When it comes to providing relief for disasters like the Syrian refugee crisis, volunteers are the lifeblood that keeps charitable organizations pushing forward. But creating an expansive network of willing helpers is no easy task.
Caritas Internationalis, a nonprofit organization that guides relief efforts and social services in more than 200 countries around the world, knows first hand how hard it can be to connect with volunteers, especially when there are as many as 500 volunteer opportunities to manage at any given time. The nonprofit was relying on old spreadsheets and databases to connect volunteers with service opportunities, but the process proved to be tedious and time consuming. In search of a better system, Caritas turned to mobile.
Caritas’ German chapter enlisted the help of Netrocks to revolutionize the way nonprofits recruit volunteers and how community members find service opportunities in the region. Together, they created the Anpacker app: a cutting-edge, location-based volunteer portal that can quickly and efficiently connect organizations in European countries that are in need with eager helpers.
Netrocks excels at building cross-platform apps (with the help of Axway Titanium) that are designed to handle big data, booking services and more for a variety of clients and industries. The Anpacker app they developed uses location-based services to help philanthropic organizations match with the right volunteers for the job. Using the app, Caritas’ partner organizations in Germany—such as Diakonie, DKSB and Tafel—can create customized requisitions to enlist the types of helpers they need most. With the use of filters for location, language and category, the app makes it easy for charitable groups to get their causes in front of interested citizens. Whether they are looking for donations of time or materials, organizations can find volunteers with the necessary skills to assist with everything from language interpretation to food distribution to disaster relief and emergency medical care.
In addition, the Anpacker app makes data maintenance easy for organizations to manage. Nonprofits that are already partnered with the Caritas network are able to display new opportunities in the app automatically. Cities can connect their internal organizing software using an open API, which provides the opportunity to sync existing volunteer data. Other organizations can do the same by simply registering their organization through the Anpacker Portal. By taking this data mobile, participating organizations are able to increase visibility for their causes as more and more people adopt smartphones and tablets as their primary method for sourcing information on the Internet.
Offering a Helping Hand
Not only does Anpacker help charities increase visibility, but the app also ensures that volunteers around the region can find opportunities where their skills can help make a difference. The app’s advanced search functionality allows users to filter volunteer or donation opportunities that correspond to their location, area of interest and abilities. Search results can be saved for later use and users can subscribe to their favorite organizations in order to receive updates about new or upcoming opportunities via push notifications. For example, someone within 50 miles of Berlin with a driver’s license can receive push notifications to help those in need based on their profile and past search criteria. Users can also view nearby opportunities and local charity events with an interactive map feature.
Organizations will also receive push notifications about willing helpers and be provided with direct contact information to speed the process along. With this new solution, many organizations can, for the first time, have the opportunity to interact and connect directly with potential volunteers.
In addition, Anpacker makes it easier for volunteers to learn more about participating charities and for those organizations to learn more about interested helpers. An FAQ section in the app provides information about various opportunities, such as “learning projects,” to help users quickly understand what each volunteer effort will entail. On the flip side, volunteers can create user profiles that allow organizations to see whether they’re looking to make a time donation or contribute goods such as canned food or second-hand materials. Thanks to features like these, the Anpacker app has amassed more than 5,000 active volunteer users.
Developing a Better World
Developing an app at this scale with such a reliance on location-based features and advanced matching algorithm is no easy feat. Netrocks utilized Titanium and API Builder from the Axway AMPLIFY platform to build custom APIs, which power the cluster icons in the map feature. Netrocks also created a widget for nearly every part of the Anpacker portal, making the app extremely modular and allowing features to be easily plugged and unplugged.
For now, the Anpacker portal is only running in specific regions of Germany, but already the app supports content from more than 150 regional organizations. The content and opportunities available within the app will continue to grow as an increasing number of charities plan to take part in the project.
Netrocks has deployed a new messaging system that combines with push notifications to handle contact information and coordinate booking. This new feature further helps to streamline the logistics process and connect organizations with helpers more quickly. It also expands the app beyond discovery, so volunteers can take the next step toward getting involved with the causes they care about.
The latest feature Netrocks added to the platform is the ability for organizations to launch their own onboarding functions for an entire area. By simply granting permission within the app, this feature handles the onboarding process completely through configuration, rather than programming. With this, organizations can designate special roles that further assist in connecting specific types of helpers around the region. They can even directly launch this feature through their own landing pages.
In the future, Netrocks plans to add a direct chat feature within the app itself. The developers see this next step as critical to expanding the offerings of the app and garnering a stronger reputation with the region’s nonprofit and governmental sectors. The need for this feature has become a top priority for the development team after Netrocks achieved a major milestone when one of the biggest states in Germany decided to integrate the platform into its official volunteer strategy.
The folks at Netrocks believe that major partners, like local governments and large nonprofits, are critical to secure for long-term growth of the app—and they’re hard at work to build functionality that will help other municipalities and states to adopt the Anpacker platform.
Interested in hearing more about the Anpacker portal or downloading the app? Check out the website here.