Katherine Alexander
A digital marketer that supports clients by practicing design-thinking to understand the customer experience.



BMDC 2018: VolunteerIn

On February 3rd, 2018, I took place in the Accelerator Center’s first ever Business Model Design Camp at the University of Waterloo’s Stratford campus sponsored by Deloitte Digital. This was the first design sprint event I have ever attended and I could not have been more thrilled with the day and the solution my team developed.

Problem Statement

There is an imminent volunteer gap as the core volunteer group who represent a large portion of the current volunteer effort age out of their ability to volunteer and the younger age demographics fail to expand their volunteerism to tackle the need. Present your solutions to how design and technology can be leveraged to address either of the following questions:

How can we attract new volunteers from groups with lower volunteer rates to address the future volunteer gap?

How can we better encourage and enable current volunteers to volunteer more time and more meaningfully to address the future volunteer gap?

My team, Katherine Alexander, Juan Carrillo, Seyitan Oke, and Katrina Schouten. ended up coming 2nd place with positive feedback from the judge and mentors. Keep reading to see our thought process behind our solution!

My team, Katherine Alexander, Juan Carrillo, Seyitan Oke, and Katrina Schouten. ended up coming 2nd place with positive feedback from the judge and mentors. Keep reading to see our thought process behind our solution!


  • Lots of teenagers volunteer, but they do not volunteer many hours
  • Not many elderly volunteer, but those that do volunteer a large number of hours
  • Most people do not volunteer because they are not aware of the opportunities or they were not asked
  • There is a massive drop off in both number of people who volunteer, and number of hours volunteered as Canadians enter adulthood
  • Incentive to volunteer is for social benefit, to help others, and to add to professional portfolio


  • Do we target younger or older demographics?
  • Can we build a network of organizations that have their members volunteer?
  • Can we get young professionals to do “freelance volunteering” or “microvolunteering?”
  • Which existing networks can we tap into to find volunteers and spread volunteering opportunity awareness?

The Idea: VolunteerIn

Create an additional tab on LinkedIn next to the Jobs tab for volunteer opportunities.

Users would be able to click this tab to view volunteer opportunities to add to their professional online profile. If they found an opportunity they liked, they would be able to share it with their connections and ask others to volunteer with them, thus creating a more social element to volunteer recruitment.

Once the volunteer opportunity is completed, users may add it to their profile and send the organization a notification that they added it to their profile, to which the organization would be able to give a confirmation “checkmark” that the individual did complete the work stated.

The idea is that the incentive of increasing the level of your LinkedIn profile would motivate young adults to volunteer a little bit more. It also gives users content to share with their network, as this can sometimes be a challenge for young professionals. There will also be no new or additional software/platform/interface to learn as LinkedIn exists already.

Employers would also benefit, as they would get to see validated and endorsed work from not-for-profit organizations on a potential hire’s profile. A business is also invested in finding quality, involved people to hire. This solution would allow a business to be able to see at a glance that a potential hire is involved in causes that align with its own values.

Finally, the not-for-profits would also benefit from the VolunteerIn solution. Not only would they have increased visibility through the LinkedIn platform but users would be sharing the volunteer opportunities. Additionally, they would also be able to start to gather analytics on what demographics are volunteering for their organization, as they are able to certify that individuals completed work.


Asking Users

"I wish that I could validate which job applicants are actually active in various not-for-profits."

"Being a volunteer shows shared values."

Why should this be implemented?

The primary reason is that LinkedIn is an existing platform with existing resources to make the additional function.

LinkedIn has an existing network of over 500 million people. It has been shown time and time again that trying to build a network or database of volunteers from scratch does not work. This way, there is already an existing database of people.

This is a feasible solution. The business model we proposed is that: LinkedIn funds the initiative, they can use a similar model to that of the job board, and the incentives for each stakeholder are clear, This all combined makes this a solution that can be implemented in the near future.


1. Why would LinkedIn fund this?

LinkedIn currently has issues of seeming impersonal and getting users to log in more frequently. This additional feature would “humanize” the experience and have users sharing more stories, therefor using the platform more often.

2. How is this different from LinkedIn for Good?

LinkedIn for Good is currently confusing, hard to find, and links you to the job board. This is a poorly structured and not a top-of-mind feature that is simply not working. Very few not-for-profits advertise their positions here and most of the search results end up being for positions such as “volunteer coordinator,” which is a paid position as opposed to a volunteering opportunity.


What did I learn?

Creating lots of ideas first will help you come up with at least one good idea.

Iterate, iterate, iterate. Ask questions, and keep improving.

If you feel like you are going in circles, don’t panic.

Creating an idea is one thing, but it’s important to figure out how it will work in practice. The business model that supports the idea must be considered.

Click here to view the presentation we gave at the end of the Business Model Design Camp!