Bonfire Volunteer Portal Ignites Volunteer Action

Last year, while considering the best way to support local nonprofits in their rebuilding and recovery efforts, United Way of 1000 Lakes launched Bonfire, an online volunteer portal aimed at connecting the needs of organizations and the passionate people who want to lend time and talent.

Leveraging HandsOn Connect technology, the user-friendly portal provides volunteers access to a free and secure region-wide database of volunteer opportunities. On the nonprofit side, the dashboard allows partners to post opportunities, attract volunteers, track data, and access real-time reports.

“Bonfire is a one-stop-shop where individuals looking to volunteer and organizations needing an extra hand can meet in the middle,” said Kim Brink Smith, United Way executive director. “United Way is building the capacity of organizations by providing the technology to recruit and retain volunteers, while easily managing their connections and data in a cloud-based environment.”

So far one organization on the platform, Itasca County Habitat for Humanity, has connected with more than 50 volunteers. Recently the organization hosted Itasca Community College students for a 3-day-long volunteer event, where more than 16 volunteers, many of them engineering students, contributed a total of 87 hours. Fourteen of those volunteers signed up and were recruited through Bonfire.

Bonfire helps volunteers connect with causes they care about.

With Bonfire, individuals and groups can explore opportunities at a glance, register to give their time based upon their interests, and connect directly with the service organization that posted the volunteer opportunity. 

Personal profiles allow volunteers to get directly connected to organizations, choose causes they care about (such as animals, arts and culture, or eradicating poverty), track volunteer hours, and get updates when an opportunity has changed or a new need is posted. All communication with volunteers is based on their preferences and the nonprofits or opportunities they select. Groups can also create a volunteer team and sign up with friends, family, or co-workers for a service project in just a few clicks. 

“What is so great about Bonfire is that you can find organizations that align with your mission,” said Alie McInerney, United Way board president. “You can volunteer with organizations that you fully believe in.”

Organizations and volunteers interested in joining Bonfire can learn more by either visiting Bonfire at or contacting United Way at 218-999-7570 or

About Bonfire
A United Way of 1000 Lakes volunteer initiative, Bonfire is a virtual volunteer space that aims to ignite volunteer action in the Itasca area, directing the collective power of those who care about their community to make long-term positive change. The site’s name was inspired by the warmth and communal spirit of those gathered around a northern Minnesota fire.