Volunteering: Karen Bantuveris’ Great Idea
Karen Bantuveris used to be a mom like many of us: she worked three days a week and volunteered at her daughter's school the other two days. Then, because of difficulties she ran into while volunteering, she started a little website called VolunteerSpot.com. That was last year. In one year's time, her site has gained half a million users and has been featured on CNN and in the New York Times, RealSimple Magazine, and Woman's Day. It is a huge draw to brands that want to reach engaged and socially conscious moms. Her site is one of those "why didn't I think of that?" ideas. Karen's story is based on her passion for tapping into the ability of moms to collaborate and connect.
It is a story that begins simply enough. She was a management consultant working mom, with what she called "a great work/life balance." She had two free, albeit floating, days a week to give to her daughter's school's PTA and her Girl Scout troop. She even offered to help out in the school's cafeteria, and was surprised when she was turned away because the lunch lady said she didn't have time to coordinate any volunteers. She talked with other mothers and teachers and realized that there were many opportunities for improvement of their children's school environment that were lost because of the hassle, for both staff and volunteers, of coordinating volunteers.
So she started VolunteerSpot. The site offers free online sign up sheets that save time and make it easy for anyone in charge of coordinating volunteers for events or groups like large Easter egg hunts, teacher appreciation weeks, school book fairs, swim teams, field days, PTAs, room parents, teachers, or whole nonprofit organizations. The organizer creates sign-up sheets customized to their events or needs. Automatic emails are sent to volunteers, so the coordinator doesn't have to worry about calling and reminding everyone. It also offers e-books on how to most effectively organize anything from school carnivals to camping trips.
It is a site that is simple both in concept and design, yet far-reaching in its usefulness. "The growth of our site speaks to the power of moms," says Karen. "It amplifies the power of mom-to-mom connectedness." It also speaks to the great need that exists for volunteer help. So much good is done by people who offer their time free-of-charge, not only to PTAs and the like, but also to nonprofits who serve communities year-round. VolunteerSpot has partnered with several national nonprofits to share their free tools with local volunteer leaders; groups like the National HandsOn Network, Girls On the Run, WATCH D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), and Miracle League promote VolunteerSpot as a best-practice and time-saving coordination tool for local leaders. Keller Williams, the national realty company, is using VolunteerSpot to power its national day of service, RED Day, in more than 700 communities.
"Our company," says Karen, "is a good karma company." Karen herself has always been oriented towards helping people. With a Masters in Healthcare Administration, she started her career by helping hospitals better measure their services and be more customer-oriented. She broadened her efforts when she started her own company to help large companies re-orient themselves as well. Now, she uses "the gift of the web" to orient volunteers and coordinators towards taking advantage of the many opportunities for service that exist.
- Teacher Appreciation Week (May 2-6) http://volunteerspot.com/ebooks/TeacherGifts
- Field Day: http://blog.volunteerspot.com/volunteer_guru/2011/02/best-field-day-games-and-ideas-fabulously-fun.html
- Soccer / Team Snack schedule: http://www.volunteerspot.com/ebooks/snacks
- Easter Egg Hunt: http://blog.volunteerspot.com/volunteer_guru/2011/03/how-to-host-the-best-easter-egg-hunt-.html
- Summer swim teams: http://blog.volunteerspot.com/volunteer_guru/2011/01/swim-team-volunteer-scheduling.html