Open Letter from the President Regarding iParticipate.org

An open letter to our nonprofit members from Greg Baldwin, President of VolunteerMatch.

First the good news and a thank you. To all the actors, script-writers, production people and executives who put their talent and time to work last week to join the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s iParticipate TV campaign to celebrate volunteering — thank you. Keep it coming.

It was an extraordinary moment that put the voice of volunteers at the center of an emerging national conversation. The high-profile campaign embraced ideas that have been reshaping volunteering for over a decade and is an important tipping-point in the effort to help millions of local nonprofits, schools and civic institutions, like you, unlock the possibilities of volunteer service.

Now the bad news. The campaign didn’t work as planned, and as many of you reported to us, unresolved system bugs related to the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s implementation of the new All for Good APIs left thousands of interested volunteers on iParticipate.org browsing through an aggregation of incomplete, incorrect, duplicate, out-of-date and out-of-place volunteer opportunities — many of them your VolunteerMatch listings.

We have reported the problems to the Entertainment Industry Foundation, ServiceNation and All for Good, but regret that as of today the issues have not been resolved.

No one knows better than Hollywood that you never get a second chance to make a first impression. This was not the first impression we had hoped the bright lights of Hollywood would help you to make and we are sorry.

San Francisco

As an example of some of the issues that have emerged, a default search on the San Francisco ZIP code 94108 returns only three listings and two of them are expired — one for a walk-a-thon on Treasure Island a couple weekends ago and one for the World Veg Festival that ended October 4th.

NewYork

Searches in New York City invite interested volunteers to serve at a local soup kitchen — in Washington, D.C.; to become a volunteer firefighter in Dare County, NC.; and to join the Kidney Awareness Run in Sacramento, CA.

And searches all across the county included listings from nonprofits recruiting volunteers from January 01, 2000 to January 01, 1971 — really? That might be confusing unless of course you happen to be a UNIX programmer and recognized 01/01/1971 as the instant before computer time began.

austin

How bad was it? It was like a telethon with the wrong phone number.

How did it impact the results?  Over the course of the week this historic TV campaign produced an average of only 775 new visits a day or 2.6% of our weekly total of 208,400 visits. This amounts to perhaps 100 new volunteers.

These were not the results we expected, or the results you deserve.

We will continue to work to resolve these issues and to ensure that they don’t happen again. We can do better and we will.

I’d like to hear from you. Let us know what you think by leaving a comment below.

Yours,

Greg Baldwin
President
VolunteerMatch

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21 thoughts on “Open Letter from the President Regarding iParticipate.org

  1. That was an extremely diplomatic post about a serious, ongoing problem related to the misguided implementation of All For Good. VolunteerMatch and a few other engines have been in this space providing a quality product and along comes a few Silicon Valley coders who want to do some good and think they can aggregate everything to create an uber-search. Well, sorry, they are doing it wrong and it isn’t working. It might be better if all of these promotions from the White House and the entertainment industry told people to call their local volunteer centers.

  2. Our “volunteer” listing at the site redirected those interested to our regional online volunteer center. Once at the site they are able to create their own account to search for local non-profit organizations and volunteer opportunites that match their interests in their community. Each organization represented is responsible for maintaining it’s own listings to keep them current. This is a new thing for us but has been well received by the organizations as well as volunteers.

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  4. I was also shocked at the lack of search implementation execution on iParticipate website. It’s discouraging that EIF and All For Good didn’t either test the API’s properly or didn’t have the technical or project management expertise to ensure a smooth implementation.

    More troubling are the site metrics you site. At the end of the day, Americans give back through personal passion and community engagement, not because a celebrity asks them to.

    This iParticipate disaster serves as a reminder to the value established organizations like Volunteer Match provide in making communities stronger by enabling service and volunteerism.

  5. Thanks to everyone at VolunteerMatch. You guys are awesome and we appreciate all your work. Hopefully the other players can get these bugs fixed and if not this year hopefully this turns into a yearly event. I’m betting in the long-term picture, that by having so many actors, writers and producers exposed to the project, it will result in, over the next few years, more shows and films will yield much more exposure to the personal and social benefits of volunteering – which are many right? This will only happen because of this seeding. Short term yes, big bummer. Long term big gains :)

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  7. Greg

    As with everyone this was a step in the right direction and great strides were made even with the Technology bump… i did see that searching thru Utah..only a small handful of opportunities were found, maybe 10% … so keep up the good work.. and lets try again and get it fixed.. we can all use all the help we can

  8. Hey Greg,

    Technology hiccups happen, unfortunately this one was ill-timed. I commend you for addressing the issue publicly, and apologizing for it. The effort is and will remain a fantastic one, so even though this is a minor setback, it’s still in the right direction.

