Non-profit and voluntary organizations are creating benefits for millions of people worldwide. However, the sector is overshadowed by lack of funding and public visibility. After having gained experience with voluntary work and being confronted with major issues, Raphael Marton co-founded a local presentation platform for voluntary work organizations in Austria. Currently, he is in the creation step of an online funding platform for such organizations. By establishing new ways for visibility and digitalization, his ultimate goal is the empowerment of voluntary organizations.
Voluntary work has been important for societies for a long time. It provides advantages and benefits for people, organizations and whole communities in need. Worldwide, many voluntary work organizations aim at making the world a better place without generating profit. Famous examples, such as the Red Cross, Doctors Without Borders, Amnesty International, and Greenpeace enjoy extensive news coverage and attract broad attention. However, many smaller non-profit organizations face a lack of marketing opportunities and public visibility, which leads to – and is also caused by – a lack of funding. In the following interview, we spoke to Raphael Marton, the co-founder of the two platforms Maku.help and felloz. Maku.help (now re-named VereinsKarussell) is a non-profit organization that wants to foster voluntary work by providing non-profit organizations a platform to present themselves in a local fashion in Austria. Raphael left Maku.help in 2020 to start his new project, felloz – an app that aims to facilitate funding processes through full digitalization.
Q: Please tell us about your first project “Maku.help”. How can voluntary work organizations profit from it?
A: Maku.help is about promoting voluntary work in Styria and in the future – hopefully – all of Austria. It is advertised through an online presence on Facebook, but most importantly with an event that is held on a monthly basis. At these events, non-profit organizations can pitch their ideas and promote themselves. This is substantially different from the usual pitching events that are mainly held for start-ups in Austria and more commonly in the US, because our event series is only about promoting the non-profit projects. Currently, there are not so many opportunities in Austria to show the general population what non-profit organizations are doing. That is why Maku.help is providing them a stage to speak to interested people.
Q: What are your personal experiences with voluntary work? What were the main reasons to found Maku.help and felloz?
A: I started doing voluntary work already at the age of 18 during my time as a civil servant, which is kind of voluntary in Austria (men can choose between obligatory military or civil service in Austria, editor’s note). This experience helped me to get a new perspective of how much good can be done. During my studies I voluntarily joined the Austrian student association and gained a lot of experience in financing non-profits, public speaking, marketing, and leadership. I recognized that many non-profit organizations face the same problems as student organizations. I want to use my skills for a much broader application, and I want to give these organizations my experience in this regard.
Q: Why is it so important to give voluntary work a proper platform? Do you think more should also be done on an international level?
A: I believe most for-profit organizations have enough capital to promote their cause, but this is not the case for non-profit organizations, especially the little ones. Non-profit organizations often lack experience in marketing and in addition they do not have enough money to promote their ideas. Currently, most people only know a few big non-profit organizations, like the Red Cross or the Caritas, but with both projects (Maku.help and felloz) we are trying to give the little non-profits a platform and funding opportunities. I think the non-profit scene would strongly benefit from more networking platforms and it would be great to have them on an international level. Currently, I do not see any international platform doing that. However, we should definitely keep in mind that volunteering is often done locally, and it is therefore very important to keep having local platforms.
Q: Are there any direct success stories that originated from your help?
A: Yes, there are quite a few success stories actually. We had some great environmental organizations that partnered with social non-profit organizations through Maku.help. They combined their efforts and hosted a large event series together to promote their causes, and to make people aware of environmental problems that then translate into social problems. Another big success story was with “Engineers without borders”, which is a huge non-profit organization in Austria. They had quite substantial leadership and organizational problems when they came to Maku.help and asked us to coach them in this regard. We did, and now they are doing fine and are involved in projects all over the world. With our help, they realized that even as a non-profit organization they still needed professional leadership.
Q: How do you want to promote non-profit organizations in the future?
A: It is crucial to become more digital than before in order to reach more people. With all projects in this sector, I believe it is important to target millennials, who want to change the world but do not have the tools to do so. The current system of asking for funding on the streets is outdated and needs revising. Therefore, I am currently building up felloz, a new platform in the form of a mobile app, that digitalizes funding processes for non-profit organizations. The app will help all kinds of organizations to present their work, their progress and show people where their funding makes an impact.
Raphael Marton has gained experience in voluntary work from a young age, which has shown him how much good can be done by non-profit organizations. However, it also made him realize how many obstacles such organizations, in particular the smaller and regional ones, have to face. After collecting knowledge and experience, he first decided to create the platform Maku.help together with a friend. With the platform he had the goal to help voluntary work organizations by providing presentation opportunities for their ideas and by facilitating networking. Raphael believes that many voluntary organizations are lacking opportunities on an international level. Maku.help has already led to several success stories, including organizations that joined forces for a bigger cause, as well as organizations that thrived by the improvement of their leadership and structure. His new project felloz is yet again trying to empower non-profit organization by the digitalization of funding processes. Raphael continues to find different ways to promote voluntary work and it will be interesting to see how he will continue doing so in the future.
Interview: Anna K. Stelling-Germani and Raphael Marton.