volunteering to help the homeless at LA Kitchen

Finding A Golden Opportunity In An App

Sometimes, the best way to help others is just a swipe away

While readers of this blog might think it would be easy to find the right opportunity to do a good turn, for some people it isn’t so simple. For people who want to make real contributions to social causes, making sure their volunteer hours have real impact can sometimes be tricky. When Sam Fankuchen first thought about volunteering, back when he was in high school, he found himself frustrated.

“I tried volunteering at countless places, But every step of the way I felt like the system for getting folks involved in volunteer work was just working against me,” Fankuchen told Good Turns recently. “I didn’t know where to go to find anything. I didn’t know what was legitimate and what wasn’t. I couldn’t get ahold of anybody, or it would take them weeks to call me back. Sometimes they’d ask me to drive to a different city to get a background check, and then when I got there, because I was under 18, they’d tell me I wasn’t qualified. Sometimes I’d go through all that, and a bunch of training, and I’d show up and my time wouldn’t be well spent. I realized I had spent six months getting ready to volunteer, and two hours sitting around doing nothing.”

“At some point, I had this realization that I really wanted to try volunteering so that I could experience new things and understand the world around me a little bit better. I wanted to see what sort of opportunities were out there to improve the world a little bit.”

“We’ve all had an experience with volunteering where we know how right it felt”

Fankuchen became a social entrepreneurship major at Stanford, where he built a comprehensive database of volunteering opportunities, before going on to become the head of corporate innovation at Penske Corp. After a short stint as a management consultant, he decided it was time—at last—to create what he’d always been interested in: a way for volunteers to find ways to put their time to good use, and for social organizations to find the help they needed.

What he came up with was an app called Golden, which does just that. The app shows you volunteer opportunities in your area, and handles all the work of signing up volunteers and even tracking their time.

Fankuchen says Golden was launched with two goals in mind: First, to help anybody experience more “golden moments” through volunteering, and to make it easy to find and easy to participate in deeply meaningful volunteer experiences. And second, to help organizations of all kinds find the volunteer help they need, and track the help they’re getting. More than 4,000 organizations now list volunteer opportunities through the app, Fankuchen says, from massive global charities to local startup nonprofits, as well as schools and city governments. These include everything from the city of Los Angeles to the American Cancer Society, Stanford, Harvard, and a plethora of organizations big and small.

“For the team that’s putting this together, all of us have had some personal connection to this. We’ve all had an experience with volunteering where we know how right it felt,” Fankuchen says. “Having that kind of life-defining experience in a way that felt real and authentic for us, we’d do that for the rest of our lives if we had the ability. All of us have had this relationship with volunteering over the years, we know what it feels like to get it right, and we see how many people don’t get it right. We’re deeply, deeply impassioned about what we’re doing. Every single one of us at out core believes in those things. That is a really special experience.”

More Good Turns View all
singular devotion at the Mexican border
Building Bridges At The Border
help homeless youth on spider day
Help Homeless Youth For Spider Day
the doctor who learned to help
One Good Turn Spawns Many More