Like The Salvation Army, Queensland-based social entrepreneur Nicole Peterman knows how vital volunteers are to a healthy society. Late last year, Nicole created Help Me With It—a new way to connect volunteers with those who need them most.
Can you tell me a little about your background?
I’ve always been interested in business and entrepreneurship. Even before uni, I had an entrepreneurial spirit—convincing my Pa to build a wooden stand to sell our avocados. I’ve worked in the education and superannuation industries, but most recently in the community sector to develop partnerships between schools, community organisations and corporates.
How does Help Me With It work?
Help Me With It uses an online platform to connect people who need help (who we call ‘Seekers’) with people who can help to do one-off tasks (who we call ‘Helpers’).
Every now and again we all ask ‘Who can help me with this?’, especially if we’ve not been well or if we don’t have friends or family to help us. Our platform allows people to ask for help with one-off tasks, where someone might fix, clean, care, shop, transport, garden, teach and more.
Seekers post a one-off task they need help with on our platform for free. Volunteer Helpers, who want to help out someone locally, offer to help Seekers to do something they’re good at. This model enables people who cannot volunteer regularly to help out someone when they can.
As a social enterprise, Help Me With It exists solely to benefit those in need and the community. We are committed to generating a sustainable operating model that can deliver a social impact, and not rely on ongoing external funding. This is why we have small fees—we ask Seekers to pay a $9 Task fee before they accept an offer of help.
What inspired Help Me With It?
As a friend and family member, I am genuinely concerned about the welfare of others. I know the value of someone offering to lend a hand.
As a volunteer both here and abroad in some developing countries, I know how helping someone can solve a problem that seemed impossible, and can, in turn, boost their self-esteem and confidence. When I help others, I also enjoy the experience and get almost as much joy out of it as the person I am helping.
As a worker within the community sector I know that there are thousands of disadvantaged people living within our suburbs who may not have anyone to turn to when they need help. Sometimes existing charities are not able to respond to all those who ask for help.
Why do you think there wasn’t something like this previously?
Perhaps others knew what a mammoth task it was and how significant the costs would be—I certainly hadn’t anticipated how hard it would be.
We are all more familiar with platform models such as Airtasker and Uber now and so many of us are used to regularly using our phones and websites where we can create a profile and message others to communicate.
I also think there is general fatigue around giving repeatedly, like donating to campaigns, while at the same time there is a strong desire for us to connect with others.
You’re currently piloting in south-east Queensland. Can people outside the state join?
Yes, anybody can join and we’ll let them know when we have expanded our service area to where they live. Our plan is to operate in each state and territory, including regional Australia. Our progress will be informed by regular evaluations and many other factors, including funding and a lot of hard work!
Do you work with other volunteer organisations, such as The Salvation Army?
We liaise and partner with settlement service agencies and charities including The Salvation Army, Red Cross, Mission Australia and many other organisations who refer people to use our service. We’re keen for community services
to let their clients and customers know that there is another way for people to seek help.
To find our more go to: helpmewithit.org.au