Stumptown Startups Blog

Volunteer with a local nonprofit and get free stuff? Yes, please.

Volunteer with a local nonprofit and get free stuff?  Yes, please. »Play Video

I get it.  We all have busy schedules.  It can be tough to find time to volunteer.  Well, I have new motivation for you: free stuff. 

And for you busy bees, there’s no long-term commitment or training required.

The startup is called SwapServe. It isn’t based in Portland, but founder and “Chief Swapper” Derek Keepers believes Portlanders are the kind of people who would sign up first.

“The culture here is very engaged, and into new things. People are early adopters,” Keepers said.

Portland is the only city SwapServe is serving right now, although the goal is to expand nationwide.

Here's how it works: you sign up, volunteer for 1-2 hours and then take your ticket to a local business, which has already agreed to give you something for free after you’ve served the community.

The hope is that you'll be more motivated to volunteer, nonprofits will get more manpower and local businesses will get more customers.  The businesses pay SwapServe, a for-profit benefit corporation, one to two dollars to orchestrate it all, and of course, everyone is doing something good for the community.

"It’s a great way to give back, but it’s also a legit advertising model,” Keepers said. “Everybody who volunteers is going to come and get their free stuff, so you’re basically paying a couple of bucks to get somebody through the door.”

Linda Zurnoff, co-owner of Bella Faccia Pizzeria on Alberta Street, was the first to sign on.

“I thought it was a really cool idea,” Zurnoff said. “It’s beneficial all around."  She likes the idea of giving back and potentially moving business forward.  “Hopefully, [customers] will come, get the voucher, the item, and then they’ll get other things,” she said. “That’s what you’re hoping for; they’ll buy a drink or a slice of pizza.”

Zurnoff is offering a free order of garlic knots from Bella Faccia Pizzeria to ‘swappers’ with a ticket, but a handful of other local businesses are also involved.

Here’s the list so far:

Businesses:

Bella Faccia Pizzeria
Killer Burger
Aprisa Mexican Cuisine
Pastini Pastaria
Mezza Lebanese Cuisine

Nonprofits:

Hands to Hearts International
SCRAP Portland
Groundworks Portland

The first volunteer project is to staff a "Trot for Tots" this weekend, Saturday, July 20. You still have a few days to sign up through SwapServe for that project, but there will always be more to come.

It's a little reward for a little time spent on a good cause; I’d say that’s a pretty good swap.

“We really just want to make our dent in the world,” Keepers said.