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Here's the Best Way to Browse Volunteering Opportunities in New York City

A new app hooks up users with volunteering opportunities throughout the city, and streamlines the process into a few swipes and a tap.

Eric Kingrea

Image via DEED

For all the clichés about millennials being selfish and unengaged, you’d think that less of them would be interested in helping out their fellow man. The Millennial Impact Report found that 20 percent of millennials volunteered at least an hour of their time to a cause last year; a third devoted 11 hours or more. It’s just that to them civic activism has diffused, and the move toward individualized action has gained over larger institutional faith. Frankly, it’s a mindset tailor-fit to the current moment, as well as the current moment’s conveniences: which is to say that it’s a vibe, a buzz, an idea that’s in search of an app. And it might have finally found one.

DEED is a New York based app that hooks up users with volunteering opportunities throughout the city, and streamlines the process into a few swipes and a tap.

“I always wanted to give back and felt myself to be a socially-conscious individual, but I was never doing anything socially conscious. [When I started] it was really figuring out how I can align my perception of myself with my actions,” founder Deevee Kashi told VICE Impact.

Whereas once a potential do-gooder had to search out and contact individual shelters, soup kitchens, and non-profits to see about volunteer availability, along with specific requirements and responsibilities, DEED puts all of those—let’s face it—potential impediments on an easy-to-navigate list.

After reaching out to various organizations, he found that the processes involved to volunteer were slow and the needs obfuscated; every organization has its bureaucracies and vestigial necessities, but Kashi found that what he felt should have been the easiest thing to do—helping someone else—turned out to be haltingly difficult.

“So to me, as a person who was ignorant to the barriers of entry from their side, I felt it should be as easy as every other product and service I use,” Kashi said. Thus are new apps born.

DEED' app. (Photo via DEED)

It’s hard to argue with the results. 25,000 users now offer their services around the city. Whereas once a potential do-gooder had to search out and contact individual shelters, soup kitchens, and non-profits to see about volunteer availability, along with specific requirements and responsibilities, DEED puts all of those—let’s face it—potential impediments on an easy-to-navigate list. It provides you the necessary forms to sign and tells you how many positions are left to be filled. It also shows you the other DEED volunteers with whom you’d be working.

Which brings us around to the social networking component. It’s funny that Kashi shies away from the term: he prefers his team to just refer to it as “social,” which if you don’t see that as a potato/potato dodge, makes a certain amount of sense.

Every app with an eye on the prize calls itself a social network, but they will often only exist within a socially digitized realm. DEED asks you to interact, face-to-face, with your fellow volunteers before you’re even able to friend them. Once you’ve volunteered with someone and friended them, you can then invite them on other volunteering...well…let’s call them “gigs.” In a former life, Kashi was a nightlife impresario, and that provenance isn’t hard to identify: #godeed brings you a wealth of young, beautiful people doing good around the city. The app is meant to mold volunteering into something cool, hip and, more than anything, fun.

“We want to position volunteering and giving back to your community as a pastime, as opposed to something you feel obligated to do. Position it as a way to meet people and make an impact while doing so. Here you’re creating a close bond between the people volunteering and the people they’re helping. And it’s bred this amazing community of people behind it,” Kashi said.

Hunger & Homelessness Awareness Week begins this week, and DEED has ramped up its volunteering options to reflect the needs of New York’s displaced population. They have a map of affiliated shelters like the Bowery Mission and Covenant House, as well as a list of those shelters’ needs.

On November 14, they hosted an event focusing on LGBTQ rights, featuring speakers like writer Meredith Talusan and intersex model Hanne Gaby Odiele (40 percent of homeless youth identify as LGBTQ). The event is part of their Action Series, popular soirees that bring attention to different sectors of activism. In the coming weeks, they’re planning to host a showing of a documentary on homeless kids in New Orleans, as well as partnering with the shaving company Harry’s to provide makeovers and job readiness coaches to two dozen residents of men’s shelters.

“We want to position volunteering and giving back to your community as a pastime, as opposed to something you feel obligated to do."

Currently limited to New York City, the app is hoping to expand to Los Angeles, and possibly Tel Aviv, where Kashi’s family hails from. This is reliant on the next phase of the app: monetization. And even that necessary evolution has an eye on impact.

“A lot of companies are clueless as to how to utilize their CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs. They’re spending a lot of money on it, but aren’t effectively executing it,” Kashi said. “We want to involve companies’ employees into the platform, as well as their customers. The revenue would be going to the non-profits, and Deed would get paid a sponsorship fee. The companies would be funding non-profits through their donations: this company sponsors this soup drive, and the company donates a certain amount to the non-profit per volunteer who signs up to work it. Now, we’ve flipped the script and changed volunteerism into a revenue generating opportunity for the non-profits themselves. Previously, you’d just be going in for two hours and serving some food, now you’re responsible for $50 being donated to the non-profit.”