Rachael Chong is the Founder and CEO of Catchafire, the world’s leading skills-based volunteer platform. Rachael has been named one of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders, one of Fast Company’s Most 100 Creative People in Business, received the NYC Venture Fellowship, the Tribeca Disruptive Innovation Award and has presented at two TEDx events. Catchafire has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Mashable, NPR, FOX Business, CNN Money, Forbes, Fast Company, TechCrunch, and facilitated two series in partnership with Fast Company on The Future of Service in America and The Most Generous People in Business.
Prior to Catchafire, Rachael helped to start up BRAC USA, the US affiliate of the BRAC, a poverty alleviation organization and the largest nonprofit in the world. To build her business chops, Rachael worked at UBS Investment Bank after graduating from Barnard College at Columbia University. She also has a Masters of Public Policy from Duke University.
What exactly is Catchafire.org?
Catchafire connects professionals who want to give their skills with nonprofits who desperately need them. We are the largest online provider of skills-based volunteers, connecting talented individuals with purpose-driven organizations daily on well-scoped, short-term projects. We also help companies effectively develop and scale skills-based employee volunteer programs.
How did you come up with the idea of Catchafire.org?
When I was working as an investment banker, I had trouble finding a way to effectively leverage my skills in a volunteer experience. I didn’t think that the once a year trip to build a house was the best use of my time. At 5’2’’, hauling lumber is not something I’m particularly skilled at. Where as strategy, writing and financial work are. I spent months searching for a skills-based volunteer opportunity but never found one.
At that point, I decided to leave the for profit world for the nonprofit one. Upon entering the nonprofit sector, I got the chance to help startup the US affiliate of BRAC, one of the largest nonprofits in the world. With a limited staff and budget, I had to get creative. I looked to my network of friends and former colleagues, getting them to donate their time and expertise on short-term, discrete projects that helped scale the organization. Their contributions increased my capacity to serve BRAC USA. At the end of the first year, we had raised millions of dollars, set up our board of directors, established our brand and messaging, and launched the first version of ourwebsite.
My experience at BRAC USA was the catalyst to starting Catchafire; my goal being to help more social good organizations benefit from passionate professionals who want to volunteer their talents to make a meaningful difference.
What are your future plans for Catchafire.org?
The ultimate goal is for catchafire.org to become the hub for for-profit and for-purpose sectors to meaningfully interact. In the upcoming years, we see Catchafire as a global brand, a ubiquitous answer for professionals looking to serve in a high-impact way and nonprofits in need of that service.
What are some personal principles or personal values that guide you and your career?
I believe in servant leadership. If you flip the typical pyramid structure where the leader is on the top, you have the leader at the bottom who supports the rest of the company. She shares her power, viewing her role as the chief enabler — enabling (aka “serving”) her team so they can achieve their potential for the success of the whole. She leads by example by serving her people and her mission.
What do you think are the most important things entrepreneurs should keep in mind?
One has the power to control his or her own destiny. There are a lot of things that one can’t control such as luck and circumstance, but you have the power to control your strategy, who you work with, who you partner with, how you spend your time, and your attitude.