Matt is the Founder and Managing Director of Vollie, a platform that connects skilled Australians with non-profit organisations and is unlocking a new style of skills-based remote volunteering. Vollie exists to encourage more people to use their talents to support not-for-profits and the life-changing work they do. Vollie is allowing people to volunteer in a way that fits around their busy schedule and makes it easy for anyone to volunteer. Matthew has 10+ years marketing experience spanning across start-ups, advertising agencies and in various corporations. Matt decided to quit his job at the end of 2015 and get to work on Vollie.
Vollie was inspired by Matthew’s extensive volunteering experience and love of working with not-for-profits. In the past few years alone, Matt’s volunteering activity has included supporting children’s charities, mental health not-for-profits, animal welfare groups and environmental causes. He has also been responsible for running projects that have raised over $1 million for a large number of not-for-profit organisations.
Tell us a little bit about your idea and what made you decide to take the plunge and make it happen?
Vollie will connect skilled young Australians with non-profit organisations and unlock a new style of skills-based remote volunteering. Vollie projects are exclusively online, meaning that volunteers can donate their skills and experience from anywhere in the world, at any time. Users will be able to find projects aligned with their skills and passions within a matter of seconds, and the application process is as simple as logging in via LinkedIn. Once completed, users will be able to add projects to their resume/LinkedIn and share their experience through Facebook. Vollie already has a host of exciting non-profit organisations committed to the platform, including Make-A-Wish, Greenpeace, Starlight Children’s Foundation, The Butterfly Foundation and Foodbank.
I quit my job at the end of 2015 and started Vollie, because the rate of volunteering among young Australians is lower than any other age group. Although Australia has a culture of giving and is ranked in the top three most giving nations in the world, according to the State of Volunteering, the biggest deterrent from volunteering is lack of flexibility. This platform has been created in response to the shift in how consumers operate, demanding efficiency and having things at the click of a button. Vollie is streamlining the volunteering process, making it more accessible. As workplaces move to more flexible work practices and work is largely being conducted online, Vollie is helping not-for-profits bridge the skills shortage gap they often have by connecting them with tech savvy and professional millennials through projects that are meaningful to them.
Easy to use and free for volunteers, Vollie works in three simple steps. First, volunteers input what they’re good at and the causes they care about. Secondly, Vollie shows projects that match their skill set and causes, and finally the user selects the project that suits them and completes it on their time and around their schedule.
Known as the ‘invisible economy’, volunteering within Australia was estimated to provide $17.3 billion in unpaid labour in 2012-13, with volunteers working a total of 521 million hours (Australian Bureau of Statistics 2012-1). Vollie is breaking down the barriers and perceptions associated with volunteering, by providing people and businesses with opportunities to really make an impact, unlocking a new way for people to volunteer and to really have an effect on the causes that matter to them most.
Please explain your business model.
There is a subscription model with two tiers available for charities to pay; they can either go with a Self-Service Package or Full-Support Package. We understand that some charities can’t afford these costs which is why we’ve introduced Vollie Amplify. Vollie Amplify allows businesses from Vollie’s network to cover these costs for the not-for-profit. By a business paying just a few hundred dollars per month to allow a not-for-profit to utilise Vollie, they are actually opening up thousands of dollars of value every month for the charity to tap into the talent on Vollie and have these skilled volunteers strategically support the charity organisation.
What are you working on right now and what are you most excited about in the next year?
Right now, my team and I are ensuring we are finding highly-skilled people for our existing not-for-profit partners, as well as expanding and finding more not-for-profits and businesses to join the platform. I’d have to say, I’m most excited about getting Vollie Amplify off the ground, as we’ve already had interest from businesses around the idea and look forward to seeing it come to life.
How do you make ideas happen?
I’ve had a hundred ideas that at first struck me as being huge and carrying potential. The difference between Vollie and every other idea I had is passion and belief in the impact this idea will have. That’s why I’ve stuck with it for over a year now, invested substantially and worked tirelessly.
What role have mentors played in your business life?
Mentors were very important at the start to give me the direction I required and to help me understand that no matter how much positive change I wanted to make, there still had to be a strong financial model. I had 3 or 4 experienced business professionals at the start that helped me on my way.
What does your typical day look like?
I’m in the office early each day; I’m fortunate that my residential building also has a level with offices so my commute consists on one level up in the elevator! Vollie’s Head of Operations and myself work here in St Kilda, I touch base with the rest of the team, grab a coffee near-by and crack-on with the day. I often have a few meetings a day so I balance my workload around these. In all honesty, I try to have as few meetings as possible these days, because I believe my time can be better spent getting on with what needs to be done in the office. Squeezing in a gym session and walking my dogs is a must to keep the balance.
What challenges have you faced when starting or growing a business/organisation in Australia?
My greatest challenge with Vollie has been proving an idea that has never been seen before. Vollie began as a concept and required extensive secondary, then primary research. Beyond this, there are numerous ways I could develop the idea and I need to make big decisions every day: which digital agency do I go with? Is my financial model right? Where do I go to get users? What should be our tone of voice on social media? I’ve learnt it’s key to take my time with every decision, surround myself with a strong team and trust my judgement.
What is one idea you are willing to give away for free?
One that I’d be willing for someone else to take the reins on (that I haven’t developed at all) is a pet-sharing app. People can share their furry loved-ones with those who are going through a hard time; because we all know animals can have super-healing-powers.
What people/companies/organisations do you think are doing really cool stuff in your industry, in Australia at the moment?
There are a few not-for-profits that I admire, I think the work Animals Australia does in the animal welfare space is remarkable. In addition to this I am always in awe of any social enterprise that is challenging “the way things have always been done” and offering alternatives that positively impact people, animals and the environment.
What about internationally?
What role do you think business can play in affecting social change?
Business plays the ultimate role. The world revolves around business and money talks when it comes to every decision made. This is why I’m particularly excited about the rise of social enterprises and the move towards for-purpose business that will impact the biggest businesses within Australia and around the world.
Is there a particular charity or social enterprise you support?
There are dozens. I am particularly passionate about supporting children’s charities and animal welfare groups. I also purchase a lot of my shopping from social enterprises, and at the very least, ethical companies.
Name 3 websites you would recommend to our readers.
Are there opportunities for people to get involved with your idea (e.g. are you looking for funding, interns, marketing help)?
We want skilled people to jump on our website and check out projects that align with their passions, and we also want businesses to sign up and open up Vollie to their staff.
We’re aiming to build a community of Australian idea makers helping each other. If you could have one question answered about startups, marketing, social media, accounting, monetization, product development etc. What would it be?
How do I decide who is the right investor for my company?
What’s your favourite bar/café/restaurant?
il Fornaio cafe in St Kilda.