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Adler announces volunteering partnership with Austin startup company

Monday, July 27, 2015 by Jack Craver

Mayor Steve Adler believes that volunteering is the way forward for Austin. Flanked at a Sunday press conference by volunteers of various groups – some holding adorable ready-to-adopt chihuahuas from Austin Animal Center – Adler challenged city residents to volunteer at least one hour during the month of August. The challenge is part of an effort to promote a new partnership between the city and GivePulse, a local startup company that helps nonprofits connect with volunteers.

“I firmly believe that Austin, Texas, is a magical place,” said Adler. “And it’s magical in part because of initiatives and startups like the one we’re here talking about today.”

Saying that Austin is home to legions of “ultra-talented people who work hard but give back,” the mayor stressed that the city needed even more volunteerism because its public resources are strained.

“Austin is a big and growing city with big challenges and growing needs throughout our community,” he said. “These challenges are too big to be handled alone by government, and it requires all of us pitching in and doing our part as members of this community to help support this community.”

City officials described the partnership with GivePulse as helping the city fill gaps in services by making it easier for municipal programs to spread awareness of volunteering opportunities. The company’s website offers a variety of potential volunteer projects. The city is currently seeking volunteers to coach youth basketball, plant trees and walk shelter dogs, among many other activities.

Following statements by Adler and City Manager Mark Ott, GivePulse co-founder and CEO George Luc described the opportunities that new technology afforded nonprofits and local governments to make better use of volunteers.

“I feel like the sky is the limit in regard to the partnership that we’ve essentially built up with the city of Austin,” Luc said.

Luc later told the Austin Monitor that while it is free for volunteers and organizations to receive the company’s basic services, large groups that need more sophisticated tools pay up to $138 per month. Luc said that the company is treating each city agency that uses the service as a separate group. The company has entered into similar deals with departments and faculty at the University of Texas, its first major partner.

“It’s a very good deal for Austin,” said Doug Matthews, the city’s chief communications director.

“We feel like we’re in a good position to enter into a contract with them,” Matthews added. “In addition to connecting people with the opportunities, there’s a whole back end to the system where you can track the hours, track the needs, track how you’re meeting your objectives. And that’s where the value really comes into play for the organizations.”

The partnership, he continued, represents a promising shift from the traditional way that local government does business with private sector contractors. In this case, he said, the city is not locking itself into a major contract.

Still, in trying to engage with the city, Luc said the company communicated with 38 city staffers over a period of three years. That correspondence produced more than 2,000 emails, he said.

Adler also encouraged supporters to promote the initiative on social media with the hashtag #VolunteerATX.

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