Revolutionizing volunteering in Nigeria is tough, but Be The Difference has it covered

Be The Difference

On the 13th of February 2019, volunteer non-profit Be The Difference announced via Instagram that it was partnering with the global accountability platform Accountability Labs. It is a huge step for any non-profit, especially in countries with poor government infrastructure and monitoring of private organizations to submit themselves to an internationally recognized watchdog to ensure their practices are above reproach. This raises the all-important question of what Be The Difference (BTD) and how it has come to be recognized in this way.

 

Nigeria has grown by nearly 100 million in the last 70 years. But in that time, it has only experienced minimal improvement in welfare and infrastructure. One of the problems with having a population explosion like Nigeria’s is that it puts incredible strain on all its social infrastructure and government resources. So many people are simply not reached by the available resources and infrastructure. This is most evident in healthcare and education and the environment. There are many private individuals and non-profit organizations who have taken up the challenge of creating viable solutions that connect the disenfranchised to people who can provide these basic needs.

The efficiency of a non-profit organization is highly dependent on how much skilled volunteer labour they can amass. But finding skilled volunteers who share the same values and objectives as a non-profit is a complex draining process. Be The Difference, founded by Mofe Binitie, Mariam Amusan and Aima Nwafor-Ohiwerei sought to solve that problem by creating the country’s biggest volunteer database. As an organization Be The Difference’s work doesn’t just stop at connecting volunteers to organizations, it extends to ensuring that volunteers connected to these organizations are treated fairly and offered opportunities to serve in ways that truly matter to them.

As the founders tell it, while Be The Difference is a non-profit, it wasn’t started entirely for altruistic reasons. All founders were colleagues at Ernst and Young, a multinational consulting firm where employees were encouraged to spend a good portion of their time volunteering their skills to non-profit organizations who needed it. But the problem was, finding opportunities that matched their need proved harder than any of them could have foreseen. Coming together to create Be The Difference was their solution to the problem that solved their problem of finding productive ways to spend their volunteer hours because it also allowed them to create the Consultants Working Group, an arm of BTD that allowed them to consult for non-profits, improving their business models and streamlining their activities.

 

In the three years since BTD was founded Binitie, Amusan and Nwafor-Ohiwerei have all progressed in their individual careers, bringing their new skills and networks to bear on the work that BTD does. They have also successfully concluded a pilot test of the BTD idea and beta launched BTD’s online platform, easing the process of registering to become a volunteer. In that time, they have placed 85 volunteers in 9 partner organizations and have a reserve of 750 volunteers who work routinely with partner organizations for specific outreach events or projects. As the only online sign-up volunteering platform in Nigeria, BTD simplifies the process of volunteering, and by creating transparent platform that allows potential volunteers see all the partners BTD currently works with, allows them to volunteer for more than one organization.

 

But what has really set BTD apart is that as a service, its focus is volunteer oriented. Volunteers often enter these fields with little or no practical knowledge of how volunteering works, what is expected of them as volunteers and what opportunities and expectations they can have of companies as volunteers. By creating multiple feedback channels available to volunteers, BTD can streamline the partners it works with, ensure that their internal companies policies are above board and work through its Consultants Working Group to help non-profits that wish to improve their volunteer opportunities access the data they have and use that data to realign their practices. Apart from Accountability Lab, BTD also partners with Wecyclers, Beibei Heaven, the Hearts of Gold Hospice in Lagos, Kids Clean Club, Beyond Unusual Foundation, Jakin NGO, Give Girls a Chance, Skills outside School and the Give Kids a Chance Foundation. Internally, BTD has worked on its idea to create a near seamless onboarding process, a matching service that uses surveys and data to match volunteers with organizations, and the best of use of volunteer skills for organizations.

 

As BTD looks to scale its operations to the next level, it is restructuring to ensure it continues to focus on startups, non-profits and social enterprises that traditionally marginalized in the non-profit space and lack the traditional funding to recruit volunteers independently. 83% of the company’s partners are female-founded, and that’s a ratio BTD is intent on maintaining as it scales. It is also intent on place 1200 volunteers in 20 partner organizations before 2020. For each of the companies already placed with BTD volunteers, each placement saves N10,000 directly and N25,000 in time and resource deployment for the aforementioned partners. So far the cumulative saves are N3,000,000, and only the surface of what BTD can achieve now that its technology and placement methods have been tested and have passed mettle.

 

Volunteering shouldn’t be hard, and maybe finally, thanks to the work Mofe Binitie, Maryam Amusan, and Aima Nwafor-Ohiwerei are doing with Be The Difference, it won’t have to be.

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