While dating app usage spikes during the holiday season, nonprofits suffer from sharp declines in volunteerism. Organizations that rely heavily on volunteerism are then left high and dry and struggle to maintain participation beyond the holidays.
One Austin-based dating app, Swoovy, is looking to change that by matching singles through service work.
“You need to get back to the way people used to connect — in a real environment doing something outside of just you and outside of trying to put on a show for that other person,” co-founder Brooke Waupsh said.
Waupsh said Swoovy’s goal is to give the mass market of single people an incentive to volunteer all year long through matching them with other single people to go on a date at a nonprofit.
According to an article published by the Stanford Center on Longevity, while 90% of adult Americans say they want to volunteer, only 1 in 4 do. There are three common barriers to volunteering. Half of Americans who don’t volunteer cite a lack of free time, 25% said no one asked them to and others claim they lack the information necessary.
Waupsh said she saw a rapid increase in her friends and family using apps to connect with others. Published in 2019, a Stanford University study reports that meeting online is the most popular way couples meet in the United States.
Similar to traditional dating apps, Swoovy users create profiles outlining age, height, gender and interests. They also choose which causes they prefer to support, but selecting different charities doesn’t restrict members from finding their most suitable match.
Unlike Bumble and Tinder, however, Swoovy encourages people to meet in a group setting with something to do. That way, they have natural icebreakers for conversation, Waupsh said. If the spark isn’t ther, the “feel-good” aspect of helping the community lets daters feel like they didn’t waste their time, Waupsh said.
“We founded Swoovy after so many discussions with friends and family about all of their negative experiences using other dating apps,” co-founder Jody McCrary said. “(Waupsh) had this fuel to solve the problem.”
Founded in 2018, Swoovy pairs with local nonprofits to provide date options such as playing with or walking dogs at the Austin Animal Center, gardening or prepping meals at the Central Texas Food Bank and beautifying Austin with TreeFolks or Austin Parks Foundation. They also partner with smaller organizations such as Hound Rescue, a bootstrap group that works to find homeless hound dogs a foster or adopted home.
“Sometimes people back out of dating or volunteering because there’s an added pressure,” said Holly Kennedy, president of the board of directors of Hound Rescue.
Kennedy said when Swoovy members do come to adoption events, she gives them the option to play with the dogs while she does the talking.
“We’re excited about Swoovy because it will bring in more volunteers and spread the word about Hound Rescue,” Kennedy said. “Sometimes, we don’t know when people are there from the app, but I think less focus on communicating or what’s going on with your date and more about having a good time with the dogs (will) take some of the pressure off.”