An app that makes volunteering accessible
Nicola, Seve, Diego
Project Details
<4 weeks
My Contribution
Concept, UI Design
Handheld is a hypothetical mobile app that helps bridges potential volunteers with NGOs. The goal of the product is to empower local volunteerism and build steady relationships between users and the causes they care about. When people ask me why I’m a designer, I think about this project. 


In our second year of university, Nicola and I decided to sign up as student volunteers at a nearby school for children with special needs. Thanks to this school’s partnership with our university, signing up for this opportunity was such an easy process and hanging out with the kids every week seamlessly became a part of our own weekly routines.

One day, we were reflecting on the value of this shared experience and felt that it would be so cool if our peers had the opportunity to do the same. We both then observed that demand for volunteering in a third-world country like the Philippines is extremely high, so why not find ways to make similar opportunities from our university accessible for us and our peers? The leading question was posed:

How do we make volunteering an active, seamless and enjoyable experience?

To motivate ourselves to actually materialize this project, we brought in our friends Diego and Seve and decided to sign up for the annual university student congress FORUN. The year’s theme was “Rethinking the Future”. 

We discussed pain points that we noticed from our previous experiences in volunteering as students in a third-world country. Following the theme of the student congress, we also discussed ideal situations for how we believed volunteering could be experienced in a “reimagined future”. These points led our entire project ideation.

The Pain Points

To get started, we asked ourselves: how did we access volunteering opportunities in the past? We realized that unless one was proactive in their volunteering endeavors, these were mostly organized, facilitated, and monitored by immediate institutions we were associated with and/or trusted. We also noticed that these activites were usually events-based and intensive. For example, donation drives were prevalent after typhoons. These also tended to last for the entire day or week. They were a joy to do, but they could also be tiring. A
If you’re not proactive, it’s hard to find volunteering opportunities
The narrow funnel of discovering these opportunities revealed that we associated volunteering with a standard rotation of activites: relief goods and donation drives, outreaches with younger children, and feeding programs for elderly. We were sure that a wider variety of activities were available, but where would we easily find them if not through these institutions?
Lack of trust and question of safety in volunteering activities
In a third-world country, the question of safety in volunteering is a valid concern. Participants are often encouraged to partner with verified and specialized institutions or organizations who and already possess the resources to plan these events. While the idea of an individual independently volunteering is ideal and altruistic, it is not a leading entry point for such activities in the Philippines.
Who do we trust, then, and for what?
As an exercise, our team tried to list down all the legitimate programs and NGOs that we knew of from the top of our heads and the advocacies they represent. The list was not exhaustive as we knew it could be.

The Ideals

We then asked, what would an ideal volunteering experience look like? How do we imagine that world to be like?
We’d like to genuinely enjoy and look forward to volunteering
As a team, we imagined that a volunteering opportunity would activate genuine interest and joy to the volunteer, rather than it being an extra-curricular to tick off a requirements or to-do list. How could we make volunteering a more personal and meanginful engagement for people?
We’d like to build the habit of active, routinal and social volunteering
As mentioned, the volunteering activites we grew up doing tended to be very long and intensive. We asked: “How do we make volunteering a part of someone’s Thursday routine?” or, “How can we get someone to say: let’s volunteer tomorrow and grab lunch!”
By doing so, we’d like to empower and strengthen local communities
Our team believed that if we gave visibility to all the different volunteering opportunities that were available, there would be even less of an excuse to engage with the local community.

Project Concept

Taking these core pain points and ideal reimagined futures, Handheld is a recommendation system that matches a user with verified organizations and their respective volunteering opportunities that fit their interests, schedule, and location. The app should be designed to reward users for successfully engaging in volunteering activities. Without reading into it too much: we want to incentivize and encourage what our team recognizes as a good habit.

On the other end, listed organizations will be able to publicize their programs, ask for donations, and receive real-time documentation and data from volunteers. Below is our first ever sitemap and general explanation of the concept (built in 2018).

Straight Into Design

A Redesign Exercise in 2020

Two years later, I decided to redesign Handheld’s interface and give it a revamp. To begin, I decided to redo the sitemap and existing features of the platfrom. To highlight the core features of this product, I identified key behavioural attributes of the intended end-user along with the respective needs or features needed to complement or respond to them. [To be inserted]

As the initial touchpoint within the platform, the onboarding process is designed to be straightforward, clean and above all: friendly. The onboarding slides are also a great opportunity to express the main functionalities of the platform.


This application is designed to allow users to customize their entire volunteering experience. By understanding the general interests of the user and by recording their feedback, it is then easier to match users with the listed organizations and activities.


Upon creating an account, users are then led to their Main Dashboard where they’re taught how to navigate through the application. Given that users will be starting out with little to no information, their dashboards will remain empty until they start to gain more activity.


Being the core function of the app, most the platform’s functionalities must somehow direct the user to the Discovery page. In this section, users are able to browse through different potential organizations or activities based on their preferences, interests and proximity.

Filter by organization

Filter by activity

Filter by proximity


Users should be given the option to find volunteering opportunities by partnering with specific advocacies or organizations that they feel they resonate the most with.

On their respective page, organizations will we able to display their cause, list their volunteering activities, receive donations, and receive inquiries from users. With this feature, the process of partnerning with an organization as a volunteer is easiser to do. 


The goal is to increase activity discoverability. Activities are thoroughly defined as they present to users with the necessary information about the volunteering opportunity itself.

Users have the ability to either save or sign up for a listed activity, or speak with a reprsentative from the organization if they have any questions.

Account Growth

As a user’s dashboard will naturally evolve as they interact with Handheld over time. With the app, data will be provided for users to rapidly visualize their own growth and progress.

Project Conclusions; Thoughts on Process

A designer will argue that the end-result of a solution is only “successful” if it solves the right problem. As I was looking back at how we approached this project, I realized that we took an effective framework to coming up with our first problem statement (Part 1).

Want to build it?