– Ask people at McKinsey what they love about our firm’s work, and most of them will probably say something about problem solving. Within our offices, colleagues often speak not about holding meetings but having a problem-solving session. Another thing that drives McKinsey people is impact: making a substantial, lasting difference to our clients’ performance.
But for many, what excites them most is using their problem-solving and commitment to impact to tackle the world’s biggest problems: societal challenges from health to education, economic development to environmental issues.
Last year we held our first Social Impact Awards, to celebrate and recognize the many colleagues who are leaders of social impact at McKinsey. A recent post featured Nick Van Dam, McKinsey’s Chief Learning Officer, a finalist for his e-Learning for Kids foundation. The entries were wide and varied, from marine mammal conservation in the United States to digital financial inclusion in rural Africa to education for disadvantaged children in Southeast Asia.
One of the winning entries was GoVolunteer, a nonprofit founded by Malte Bedürftig, a consultant based in our Berlin office.
More than a million refugees arrived in Germany in 2015, their plight inspiring many in the country to volunteer their time and skills to help those arriving and support better integration into society.
“We started out in 2014 as a team of colleagues at McKinsey’s Berlin office who were volunteering together to provide practical support to refugee shelters,” says Malte, who found himself leading the group. “But the numbers snowballed as more and more people, from inside and outside of the firm, wanted to help, and we needed to find a new way to match offers from volunteers with needs of charities.”
It was not only a problem inside our firm. “I heard stories of motivated volunteers with important skills who were being turned away by charities because they couldn’t make use of them,” he explains.
So, in the summer of 2015, Malte and colleagues set out to find a solution that would maximize the impact of the thousands of people seeking the most effective ways to help. They turned to McKinsey Digital Labs (MDL) for design and technology expertise to help them develop an online platform that could match volunteers’ time and skills with the needs of social sector organizations.
“The MDL team helped us get from concept to the first working version of our website in under 6 weeks,” explains Malte. “People who want to volunteer can visit the website and find opportunities which have been posted by nonprofits, based on their location, availability, and skills.”
The nonprofit they founded, GoVolunteer, manages the website and supports the volunteers and nonprofits. The team runs networking and social events for volunteers to build community and skills training on topics like communication, mentoring, and leadership. They also provide one-on-one coaching to the nonprofits to help them get the best from their volunteers and to develop their organizations.
GoVolunteer scaled rapidly, which Malte attributes to the need for volunteers and the readiness within society to come forward to help. It has already enabled over 30,000 volunteers to support more than 1,000 nonprofits and is currently active in Austria, Germany, and Switzerland. The team has high ambitions, with plans to expand coverage beyond Germany into countries, including Greece, Italy, and Turkey, where refugees continue to arrive.
“Volunteering is important,” Malte believes, “because when people come and work together, it builds a stronger society. GoVolunteer is about spreading a volunteer culture so that volunteering becomes a normal part of everyday life. Thirty percent of volunteers using the platform arrived in Germany as refugees themselves.”