Inspired volunteers often carry a unique torch inside them that is eager to be received and fanned, and nonprofit organizations often depend on inspired volunteers to carry out their vision. Yet, for many reasons, a match doesn’t always stick, and the common cause misses out.
Josh Burnett, former church pastor of Revolution Annapolis and current Arnold resident, noticed a disconnect in volunteerism when he and other community leaders were invited to the mayor’s office to discuss the potential of a collective volunteer project. One observation in particular was glaring.
“The dominant complaint was nobody knows what [initiatives] anyone is doing,” Burnett explained. “The churches don’t know, the nonprofits don’t know, the city doesn’t know.”
Burnett is about transforming communities. He believes everyone is needed to make a difference in communities, and real transformation begins with collaborating individuals who are engaged. Eliminating obstacles that thwart this alignment is his passion.
“When you step outside of yourself and serve someone else, it changes your brain chemistry, actually,” Burnett shared. “It transforms you.”
Burnett led many attempts to match make volunteers with organizations in a deeper way, but with little success. Burnett and his growing team noted the popularity of dating app technology and were certain they would discover a similar philosophy for volunteerism. They were baffled when they couldn’t find anything remotely close.
“The way that we think and operate now is so centered around curation,” Burnett explained, referring to how technology does so much thinking for us today. “Everything is optimized. But you can’t have a curated volunteer experience, so the technology was the way to be able to get at that.”
After almost two years of contemplation, Burnett decided in May 2018 to embark on a second career full-time, a technology start-up company called Flourish. His last day on staff as a pastor was December 31, 2018. Since January, Burnett and his team have been trailblazing their way toward building a web and app platform that will reduce the amount of time and discouragement between an inspired volunteer and their “boots on the ground.”
After overcoming many learning curves (as well as culture shock), investors are secured, technology is developed and rollout strategies are in motion. Burnett expects Flourish to distinguish itself because of its algorithm technology designed to navigate the answers to carefully crafted questions, so volunteers are better able to leverage their lives for the highest impact in their community.
Technology, however, only scratches the surface. Among other things, the Flourish team plans to embed their own representatives inside each organization to help shake off any remaining gaps on the receiving end. Flourish believes this bookend approach will help take the guesswork out of volunteer onboarding for staff who are likely overwhelmed, as well as relieve pressure and workload. Again, the focus of Flourish is on people, an ethic Burnett often emphasizes.
“Our communities have everything they need to flourish,” Burnett said. “It’s really just aligning the resources, which are people, and the means,” he explained. “If those things happen, flourishing happens. It is possible. We need everyone, no matter what their faith or orientation or anything is, we need everyone in order for flourishing to happen.”
Flourish is expected to go live January 2020. Volunteer testers are currently being recruited to help Flourish feel things out between now and the New Year. To get connected, visit www.flourishcommunities.com.