How my service helped small startups and nonprofits during the Covid-19 pandemic
Since May I have been running Tandem Project, a service matching small startups and nonprofits with marketers who can provide pro bono work in their spare time.
What is Tandem Project?
Tandem Project is a non-profit initiative (AKA a passion project). In mid-April, I came up with the project’s concept of helping small startups and nonprofits survive the challenges that inevitably arise from the onset of Covid-19. I had three main hypotheses based on conversations with friends that I wanted to prove through the project:
- Startups and nonprofits have more work to do but with fewer resources and funding. Startups may be lacking in funding and resources as a result of reduced customer demand and furloughing. Nonprofits may have seen a rise in customer demand due to the pandemic but must deliver with the same resources and funding as before.
- Furloughed professionals and freelancers with paused projects want to work on interesting projects in their downtime. There are many furloughed professionals and freelancers with paused projects who may want to spend their time productively working on projects with a positive impact.
- Some people want to volunteer to develop their skills or to benefit their career. Not everyone would want to deliver food to NHS workers or become a telephone befriending volunteer but still want to help others in a way that would be mutually beneficial.
To prove these hypotheses, I created a website, connecting a couple of google forms and started acquiring and matching projects and volunteers. Very early on, I realised all organisations were asking for marketing support so I quickly decided to focus on marketer volunteers.
What Tandem Project has achieved so far
Matched marketers with startups and nonprofits successfully
I launched Tandem Project on the 1st of May. In 2 months working on the project part-time, I successfully matched 20 marketers with startups and nonprofits that are lacking in resources and funding (mostly 1:1). You can find more about examples of organisations that received support below.
Majority of people found Tandem Project useful and appreciated that it existed. I was not able to collect feedback from everyone and many projects are still on-going, but the feedback I have received so far has been very positive.
Of course, there are some engagements that fell apart for many reasons (e.g. project not continuing or volunteer pulling out) along the way but that was expected as the nature of pro bono work. People’s circumstances do change, especially under the lockdown.
Partnership with Covid Tech Support has been mutually beneficial Halfway through the journey, I partnered with Covid Tech Support. They provide Tech volunteers to charity/nonprofit projects and have a huge community. I provided marketing volunteers for Covid Tech Support’s projects through Tandem Project. This arrangement worked really well — we share projects and insights that are very useful. There are many similar initiatives that do not talk to each other (as far as I know), essentially ending up competing with each other — I wanted to avoid this.
Reached out to black empowerment organisations to proactively support #BlackLivesMatter
Together with Viveka from Covid Tech Support, I researched and reached out to UK based black empowerment organisations to offer support through our volunteers. Given the projects we helped tend to be generally white, I felt the need to proactively reach out to black empowerment organisations rather than just waiting for them to find us. This is on-going but we had a few responses and are very excited to work with them. I’m looking forward to sharing more once we are further along in this journey. If you know of any black empowerment organisations that are needing support, feel free to email me. (email@example.com)
Proved hypotheses and gained a ton of learnings
Overall, I proved my hypotheses I mentioned earlier. I was getting a steady flow of volunteers and projects and there seemed a need for this service. I learned how matching works based on skills and interests; and what motivates digital marketers to volunteer their time. I also gained more nuanced insights into what it means to solve problems for startups and small organisations in a flexible, experimental, volunteer-led approach. Of course, Tandem Project is not perfect and as a service, it has areas for improvements. There was a limit to what can be achieved through a 1-person operation. However, you can learn a lot by doing.
The original concept of helping organisations through the challenges of Covid-19 seems to become less relevant as the lockdown eases and things begin to go back to normal. Therefore, I feel that the MVP phase of Tandem Project is now over. So what comes next?
Tandem Project has revealed insights into people’s mindset shift as a result of Covid-19. People want to do more good, help each other and have a sense of belonging. I have some thoughts on what may happen in the post-Covid-19 world:
- Will using our spare time to volunteer for a meaningful project become the norm? (Afterall, we are saving hours in commuting.)
- Will we start developing our skills through volunteering our time for an interesting startup or a nonprofit with a cause we care about?
- Will volunteering for a startup or a nonprofit become a way to trial the type of work we want to do in future?
Tandem Project is now completed but get in touch if you’re interested to find out more about it.
Drop a line— firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow on Twitter — @TandemProject_