all going to happen at once [but] you have to remember that each little thing you do each day is going towards something big.”

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