When Matthew Boyd realised he needed to follow his burning desire to change the world, he quit his job and set out on what would be his mission to create Vollie.
Matt Boyd started Vollie in 2016, Australia’s first ever online volunteering platform that links modern day professionals with charities who are desperately in need of skilled help.
Fast forward to 2020, and Vollie is in full force with no signs of slowing down. In just four years of operation, Vollie has seen over 3,000 impact projects completed, 152,000 volunteering hours and close to $4mil of savings to their registered charities.
We spoke to Matt about how Vollie started, how he’s inspiring the next generation wanting to make a difference in the world and what he’s got planned next.
Hi Matt, first of all, can you tell us what inspired you to start Vollie? How did it go from just an idea to actually making things happen? And how is Vollie going now?
“Back in 2015 I had a burning desire to change the world but struggled to find an avenue to use my time to make a positive difference. I saw volunteering as a great way to make an impact, but (I) was put off by the arduous process of filling out forms and police checks, not to mention sometimes needing to drive long distances to volunteer. I thought to myself, ‘there must be an easier way to make a real difference’.”
“While I was living these frustrations with traditional (physical) volunteering I also noticed two big things; the first being that modern day professionals want to change the world at this point in history more than any other generation, and the second being charities are desperately in need of skilled help. This gave birth to Vollie.”
“Following 6 months of research and validating this idea, I decided to quit my job at Christmas 2015 and get to work. What we launched in November 2016 as Australia's first online volunteering platform, that allows change makers to connect with skilled volunteering projects remotely, from anywhere in the world. In four years of operation, Vollie has seen 3,172 impact projects completed through our platform, 152,000 skilled volunteering hours, and $3,923,807 of savings to the 830 charities signed-up to Vollie.”
What have been the biggest challenges in launching and/or running Vollie?
“Vollie is a social enterprise business, meaning we exist to generate profit as well as a significant social impact. Many potential strategic investors have seen Vollie as a bunch of do-gooders and not serious about remaining sustainable as a business. This has meant that our small team has had to do the hard yards alone, with very little support. Developing the technology and continuing to improve it on a limited budget has been a significant challenge.”
“Investors in Australia are so risk averse, having had it so good for so long with the profits coming from what's dug out of the ground and what's built on top of it. There is nowhere near enough for the start-up ecosystem in Australia, which is packed full of innovative businesses, able to catapult this country into the fourth industrial revolution and the knowledge economy.”
It’s so great to see people working to support charities the way you are with Vollie. Canyou share with us the pivotal moment in your career, or personal life, that led you to realise you’d be changing the world in the way you are now?
“The pivotal moment for me was when I realised I really didn't give a crap about the job I was in back in 2015. I wasn't jumping out of bed every morning excited for the day, and even when friends at the weekend would ask me how my week was, I struggled to pull together the enthusiasm to tell them. I stopped, reflected, and realised that I care about making the world a better place, and I wanted to dedicate my life to this. That got the wheels in motion. I then started attending lots of events that interested me - mostly all in the social impact space - and this helped me to understand what I could do to make a difference that nobody else was doing.”
You once said that there’s not enough connection between the skills of modern day professionals and the needs of charities. Can you share with us how Vollie helps bridge this gap?
“It's easy with Vollie. You select the skills you have, and the causes that you care about, click search, and bam, remote volunteering projects pop-up from around Australia and the world. We have designed Vollie to allow people to connect with their passion projects within 4 clicks. Whether that's building a website for an animal welfare charity, developing a social media strategy for an environmental group, or creating a legal document for your favourite mental health NGO. Vollie has hundreds of opportunities to choose from.”
Do you think this initiative has also been able to help people with mental health issues such as anxiety?
“For sure. So, most of us know the benefits of physical volunteering: increased happiness, reduction in stress levels, better sleep. Add to these the ability to apply what you're good at to a cause you deeply care about, and now we're talking about feeling some real superhero vibes! Skilled volunteering can make you feel bloody marvellous, it looks great on the LinkedIn profile, and is something your friends will enjoy hearing about over a beer at the weekend."
Matt, the last we read was that you had generated close to $4mil in four years in volunteer value for charities and not-for-profits around the world. With such huge feats, we can’t help but wonder, what do you have planned next for Vollie?
“A major part of Vollie's next steps involve working with more universities around Australia, and then in NZ, UK and the US. These partnerships will ensure the sustainability and growth of our organisation, and pack our talent pool full of cutting-edge young professionals that our charity partners will have access to.”
“Universities are struggling to provide enough work experience opportunities for students and we see Vollie stepping in here to connect students with real-world projects that also make the world a better place. Win win! Vollie is already working with a growing number of Australia's best universities, including RMIT and The University of Melbourne, and we are in advanced talks to partner with many more in the next 12 months.”
Can you share with us what has been your career highlight to date with Vollie?
“Any time that I'm able to get up on a stage, do an interview like this, or chat with someone about what we've created with Vollie, it fills me with pride. This business started off as an idea in my head, and we've been able to build it into a thriving platform that serves as a real support tool to charities. I truly believe that if we better connect the skills of the modern-day workforce with the needs of charities, we will improve things dramatically in this world for people, animals and the environment.”
You’ve previously said that Vollie is working to help university students gain real-world experience and get ready for their first career role. Can you describe the very first moment that you realised Vollie could make a difference here?
“Vollie had been engaging corporate partners for around a year when I met a senior leader at RMIT at a pitch competition I was involved in and the idea emerged. The incentive for a student to volunteer compared to a corporate staff member is so much greater. Gen Z want to change the world - tick for Vollie - they need real-world experience - tick - and they want to avoid being the coffee runner or printing specialist and for the opportunity to actually apply their skills – tick, tick tick! The engagement we see from students on Vollie is mind-blowing. They understand the personal and professional value of skilled volunteering.”
What kind of impact has Vollie made with the charities you work with? Can you share any success stories, or describe a great achievement for the charities and yourself?
“Beyond the impact numbers, one of the best parts of this work for me is the emails I get from charities each week thanking Vollie for our support. Feedback like "I just saved $10k on a website build", "My volunteer is amazing", and "This has made a world of difference to our organisation" get the Vollie team out of bed every morning. It's why we do what we do.”
What would you say are the biggest barriers for people wanting to volunteer, and how does Vollie work around that?
“People typically don't volunteer for three reasons. The first reason is because they say that they don't have enough time, the second is because they don't know how to get started, and the third is they're overwhelmed by the thousands of different organisations to choose from. Vollie combats all of this by providing a flexible way to give back via a platform that breaks down the options to make a positive difference.”
Before we leave you for today, we’d love to know, what advice do you have for other people considering getting involved with volunteering?
“Do it! It makes so much sense from a personal and professional perspective. Just be sure to find opportunities that really speak your head and your heart - those are the projects that will make your hair stand on end, and fill you with an enormous sense of self satisfaction.”