Sparked, Micro-Volunteering Network, Has Volunteers Standing By For Your Nonprofit's Next Small Project | Beth's Blog

Sparked, Micro-Volunteering Network, Has Volunteers Standing By For Your Nonprofit’s Next Small Project

Networked Nonprofit

Note From Beth: Colleague Ben Rigby, co-founder and CTO of Sparked, a micro-volunteering networked has a problem.  The site matches skills-based volunteers with nonprofits to do just in time projects like logo or business card design, marketing help, and other small volunteering tasks.   All the job requests from nonprofits are getting down and micro volunteers are standing by to help your organization.

Every time I do a workshop,  the common complaint from nonprofits is “I don’t have time to do x, y, or z.”    So, why not use a micro-volunteer to do the task or to help you time shift?   Interested?  Read on.


It’s no secret that times are tough in the fundraising world. Cash is tight, and corporate dollars are scarce, forcing nonprofit organizations around the globe to get creative. Almost a third of nonprofits have had to lay off staff because of lost grants, and one in five has had to reduce services, but what can we do about it?

They say, “a penny saved is a penny earned”. It’s advice most often dispensed to discourage children from squandering their birthday money, but it is perhaps just as appropriate in this context. Sometimes, the best way to fundraise is simply to save money.

The easiest way to do this, of course, is through volunteers. Volunteers are the special sauce of the nonprofit world – motivated, hard-working, and free. But traditional volunteerism does have its limitations. Because of the time commitment involved, it is not always conducive to the schedules of busy professionals, many of whom possess skills that are highly valuable to resource-strapped nonprofits. It also requires management sometimes training from nonprofit staffers, which can be burdensome.

Those are two of the main issues we sought to overcome in developing Sparked, the micro-volunteering network: How to create a means of volunteering that allows busy professionals to make meaningful contributions in the little spare time they have, and how to make utilizing that resource low-maintenance enough for nonprofit managers that it doesn’t add to their heavy workload.

It took a year of development and testing, but I’m happy to say that Sparked, the world’s first skills-based micro-volunteering network, is officially open for business, and already helping hundreds of nonprofits worldwide increase capacity, one mini-project at a time.

Here’s how it works: Nonprofit managers log on to Sparked, and post work requests for small projects that take anywhere from a few seconds to a couple of hours to complete. We call these projects challenges. Then, those challenges are routed to the Sparked micro-volunteers who possess the skill set needed to answer them. Online, and in collaboration with each other, the volunteers solve each challenge in a matter of days or weeks.

Some recently completed projects include:
• A new business card design for the Surfrider Foundation’s Portland Chapter
• An in-depth website critique for Next Door Solutions to Domestic Violence
• A brainstorm of online video-game concepts for Room to Read’s new children’s book, Zak the Yak with Books on His Back
• A logo design for Helen Keller International’s new malnutrition screening campaign in Mali

Armed with their professional skills and years of expertise, the would-be micro-volunteers are logging on to the site en mass, looking to help nonprofits from every cause area and corner of the globe get more done.

There is, however, one small problem: all the projects are getting completed! Alright, it’s not really a problem, it’s more of an ideal situation, but it does mean that now is the perfect time to sign on to Sparked, list your needs on the site, and see what micro-volunteers can do for your organization. You can create an account and start posting challenges in under a minute, so… what are you waiting for? For your next design, strategy, or tech project, save a few pennies, and let micro-volunteers give you a hand.

Shauna Carey is the Community Manager for Sparked, the flagship product of The Extraordinaries, creators of micro-volunteering. You can contact her at

10 Responses

  1. Elizabeth says:

    This is a great concept, but I do take issue with the assertion that volunteers are “free.” Even though no money goes from the organization to the volunteer, there is often a substantial outlay of staff time in working with volunteers even on projects that appear small. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still worth it to involve volunteers, but they shouldn’t be seen as “free labor.”

  2. Tara Smith says:

    Well said Elizabeth! Successfully engaging volunteers takes time and skill. Time and skill WELL WORTH investing, but it’s an investment nonetheless.

    Good luck Sparked – great idea!

  3. Shauna Carey says:

    Tara and Elizabeth,

    Goof point about volunteers not being “free.” Traditional volunteerism definitely requires buy-in from nonprofits of time, training, etc.

    That is actually the precise issue we sought to alleviate in developing Sparked, and were able to create a system that allows nonprofits to be up and running in less than 60 seconds, getting help from volunteers worldwide thanks to the power of crowd-sourcing.

  4. Well done Beth,

    And I am about to sign up and reap the generous rewards of your networking efforts. I think you and I have been dancing for quite some time now.
    While my highly anticipated relocation to California is not complete, I still want/need to move forward with my Non-Profit. I will be looking for help in many areas, advice, tech, business plan/model, FBfan page, beb site…all sorts of stuff. I am so excited and although I have to pace myself (still going to PT) am chomping at the bit to move forward.
    Hope we can talk soon.

  5. Ours is a grass root nonprofit, where our budget is very limited. Although I hardly know that much about blogging, I am writing the blogs for our organization. Is it possible to get any help on blogging?

  6. Sparked is Extraordinary!

  7. celeste w says:

    Thanks for this. I am a fan of this concept. We tried to sign up originally but were required to attend an orientation, which never happened because of an emergency. Later we were invited to enlist again. In any case, I recommend that this great organization do even more to let visitors to the website know how it all works — show some sample job postings, how they were responded to, what the final result was. When I first signed up it all seemed very opague. Perhaps it was there, but I didn’t see it in the time I had to review the site. I’ve checked again and it seems like there is a little more that offers explanations but I think they would do well to show examples as I’ve outlined above.

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