Volu: Giving Non-Profits the Tech They Need

“Doing more good better”

When Chris McCarthy came up with Volu, he didn’t do it in a vacuum. A 40 Below community engagement volunteer, McCarthy was tasked with organizing and promoting non-profit work in the greater Syracuse area. The website he had to work with was not very helpful. In fact, McCarthy found, many non-profit organizations across the globe were having the same problems: mainly, tech.

In business, there is always the million-dollar motivation – the Maserati and dream vacation waiting when someone develops the “next best thing” to revolutionize commerce. Non-profits, on the other hand, operate under the sheer goodness of the people donating their time and efforts, money being spent on overhead, not so much innovation.

McCarthy decided to change that.

Together with his ChronicleMe business partner, Anthony Richichi, he created Volu (pronounced “voll-you”), a web-based application that not only streamlines the organization and outreach nonprofits struggle with in a web-based modern world, but it provides extremely valuable data and analysis based on an organization’s current activity as to how they can better operate their charity.

To develop it, McCarthy and Richichi met with countless local nonprofit leaders and communicated with their national and satellite offices. They put their boots on the ground and found out what information was most essentially needed to make their organizations more efficient, and which dashboards and functions would make the most of a limited, donation-based budget.

They also analyzed other pieces of software that were similar and found shortcomings mainly in user experience that could be ironed out in their tech. From their office in the Syracuse Technology Garden, McCarthy came up with a system that allowed volunteer organizations to quickly read important data and take action.

“Likes, clicks, opens, retweets – our software lets you correlate marketing efforts with the amount of volunteers who show up at an event and to farm info from their Twitter profile to find out what kind of volunteer is ideal for a certain type of event,” said McCarthy.

Screen Shot 2015-04-21 at 9.11.35 AMThe app uses Facebook login for ease of use and knows to allow only current Page managers to manage the Volu portal as well.

“Doing more good better” is something that affects an organization’s endowment status, not to mention the sheer quantity of good that can do to fulfill their mission.

After winning $5K in the IDEA RVD Awards at Syracuse University, Volu qualifies for the New York State Business Plan Competition this Saturday, April 24. The minimum viable product itself launches in approximately one week.

After an extensive study on how to best offer the product to the organizations, McCarthy decided to choose an inexpensive roll-out for the users based on the fact that they are here to serve the servants and they want to get users.

“Peter Theil said to make your product 10 times better than your competitors,’” said McCarthy, “We are confident we’ve done that and for 4 or 5 times cheaper.” The product rolls out for only $10 a month with the first three months free! (A free application is not an option since the company still needs to develop the product and provide support.)

Starting May 1, McCarthy will begin a 100-day road trip with a tent and his trusty “Director of HR” (his dog Marlo) visiting as many charities as they can on a long list they received from United Way.

“We’ve identified that this problem exists in Syracuse, this problem exists in Albany, NH, Maine, Texas,” said McCarthy. Traveling up and down the East and West coasts he hopes to find more input and insight into improving the software to meet more of the needs in the volunteer world.

“People think about passing out water,” when they think about volunteering, he said, “They don’t think about management and logistics.”

Volu will also be launching an Indiegogo campaign to fund their next steps in the coming months.

For two weeks leading up to the adventure, Volu invites social media users to hashtag photos of #whyIloveCuse to remember the local community from where the company is based. McCarthy and Marlo’s trip will be chronicled throughout the summer via Volu’s blog at and also via social media: Twitter, Facebook, & Instagram (@VoluApp). McCarthy is also putting his cell number out there for anyone to inquire about the endeavor and welcomes input for the program (610) 745-5866.

“How is this going to change the world?” asked Richichi. He answered, “We are giving nonprofits the tools they need to do what they do best – make our communities better.”

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