Sparked.com

Another great idea from the Web 2.0 era. I have been reading about Sparked.com, an online microvolunteer effort that connects busy people with worthy causes. Founded in 2008 by a tech startup group called the Extraordinaries, Sparked has made volunteering as simple as sitting at your computer, thanks to the ‘it’ technology of the moment: crowdsourcing.

Let’s illustrate a possible scenario of this for a moment. Here we have a busy NYC junior executive we’ll call “Matthew.” Matt works a competitive and high-energy day job, putting in long hours and for the most part, he loves it. Fair enough. On weekends, Matt coaches several youth sports teams during the day, and spends his evenings making up the time he lost with his girlfriend during the week. How thoughtful of him. Still, Matt would like to be doing more, especially because his Fortune 500 company looks highly upon employees that participate in its volunteer program. Enter: Sparked.com.

Matt logs onto the site and is prompted to choose the causes that get him “fired up.” Those would be: environment, politics, and animals (Matt has a soft side). Next he tags his own skills, which naturally include social media, blogging, and marketing; he throws in brainstorming and fundraising for good measure. He is then presented with a database of tens of thousands of members who have similar volunteer interests, and more than 70 challenges that he can sign up to complete. Matt signs in with his Linkedin account, and voilà, he is registered and ready to help a small business in Orlando put together a social media marketing plan.

I simply adore this concept — not only as a young busy person who loves to volunteer — but also for the value it could potentially provide to small businesses around the world. In fact, I’ve have already passed along the word to a few of them. I am excited to see ideas like these grow as we find new ways to maximize our time and skills using technology.