Volunteering is its own reward, but involveMINT wants to give helpers in the North Side more incentive to go out and serve their community.
Founded in 2015 by CMU Civil Engineering alum Daniel Little, the program “pays” volunteers with digital currency—called TimeCredits—that they can redeem at participating area businesses. On July 14, involveMINT will launch involveNorthside with a party at Wigle Whiskey Barrelhouse and Whiskey Garden on Spring Garden Avenue.
Little says his experience with various community service organizations inspired him to create involveMINT.
“My work in [Americorps NCCC] provided focus for my currency in that I got to witness firsthand the struggle that nonprofits face with budgetary issues and chronic understaffing,” says Little. “My goal became to create a currency that would directly benefit nonprofit organizations.”
involveMINT—which receives fiscal support from New Sun Rising—works by allowing members to sign up for volunteer opportunities through an online platform. When volunteers arrive at the project site, they’re required to log their work by either taking a photo or posting about it on Twitter. The documentation is then validated and TimeCredits are issued that can be used in exchange for various goods or services.
The platform will also serve as a vehicle for collecting data around volunteerism and community impact, which can help nonprofits attract potential funders.
“Often funders contribute money to nonprofit sectors and they ask for final reports on how that money was spent and used, but they don’t necessarily see the impact that it created in the community,” says involveMINT development coordinator Daniel Fleegle. “The social media content that we generate from the volunteers will help feed into that proof of impact.”
Little and his team introduced the program, then known as Time Tender, during last year’s Startup Weekend. After recruiting a large team of individuals, who helped develop the branding and desired business model, the concept morphed into involveMINT. A few months later, they embarked on their first pilot study during the December Days of Giving, where they awarded TimeCredits to volunteers with the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and 412 Food Rescue. Those credits could be used at places such as Black Forge Coffee House in Allentown and the now defunct Pittsburgh Public Market.
Fleegle says Days of Giving served as a learning experience, making them realize they needed to narrow their focus on more close-knit geographic regions.
“At that point, we decided to turn to the North Side because a lot of good things have been happening there lately,” says Fleegle, citing the community initiative One Northside as an example.
For involveNorthside, the involveMINT team has already started working with Light of Life, a rescue mission that provides services to poor and homeless populations. While no one has officially signed on, Little confirms that they have connected with several businesses, including Chateau Cafe and Cakery, Arnold’s Tea, CrossFit War Streets at the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, Bistro To Go and Commonplace Coffee.
Those interested are welcome to attend the involveNorthside party at Wigle Whiskey where they can speak with representatives from Light of Life, participate in a Volunteer Silent Auction and vote on what organization they’d like involveMINT to partner with. They can also learn about the young startup’s mission and how to join.
“It’s really important for people to know what is on the cusp of happening with our program, but also how they can get involved as it develops and gets going,” says Fleegle.