Launch! ChipIn Makes "Volunteering Go Viral"

I have exciting news to share! This very week, a new social enterprise that has been working with CGS in the Impact Incubator since April has launched its pilot website! Andrea Telfer spoke to me from Sydney, Cape Breton about her social enterprise ChipIn, which “uses social technology to engage millennials with the world through volunteering.”

Living in Cape Breton, Andrea saw the ever-present desire on the part of socially-minded organizations in her community, and others, to increase the participation of volunteers. On Andrea’s part, as she explained to me, there was also a desire for greater inclusion.

“Although there is a really high volunteer base here, I know a lot of the students, especially international students at [Cape Breton University], can feel disconnected from the community, so I definitely want to draw on that and try to offer the chance for integration into community activities that are going on in Sydney through different organizations.”

Having been privileged enough to see Andrea’s marketing pitch before, when she was a presenter at the Social Innovation Conference at CBU (where she is also currently attaining an MBA in Community Economic Development), I have heard her liken the idea for ChipIn to a kind of “Tinder for volunteers,” matching organizations seeking help with those who can offer it. The overall goal is to create a medium that facilitates such connections through a “fun, easy, and social experience that increases users’ motivation to volunteer.”

The pilot website, chipin.ca, is the first step in realizing that goal. Currently, for the Sydney area, it offers a working template of the model Andrea soon wishes to develop as a mobile app, demonstrating the “card” function that shows, at a glance: the volunteer role sought, name of the organization, time commitment, and a brief description of the opportunity. If potential volunteers are interested, they can click for more info.

For about the next month, Andrea and her developer Brian Best will gauge the traffic to the website and its resultant social impact, and in November will decide whether it may be viable to launch in Halifax in January of 2018. Although hopes are high, Andrea was realistic about the outcome, like any good founder worth her salt: “[In November] I’ll feel as though I have the tools through CGS to either wind it down or wind it up. It could go either way. I think it’s important to have a plan of action no matter which direction you’re going in.”

That plan of action is crucial to any fledgling business, especially a self-identified social enterprise planning to reinvest 60% of its profits into social initiatives aligned with its values. Andrea told me that CGS developers Chloe Donatelli, Lisa Lowthers, and Rebecca Dunphy have all been key players in ChipIn’s ongoing development, helping to not only create a plan, but to stick to it. In terms of keeping on track, “it’s wonderful to have somebody to hold you responsible for what you said you’re going to do, to prompt you when there are things that you haven’t thought of. It’s really hard sometimes [being an entrepreneur] and I think that’s why a lot of people work with CGS--because it’s good to have someone to have a conversation about the hard things with.”

In preparation for launch, Andrea met last week with Rebecca, who is now assuming responsibility as CGS’ main developer for the Cape Breton region. Was tracking her down difficult, I asked? “Well, it’s been really hard to get in touch with my CGS person--just kidding, she’s my roommate (laughing).”

In Nova Scotia, and especially in Cape Breton, you often don’t have to look far to find support in the social enterprise community.

Community organizations in Sydney or Halifax that are looking for volunteers should contact Andrea Telfer at andreatelfer@hotmail.com to get connected as ChipIn continues development.

READY TO TAKE YOUR IDEA TO LAUNCH, AND BEYOND? CONTACT CGS HERE.

 

Written by: Sam Krueger

Sam is from Toronto and lives and writes in Halifax. He has spent the summer conducting research at Common Good Solutions HQ for the Social Enterprise Network of Nova Scotia, and is excited to bring a voice to the office, its people, and Nova Scotia’s social enterprise community.