Matthew Goldstein did market research for Abercrombie & Fitch when he started volunteering on Saturday mornings for a suicide hotline.
“Those three hours were some of the most fulfilling and rewarding and insightful and heartfelt hours of my entire week,” he says. “I quickly realized that I wanted more hours of my week to be filled with those types of opportunities. And as I started to do that myself, I started getting my co-workers involved.”
He saw how many people were hungry to get engaged, so in 2010 he resigned from his day job to start Besa.
Besa coordinates community-wide service projects, in order to make it easier for people and companies to give back to the community.
“In my former job, I worked with a lot of smart and talented people that wanted to give back. They weren’t sure how to give back, particularly with their busy schedules,” says Goldstein, who serves as the organization’s executive director. “That’s where Besa steps in.”
Over the past four years, the not-for-profit has created unique one-time volunteer projects for working professionals, who are mostly millennials. All public projects are scheduled for evenings and weekends.
He says it’s important to reach millennials because once they get engaged in the community, they tend to stay involved.
Besa has a manager of engagement, whose entire job is figuring out what opportunities would resonate with Besa’s volunteer base. Goldstein doesn’t want to be viewed as a warehouse of volunteers, but as a partner connecting people with nonprofits.
With just four employees, Besa relies heavily on about 20 volunteer leaders to spearhead its projects. These leaders make sure enough volunteers show up and that they stay engaged in the activity, which results in a high repeat rate.
Many volunteers also try different things, but when they find a charity they like, they’ll often go deeper on their own, such as becoming a board member.
Growing to meet demand
Besa puts together about 300 service projects a year, which is not enough to meet the demand of potential volunteers.
“If you go to our website, most of our projects are either full or nearly full, Goldstein says.
About 8,000 people have volunteered through Besa since it started, but Goldstein believes the organization could find enough volunteers to do 500 or 600 projects each year, if it had the budget.