New York State and New York City have an embarrassing problem when it comes to volunteering. New York state ranks dead last among all U.S. states and New York City ranks 49th out of 51 Metropolitan Areas in service. Our recent work for NYC Service, nycservice.org, seeks to reverse this reality by offering an easy-to-use system that connects ready volunteers with organizations and channels volunteers to areas of greatest need This online hub is a pioneer in “targeted service and volunteerism.”
The interface was designed to pioneer a new direction in municipality-led service and volunteerism in which prioritization of service opportunities can help a city achieve measurable results. Organizations are free to submit service opportunities on the site but NYC Service has the ability to curate opportunities to drive volunteers to the city’s priority areas which include education, emergency preparedness, the environment, health, helping neighbors in need, and strengthening communities.
The power and relevance of nycservice.org became clear after Hurricane Sandy when many New Yorkers wanted to volunteer to help rebuild. This dynamic site became the go-to place for marshalling human resources to help businesses, organizations, and nonprofits recover.
Title: NYC Service
Client: NYC Service
Design Firm: Cloudred
Design Team: Cyril Tsiboulski, Creative Partner; Allen Yee, Creative Partner; Alvaro Sierra Jr., Senior Developer;
William James, Senior Developer; Cristian Zapata, Front-end Developer; Mara Smalley, Designer
The environment is one of NYC’s volunteer priorities. nycservice.org has channeled volunteers for the NYC CoolRoofs initiative, an initiative to re-paint rooftops from black to a white reflective surface. If properly applied, cooling costs for a building are greatly reduced, resulting in decreased energy usage. From July 2011–June 2012, over 1.2 million square feet of rooftop was painted, reducing annual carbon emissions by more than 300 metric tons.
On a day-to-day level, this site is an effective connector between government, the citizenry, and nonprofit organizations. After Hurricane Sandy, this online hub was an important connection and entry point for New Yorkers to help rebuild the city. The site connected over 12,000 volunteers to service opportunities after Sandy. To date, 2.3 million New Yorkers have participated in NYC Service opportunities and over 6 million volunteer opportunities have been filled.
There is an economic value to volunteerism. The average economic value of 1 volunteer hour in New York state is $28.73. When someone with a specialized skill volunteers his or her talent, that value is higher. Although we welcome the economic benefit of increased volunteerism, we believe that the real value of volunteerism is fostering safer, stronger communities and neighborhoods.
Users to the website are greeted with: “Everybody’s Got Something to Offer. Use Your Time, Passion, Skills, and Willingness To Help…” NYC Service recognizes that everyone has innate talent and expertise that can be channelled in a productive, beneficial way. Above all, nycservice.org makes service and volunteerism easy and accessible to everyone.
NYC Service, begun by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, is an innovative service and volunteerism initiative that harnesses the power of volunteers to tackle pressing challenges. Mayor Michael Bloomberg created the office of nation’s first Chief Service Officer and identified six areas that could benefit from the service of volunteers. These priorities are education, emergency preparedness, the environment, health, helping neighbors in need, and strengthening communities. A cornerstone of this initiative is the website, an online hub that encourages a dynamic interaction that is atypical for most government websites.
This website fosters a different user interaction that goes beyond the typical 1-way conversation found in many government websites. NYC Service is highly trafficked online hub that connects organizations, volunteers, and government in a seamless, easy-to-use interface. Organizations are free to post volunteer opportunities. The NYC Service office administers and curates these service opportunities. Volunteers apply for opportunities by contacting organizations through the site. The results have been impressive. To date, 2.3 million New Yorkers have participated in NYC Service initiatives that have directly addressed NYC’s greatest needs.
The homepage of the website presents a curated list of opportunities that have been selected by the NYC Service office for maximum impact. Research had uncovered that people wanted to volunteer but often times, potential volunteers didn’t know where to start or even what to volunteer for. With the simple act of curation, that confusion or paralysis for a potential volunteer is eliminated. No two volunteer opportunities are similar in impact. For example, it can be argued that mentoring a child has more lasting effects on our communities than volunteering with an animal shelter. NYC Service recognizes this disparity and elevates key volunteer opportunities that fit predefined service priorities.
After Hurricane Sandy, this website was instrumental in restoring the city by rallying and directing people to areas hardest hit. The NYC Service office was able to prioritize certain volunteer opportunities that needed immediate manpower and attention. We are proud that the design and user interface of the website proved relevant and effective during those days when volunteer interest spiked to unprecedented levels.
The success of NYC Service has led to a larger civic engagement movement known as Cities of Service. This coalition of more than 100 cities recognizes the power of target volunteerism. Over 25 US cities have hired a Chief Service Officer who works to find key ways of engaging volunteers to solve social problems. The effectiveness of the platform has led to the adoption of this website framework for other cities like London, Philadelphia, Detroit, Little Rock, Houston, and Richmond, CA.