Birthright NEXT teams up with volunteer site for Harvest to Harvest

Nearly 10 million users have flocked to, a Web site based in San Francisco that matches do-gooders with more than 70,000 charitable opportunities.

The figure for volunteers is likely to skyrocket, thanks to VolunteerMatch’s first ever partnership with a national Jewish agency.

On Oct. 2, Birthright Israel NEXT and VolunteerMatch officially launched Harvest to Harvest, a site that links potential volunteers with good causes throughout the country.

It was no coincidence that the site went live on the first day of the weeklong festival of Sukkot. The initiative aims to bolster community service efforts from the Jewish harvest holiday through Thanksgiving by encouraging the more than 100,000 Birthright Israel alumni to give back. 

The New York–based Birthright Israel NEXT strives to keep trip participants connected to the Jewish community and Israel by urging young adults to engage in Jewish life on their own terms.

“You want to go beyond the words of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur,” said Rabbi Daniel Brenner, the organization’s executive director. “We’re getting our hands dirty when it comes to Sukkot, and we’re thrilled to hear people are interested in Harvest to Harvest.”

Volunteers with the nonprofit One Brick help to clean up the Bison Paddock in Golden Gate Park. photo/courtesy of

By typing in a ZIP code from anywhere in the Bay Area, volunteers can find out which charities in their neighborhood need a hand and sign up: Be a mentor at Castlemont High School in Oakland. Teach an adult to read at the South San Francisco Public Library. Count and sort books for the Children’s Book Project in San Francisco or pack up a collection at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Berkeley.

“It’s a massive network of opportunities,” said Robert Rosenthal, director of communications for VolunteerMatch. “A bridge between the Jewish world of service and the diverse world of service is a great place for Birthright Israel to be.”

Rosenthal did a quick search for volunteers on the VolunteerMatch home page, which keeps a running count of every person who uses the site to sign up for charity work. He found about 700 local volunteers, though it was too early to identify if any Birthright Israel NEXT participants contributed to that total.

Within 20 miles of San Francisco, Rosenthal found more than 1,600 volunteer opportunities, and roughly 2,800 organizations that recruited from VolunteerMatch in the last year.

VolunteerMatch, which started with four employees at a small Palo Alto office in 1998, also works with roughly 30 national organizations, from Girl Scouts of the United States of America and Easter Seals to the American Red Cross.

The fee-based service creates Web systems for both corporations and nonprofits that want to seek out volunteer opportunities for their employees. In the case of Harvest to Harvest, Birthright Israel NEXT is “expanding upon the circle of expected volunteers” to engage people, Rosenthal said.

The key, Rosenthal explained, is finding charitable work that excites the targeted market. In this case, it’s the 20- and 30-somethings from Birthright Israel NEXT.

Brenner said he’d like to see local chapters plan monthly volunteering events to catalyze participation beyond small groups of friends.

“We’re putting more effort into this local activism,” Brenner said. “It’s just the beginning of what we can do as far as encouraging young adults to be responsive to the needs of the community.”

To get involved in the Harvest to Harvest initiative, visit