If you're like me, a mom who gets pulled in to sponsor little league baseball or volunteer at school to make green eggs and ham for a kindergarten class, then you're probably familiar with the blast emails sent by teachers or volunteer coaches who are trying to organize all of those volunteers (typically moms) who want to support their kids and help their community.
But let's face it. Those emails are a drag, especially if you have to receive every "reply all" responses. And, imagine if you're the teacher or organizer trying to schedule everyone. It's insane!
Now there's a solution for you. It's called VolunteerSpot. The Austin-based start-up just announced that it's raised $1.5 million, led by ff Venture Capital, based in New York, with participation from members of the Central TX Angel Network, Nebraska Angel Network, Angel List and Baylor Angel Network.
"VolunteerSpot is like Evite and Meet-up on steroids for volunteering use cases," said Karen Bantuveris, founder and CEO of the three-year-old start-up. "It's an online coordination tool... We take the simplicity of party invitations and apply it to recruiting."
Indeed, VolunteerSpot is basically a platform to help teachers and organizers manage a number of people. For instance, teachers can use VolunteerSpot to manage all the volunteers who want to help out with school lunches or bake sales, etc. Event organizers can use VolunteerSpot to manage their volunteers. Local coaches can use VolunteerSpot to organize the volunteer parents who help out with game snacks.
"What we found is by making this simplified by putting these tools in the hands of parents, more people are helping," said Bantuveris. "We make it easier to help because they don’t have to juggle the reply emails."
Since inception, VolunteerSpot has attracted 1.5 million members. Some 75% of members are school parents who are volunteer moms. The rest are teachers and volunteer community leaders, who also often happen to be moms, said Bantuveris, a mom herself who came up with the idea of VolunteerSpot while volunteeringfor her children's school activities. "One time flying to Dallas, I had 45 reply emails." Clearly, email was not a good enough solution.
Being a volunteer mom myself, VolunteerSpot is definitely an useful tool. The question is: can you make any money by offering this platform for free to a bunch of volunteers?
For VolunteerSpot, the potential money-making ideas include sponsorships. Because local volunteers happen to be "moms" and "affluent," Bantuveris believes she can attract sponsors who want to reach this "affluent" community of moms. Some sponsors who've already come on board include Whole Foods, Panteen and Toyota (probably to sell minivans). Even fundraising brands that want to sell fundraising products or services to schools have come in as sponsors, said Bantuveris.
The other business model is selling the VolunteerSpot platform to large non-profits, like the Red Cross, which aggregates thousands of volunteers. "80% of non-profits have only two employees," said Bantuveris.
With small non-profits, VolunteerSpot is a reasonable solution. It can be free to use or if there are certain features needed, they can pay for those on an a la carte basis or a subscription. For large non-profits like Red Cross, however, there are competing CRM (customer relationship management) solutions to manage volunteers. Part of VolunteerSpot's challenge is to win those large non-profits over. Bantuveris would not disclose how many members are paying for services or buying subscriptions. She only disclosed that half the revenue comes from sponsorships and the remainder comes from upselling premium features or subscriptions.
Of course, going the route of selling subscription and a large-scale CRM solution versus aggregating an audience an bringing on advertisers/sponsors are two different focuses. And, VolunteerSpot will need to determine which route is better. For now, Bantuveris says her team is in the process of determining which direction the company will ultimately take. But for now, they can offer both.