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The Short Version: Many traditional dating apps encourage a selfish mindset while swiping through profiles and chatting anonymously. However, the Swoovy app changed the game by using selflessness as the basis for its matchmaking. The app uses volunteer networking to inspire dates and relationships in Austin, Texas. Singles can indicate their interest in a certain cause or issue and then chat with like-minded participants on the dating app before engaging in person at a volunteer event.
Swoovy is an innovative app that combines romantic dating with volunteerism to make the world (or at least its hometown of Austin, Texas) a better place.
The platform promotes many volunteer opportunities for singles with a big heart. For example, singles in Austin can sign up to help at Art from the Streets (AFTS), a nonprofit that provides a free art studio for homeless people. The space has art supplies and unites a community around charitable giving and creativity.
Swoovy volunteers go to the AFTS space to set up paintbrushes and water, and engage with the artists throughout the creative process. A typical day sees a handful of volunteers getting to know each other as they do a good deed and facilitate the creation of art.
The premise of Swoovy is that volunteer days can build relationships and help singles get out of their shells. The app users can search through local nonprofits to find volunteer opportunities in their neighborhood.
“We curate every event we put into the app, so you’re working with people who share similar interests. You’re not showing up for something and separated from the group,” said Mike Scheid, EVP of Social Impact and Partnership at Swoovy.
Singles participating in the same volunteer opportunity can connect with each other. They can use text or video-chat features on the platform to engage before meeting in person.
Swoovy users have an instant icebreaker, and they can share in a fun activity through community service. They start with a common interest, which makes it easier to build a friendship or relationship.
One couple met on the app and went to a local shelter to walk the dogs and enjoy some quality puppy time. “They remarked how great the time was and how quickly it went,” Mike said. “They naturally had things to talk about as they were dealing with the dogs. That one wasn’t a love connection, but they made a new friend.”
Swoovy is free for singles to use, but free members have a limited number of daily matches. The paid subscription offers unlimited daily matches.
Brooke Waupsh is an Austin-based entrepreneur who created Swoovy to change the way singles approached online dating. This is a different type of dating app that dispenses with photo swiping and superficial matchmaking games.
Inspired by Austin’s charitable spirit, Brooke decided to bring together two worlds: volunteering and online dating.
“Nonprofits could tap into a mainstream audience they weren’t reaching, and it made sense for those in the dating market to connect with others in a real setting. If you work with someone at a food kitchen, you find out a lot about that person quickly,” Mike told us.
Brooke said she wanted singles to feel good about the time spent dating and socializing. Even if they don’t have a romantic spark on the first date, they could still have a positive outcome through volunteerism, so it’s never a waste of time. What’s more, some singles end up falling in love with a cause and making a long-term commitment to a nonprofit after a volunteer date.
Brooke launched Swoovy as a dating app for Austin singles. But its popularity has taken it beyond these city limits. Mike heard about the app while living in Denver, Colorado, and he was immediately intrigued by it because he met his wife at a volunteer event about 25 years ago. They now have three children.
“I heard about the concept through a friend who posted it on Facebook,” Mike recalled. “I reached out and said, ‘Have you ever thought about coming to Denver?’”
Brooke hired Mike as the second full-time employee on the Swoovy team. The pair recently secured seed funding so they can expand the app in U.S. cities that have large single populations and promising volunteer opportunities. Look out, Denver, because Swoovy is on its way.
Swoovy has specific standards for its volunteer opportunities. The app only features events that seem likely to facilitate good networking. Its goal is to help local singles build new connections with good causes and good people, so a lot of effort goes into the curated events list.
To help newcomers get acclimated, Swoovy promotes volunteer days that don’t require an application process or waiting period. These opportunities also ensure the singles who meet on the app have time to socialize during the experience.
Swoovy users range in age from mid-20s to late-60s. Some are looking for a significant other, while others are hoping to make friends first and see where their relationships go. Many singles have turned to Swoovy because they want to escape the selfish, superficial, and toxic behavior that’s become commonplace on swiping apps.
“They’re tired of people who aren’t who they say they are. They’re beyond the booty call, and they’re interested in finding real, honest connections,” Mike told us.
The Swoovy team works with nonprofits to spread the word about their altruistic missions and volunteer needs. The app and website can feature branded pages where nonprofits can educate and motivate the public. It is a great opportunity to add value to a nonprofit organization. Mike estimated that each volunteer hour is worth around $28, and the company gets that help for free.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Swoovy encouraged nonprofits to offer socially distanced, no-contact, or outdoor volunteer experiences. The app also added video chat and voice messaging to help singles stay connected.
Many volunteers end up joining each other’s social bubble and return week after week and month after month to spend time together. It’s an organic way to build relationships. Plus, volunteers often end up feeling emotionally tied to the organization as well, so they’re happy to devote their time to its cause.
Thanks to Swoovy’s volunteer networking, singles can essentially do a good deed while encountering good dating prospects, so their free time is well spent.
“Something like 500 hours a year is spent on a dating app for the average millennial. If we can put some of that time into giving back to our community, it is a huge win,” Mike told us.
A volunteering date is a conversation icebreaker, and it’s a good way to create common ground. At the same time, it is a meaningful way to give back to one’s community, so the end result is always going to be a positive thing.
Swoovy operates differently from other dating apps by putting volunteerism front and center. Instead of swiping through dating profiles, users are swiping through volunteer opportunities and encountering local profiles that way. When they sign up as a volunteer, they can see the profiles of other participants and send chat messages before the event.
“You can reach out to someone who is interested in the same event and ask them to go with you. You can chat or video with that person, even if the event is a week or two weeks out,” Mike said.
The app can accommodate all types of dating, socializing, and networking. It could be a wingman for a senior person in search of new friends, or it could facilitate a charitable date activity or corporate give-back program.
Looking ahead, the Swoovy team has plans to grow its volunteer network beyond Texas. The scrappy startup intends to power community-building experiences nationwide and give nonprofits a way to reach and inspire singles who want to help.
“We are connecting people in ways that matter. The better we can serve others, our environment, and our society, the better off this place is going to be. We need that togetherness. Let’s make opportunities easy to find and easy to find someone to do it with,” Mike told us.