Sparked is a “microvolunteering network”. It features online volunteering designed for people who have busy lives and not enough extra time to volunteer in their offline lives. This is a great solution for people who want to help and make a difference but simply don’t have time to physically go to volunteer at an on site opportunity.
Sparked was created by The Extraordinaries, Inc. and has headquarters in San Francisco, CA. During review, there were 3,432 active challenges seeking volunteers.
The challenges posted on the web site are of all varieties, from brainstorming to graphic design, to copywriting and may be done online. They have varying amounts of need; some requiring a complete web design and others simply some ideas for refreshing their image. The common thread is that all of these challenges require some time commitment to contribute to the need. Rather than asking for fundraising to get the jobs done, Sparked is skipping the fundraising step and just asking for the work.
Immediately after registration, the user is taken to the first step of choosing a challenge. Users may browse through challenges initially presented from information collected or they may browse by cause or skill.
Some challenges are very simple and may only require some suggestions or ideas, such as the challenge asking questions about the value of blogging to a nonprofit agency, frequency, subject, and whether a blog will help draw attention to a cause. Other, more complex challenges include creating graphic logos or websites. Some are as complex as looking for a volunteer to be a member of their board of directors.
Challenge responders enter their suggestions (with attached files where applicable) and other information on the page assigned to the volunteer opportunity. Other responders can vote on the answers by giving them a “thumbs up”.
Users can browse thousands of microvolunteer activities and choose which ones they wish to participate in. There are huge ranges of commitment and skills, so there is something for everyone who wants to help. There are also many different causes. Everything from community conservation to getting books to kids in the Philippines are included.
The interface is easy to use and intuitive.
Users must complete a profile to be matched with Sparked Challenges for volunteers. First, users must choose the category of which causes interest them the most: education, environment, civil rights, youth, arts, justice, food, religion, politics, or health. Next, users indicate what skills they have to offer with the following choices: design, marketing, web development, research, blogging, IT, fundraising, social media, Twitter, copywriting, mobile phones, or a skill that is not listed.
The next screen indicates the number of people who share the user’s interest and how many challenges are available that match the user’s skills. At that point, registration is completed either by connecting with Twitter, Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn accounts or by creating a specific Sparked account with name, email, city, country, and password.
There is no monetary cost, but users provide services for free. For example, one cause was asking, or rather “challenging”, a volunteer to create a new graphic logo for their nonprofit. Another was looking for someone to help them reorganize their business Facebook page and connect it to other social networks and another was requesting ideas to generate interest in “real life” volunteers.
As the description “microvolunteering” implies, this application is for those who want to volunteer their time and talents to those who need them, but just don’t have the time to dedicate to a more time consuming volunteer endeavor. There are opportunities for anyone; most require computer skills.