Meet the energetic and inspired duo Matthew Boyd & Tanya Dontas behind Australia’s groundbreaking online marketplace that connects skilled people to non-profits, charities, and social enterprises for skills-based online volunteering. Vollie projects are exclusively online, meaning that people can donate their skills and experience from anywhere in the world and around their busy personal and professional schedule. (Incredible, right?!)
We’re so thrilled to welcome Vollie to the Twosix Workplace Wellness team and to have the opportunity to discuss the journey behind the creation of Vollie, the challenges they have faced as a start-up, and what it’s like working with your spouse day-to-day.
Let’s start with getting to know Vollie…
Vollie is an online marketplace matching individuals to skills-based remote volunteering opportunities. Projects are exclusively online, meaning that volunteers can donate their skills and experience from anywhere in the world, at any time. 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, then Vollie shows projects that match their skill set and causes. The user then selects the project that suits them and completes it on their time and around their schedule.
Vollie can also offer businesses a CSR solution that takes it out of the “too hard basket” through our unique platform that can track the impact of a business’s CSR and provide detailed reports that show staff’s individual and collective volunteering efforts. It’s a new way to view corporate volunteering, and one that can greatly amplify the causes businesses care about most.
How did the Vollie business start? and Why was it important to you to create a marketplace for non-profits, charities, and social enterprises?
Volunteering has had an incredible impact on our lives, but through years of volunteering we have always found the process of getting involved challenging, and we’re not alone. As someone who volunteers regularly, I am the first person to tell you that when you’re shoveling chicken poo for the fourth weekend in a row, you start wondering, “is there more that I can be doing here?” A lot of people out there don’t know where to start when it comes to volunteering their time, they can be overwhelmed by the fact that there are 300,000 plus NFPs in this country and also struggle to find the time to support the causes they care about. At the start of 2016, we started to develop Vollie because the rate of volunteering among young Australians (aged 25-35) is much lower than other age groups, and we wanted to change that.
If Vollie were a person how would you describe them?
Vollie is anyone, and I think that’s the beauty of it – Vollie is a millennial, a retiree, an established professional. Everyone has the capacity to contribute something to a cause they care about, so Vollie would be any driven person who wants to make a positive impact in the world.
We can’t imagine the number of challenges you have faced to build such a successful brand. Can you share with us one of the challenges you never expected to face and how you solved the challenge?
Launching Vollie was our greatest challenge to date. The platform is completely custom-built, so we needed to align with a digital strategist/CX specialist and a strong digital agency to bring our idea to life. At the same time we needed to be making pre-launch sales, put the legal’s together, roll-out early marketing…it was a frantic time but taking your time to find the right people makes it all a lot easier.
What are the challenges of being married and running a start-up together? And what makes it work?
You need to know each other’s strengths and leave your ego at the door every day. Understand your weaknesses and be mindful of them as you work. When you’re doing something important and meaningful, it takes time, and being aware of that can prevent a lot of unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Emma and I have found there is a transformation towards a more conscious way of living, people in Australia are starting to take notice of their surroundings and their choices as consumers, do you agree?
There has been an amazing shift in the way people are making changes in their day to day lives to lessen their carbon footprint and use their dollars to support conscious businesses. We’re always inspired when we see our peers supporting fair-trade, recyclable and ethical brands, and we make it a priority to embrace a more conscious lifestyle as much as we can.
Do you think social media is the key to getting the message out there?
Absolutely – social media is a key line of communication for us with our volunteers and audiences, and it’s changed the way non-profits can communicate with their supporters too. It’s been an amazing tool for us to connect with people who normally might not think of volunteering, and to show how easy it is to put your skills forward and make a difference.
How critical is it for you to follow your passions within the business?
Vollie has always been about our biggest passion; making a positive impact on the world around us, and helping to facilitate as many volunteers to non-profit relationships as possible. Vollie’s model relies on driven individuals who are passionate about their skills and the social good that they can create with them, so following one’s passion is a core part of what we do.
What excites you most about Vollie at the moment?
We’ve just recently won the NAB Nexus Collaborator Award, which we are so thrilled and humbled to have received for our upcoming virtual mentoring project. Alongside our partners The Youth Agenda, we will be connecting young Kenyans to skilled Aussie professionals who will be able to mentor them with career advice and networking opportunities.
On a general note, what’s really exciting to us is being able to provide an avenue for people to connect with any non-profit or cause in the world they care about. For instance, having the ability to connect a passionate Aussie professional living in Bangkok with an Australian-Ugandan charity will always be an exciting thing to us.
What is your dream for the business?
We want to ensure Vollie is a major success in Australia over the next 1-2 years and then take it to new markets and connect with new charities and social enterprises. Vollie as a platform has the scalability to connect any cause to any passionate individual anywhere in the world for the purpose of online skilled volunteering, and that’s what we’re striving for. We are closing in on the $300k value mark for our charity partners and will push this into the millions as soon as we can.
I’m sure you’re always asked, ‘what’s the best advice you’ve ever received” can you tell us one piece of advice you’ve chosen to ignore?
We’re not sure there really is any – a fresh set of eyes and advice is always welcome here at Vollie. We’re in the trenches every day and an outside perspective can be really refreshing and a huge help.