    Thank you for doing everything you guys do to help mobilize and encourage participation in our fantastic communities.

  9. Thank you for the chance to bring more recognition to our stellar volunteers. All new initiatives have a few bugs to work out before the next time and I sincerely hope there is a next time. Nasty rumors had even been spread that this initiative was a vehicle whereby a “Liberal” agenda would be spread. Just continue the effort, despite the naysayers. Managed to see volunteerism mentioned on The Office and several 30-Rock segments. It was a wonderful effort to enhance volunteerism. Please let us know well before you need input on the next phase which was said to target the Broadcast industry and those of us who celebrate efforts to promote public service will be there to help.

  10. It put the seed of volunteering in millions of people and that is what counts the most. It takes an average of three years for someone to volunteer with our non-profit and it all starts as that small seed of desire to help others. Thank you for being innovative and thoughtful in reaching out to America. Keep trying and fighting the good fight. The kinks and bugs will be worked out eventually. If people are committed to volunteering they will reach out again.

  11. It was great to see people volunteering on some of the shows I watch, like 30 Rock and Parks and Rec. But this is what happens every single day in the real world – people trying to help each without expecting anything in return. And those of us who work with volunteers have been helping them to help others for a long time – with lots of assistance from organizations like Volunteer Match. We kind of have it together already in so many ways – why do we always think we have to re-invent the wheel? Was it necessary to establish a new online site to connect people with opportunities when we already have several good ones? And if so, doesn’t Hollywood have the resources to make it work – the first time? I really appreciate the efforts of the media to promote volunteerism, but it looks like this was one more example of the fact that they don’t have a clue what life is like for the rest of us.

  12. Sorry to hear about the bugs and issues. I didn’t experience it and have received 6 messages of people interested in our programs in just the past week. This is more than I have received all year. I know that I received an e-mail to update our information and then received another e-mail regarding the iParticipate promotion and that prompted me to add additional information. People are willing to donate and to give their time and they too need a gentle reminder every now and then. Continue the good fight and be apologetic when necessary when something goes askew but continue on so those that are in need are served.

  13. Coming from a computer science/software development background, I understand a lot of unexpected things can go wrong with a small glitch in the code. It’s hard to throw blame around; I don’t think anyone indended this. The good will was there never-the-less. It’s a missed opportunity but that can’t hold anyone back; let’s move on. That’s how the real world is — some things turn out great and others don’t. Whenever one window closses, God opens another one. Who knows what’s coming around the corner!

    Thanks for communicating the issue and for the apology, Greg. That’s the best you can do. We thank you and everyone at VolunteerMatch for the wonderful service you provide to many of us, especially new nonprofits like who haven’t gained much visibility and would be hard to attact skilled and passionate volunteers without VolunteerMatch. You are touching millions of lives around the world in ways you can’t even imagine, through all the volunteers you connect to thousands of worthy causes. For instance, the volunteers we get help us to support programs benefiting kids and women thousands of miles away, in Africa. Keep up the good work and be blessed always.

    John Mary
    http://www.ugandaruralfund.org

  14. The results of “entertainment week” are certainly disappointing given the missed opportunities for exposure and access. However, I have to say that volunteermatch has been wonderful for our organization, generating dozens of inquiries, which translated into procuring many qualified volunteers and organizations for two of our most recent shoe distributions. While the entertainment week may have gone badly, the idea behind volunteermatch is rock solid and produces viable results. We look forward to more volunteermatch opportunities in the future…

  15. The entire world is screwed up right now and especially the Motion Picture Business as they are leaving in droves for other States. Can you blame them? Corruption, Payola, and the rest causes we in rescue to try and keep a low profile.
    Someone out there is trying to take over your well run organization and will do anything to cause problems.
    We for one group will not sign on with any other as you have been a wonderful source for us and we need no other.
    Sincerely,
    Pat Winters.
    CEO, PSFR.

  16. Appreciate the apology but seems that good business practices would expect there to be a plan to try to compensate for what was lost. Find someone in the entertainment industry who will “sing” the praises of volunteering. Maybe offer an incentive. Do some brainstorming and find a way to take those lemons and make lemonade.

  17. Even with all the chaos, I still want to say thank you for promoting volunteerism throughout the country. Using VolunteerMatch has resulted in hundreds of new volunteers for us in such a short time.

    Related to the Iparticipate, something I noticed was that my personal email was connected to opportunities versus the actuall official opportunity contacts. Second, I also noticed that the start/end dates were really off….example January 2000 – January 1971.

    Overall though, I just want to say “Thank you” for continuing to market VolunteerMatch though as even when there’s chaos, it’s still promoting the concept of “getting involved”.

    – Melinda

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